It’s always a challenge for an individual to fit into the work culture of a new country. The NY Times recently profiled Heidi Manheimer and asked about her experiences as an American working for the Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido. Here is some of what she had to say:
Shiseido is a large, old, conservative Japanese company that still offers lifetime employment. People joining it often shift positions every three years. They might run fragrance marketing and then become general manager of one of the company’s restaurants. (Restaurants are another company business.)
When I started, it felt like being in a traffic jam. To manage projects, I had to learn who was last to serve in a position and who was coming to that job next. I knew where I needed to go but I wasn’t quite sure how to get there.
I was used to having meetings to make decisions. I had to learn when things get done in Japan. You get information in meetings, but the important decisions are made in sidebar conversations, during coffee in the hallway, over dinner at night, or at karaoke. In the beginning, I skipped dinner and karaoke often because I was so exhausted, but not after I learned that’s where things get done.