Why getting drunk is a huge part of doing business in Japan

Drinking in the country – known for its particularly industrious workforce – is an essential part of professional networking, much more so that we know it to be in the UK

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The Independent Online

For many, a traditional after-work drink presents the challenge of tiptoeing a fine line between remaining professional and letting your hair down.

But in Japan, it appears that one does not necessarily preclude the other.

Drinking in the country – known for its particularly industrious workforce – is an essential part of professional networking, much more so that we know it to be in the UK. 

That’s according to Erin Meyer, senior affiliate professor in the organisational behaviour Department at business school INSEAD and the author of a 2014 bestseller on the matter.

In her book, Ms Meyer states that Japanese people are among the least explicit communicators in the world, meaning that a lot might not be said during official work hours.

But over drinks – frequently more than just a few – it becomes a lot easier to build relationships and win a colleague, business partner or client’s trust.

Writing for Business Insider, Ms Meyer said: “In Japanese culture, where group-harmony and avoiding open conflict are overriding goals, drinking provides an opportunity to let down your hair and express your real thoughts.

“[…] Drinking alcohol is therefore an important Japanese bonding ritual not only with clients, but also within one's own team.”

In fact, Ms Meyer claims that in Japan, the more you drink the more trustworthy you are considered.

She writes: “When they ‘drink until they fall down’ with you, they show you that they are willing to let their guard down completely.”

The excessive post-work drinking habit present a sharp contrast to the culture of overworking which Japan has become famous for.

Earlier this month, Japan’s government released a list of more than 300 companies that have breached labour laws, in a move designed to crack down on firms that are putting employees at risk of literally working themselves to death.

In February, the country’s government also launched a campaign urging employees to leave the office at 3pm – so much earlier than usual - on every last Friday of the month.

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