Hajimemashite: How to form a great impression at your first meeting

NewsDecember 01, 2021 20:43

Written by: Clare Chong



How do you usually introduce yourself to somebody you have just met for the first time?

For many of us, a simple “Hello, nice to meet you.” will suffice. In Japan, they actually put a lot of thought into “Hajimemashite”(literally translated as: It is the first time).


How do you introduce yourself in Japanese during business meetings?

Prior to exchanging business cards, you would do a formal introduction of yourself. You may wish to shake hands or bow. For bowing, you should bow at a 45-degree angle as you introduce your name and designation. Avoid looking up or at the other person as you bow. Men would bow with their arms at the side while women should clasp their hands in front of their lower abdomen. The easiest phrase to use would be, “Hajimemashite. (Name) desu.”

Hajimemashite (It is the first time) marks the beginning of a business partnership. There is only one time you could say Hajimemashite to anyone, so similar to the concept of Ichigo Ichie, there is no redo button. When we exchange business cards with our Japanese partners, they do look out for certain things to form a first impression of you.


What Japanese lookout for during the first meeting:

1) Is your appearance and status aligned?

Dress appropriately for the occasion. Consider dressing similarly to your Japanese counterparts for your first meetings. It is better to err on the side of caution by dressing formally rather than appearing unprofessional. Senior executives should preferably wear suits with jackets and be better dressed than their subordinates as the Japanese are rather status-conscious and mindful of looking professional and business-like for first meetings.


2) How do you handle your business card exchange?

The way you handle your business cards would also give clues to your Japanese counterparts on how you are as a person. For example, do you stuff your cards carelessly in your pocket or wallet or do you keep them properly in a holder? The Japanese will form an impression of you regarding whether you take pride in or show respect for the “face” or reputation of your organisation. How you handle your cards is important especially if you work in a branch office and you are meeting with your colleagues from your headquarters. Similarly, how you treat the other person’s business cards will also reveal whether you will treat him/her and his/her company with respect.


3) Have you done your research?

Do read up on the basic information about the Japanese company you are meeting with and ask good questions about their company. Stay abreast of the latest developments in their organisation and mention them during your conversation. If your company had previous dealings with the Japanese company, you should also bring it up even though you are only meeting with their representatives for the first time. This is to leverage the goodwill from the previous working relationship between the two companies. Do be prepared to respond to queries relating to your company in general, not just your department.


4) Are you interested in learning from us?

Although conventional wisdom suggests that you should impress others with confidence right at the start, the Japanese prefer it if you show interest in their company and their system. This signals that you are open-minded and interested in learning from them. The hard-sell method or the “elevator speech” method of showing off your credentials and achievements may be too over the top for the humble and low-profile Japanese counterparts. It is easier to build rapport with them if you show interest in their company and their experience rather than boasting about your knowledge about Japan.


What do you look out for during your first business meeting? Do you feel that first impressions are important?


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