Work Ethics of Japanese Culture VS. Malaysian

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Work Ethics of Japanese Culture VS. Malaysian


It is terribly exciting when you have received a job offer from a Japanese company based in Malaysia. In your euphoria of being the chosen one, anime-like scenes of white coloured shirts with tie and a black or blue jackets, carrying a suitcase fills your vision. Next you start dreaming of possible business travels to Japan either for training or meetings.

Oh but you are a confident, speak your mind kind-of-person. Always upbeat and never afraid to share your views and thoughts, you might even debate your point if you feel passionately about it. That’s what made you excel in university. You are just bursting with ideas and solutions which you would like to share at your new job. You just can’t wait to start!

Hang on there for a minute! Before you barrel straight in with your brimming enthusiasm, perhaps there is a need to take a step back and learn beforehand the starkly different work ethics of Japanese culture versus a Malaysian one.




Hierarchy is very important in the Japanese culture.


Yes, it is rather hierarchical. A huge emphasis on respecting your elders is practiced. Not only in Japanese firms, but it is part of the Japanese culture. There is simply no ‘Bro’ to your superiors like in Malaysia. One must always address your seniors as Mr. or Ms. so and so. The number of years in terms of age gap or even the length of service in the company, the more one feels the full force of the power distance. The youngest or newbie as were, is always expected to serve your seniors or “listen” to them. When putting forth an idea, no matter how good it is or effective a solution might bit a little harder to achieve in a Japanese based company.

But in Malaysia, your boss might be your buddy or a more chillax in nature. Hence communicating a new idea or feasible work process can be done during a lunch break or even during a coffee break.





Learning the delicate art of saving face is important. Executing the art of saving face and at the same time trying to project that you are not a show-shiner is altogether a high-level skill to achieve. But it is important. The other word for its is being ‘DIPLOMATIC’.

Here in Malaysia, we try not to offend anyone in the office. By the mannerisms of our conduct. But instead, some Malaysians might flaunt their wealth as another way to show it.

“Nomikai” is a normal culture among Japanese salary man or salary women.


In many Japanese firms, you have to save your senior face by accepting an invite to a “nomikai” or an after work happy hours. For those who have been to Japan, you might notice these ‘salary men’ letting their hair down in pubs and bars or even at an izakaya. To decline this invite, could be translated to not saving your seniors or even your bosses face.





Loyalty is valued utmost in the Japanese work culture. Working in Malaysia, you can see by 5.30 to 6 pm we will shut down and punch out of the office on time. What’s more is that we likely seem to fall sick during public holidays which sticks to the weekends. Not saying that everyone do, but some.

By now you might have heard or read in the news about Japanese work culture. They do work over-time and it is presumed a form of loyalty shown to the company, translating that this employee is a hard worker. Paving the way to climbing the corporate ladder in many Japanese companies.





The above is not to throw a negative light on the Japanese work culture. If it truly is negative, then how can the nation of Japan be as advanced as it is today? This is so to lay out the stark differences of both cultures. To better prepare your mind and expectations when seeking for a job in a Japanese firm based in Malaysia, or for those who have gotten the job offer.

Perhaps with this little insight, which might seemed insignificant, might help ease you into the work culture. Hence creating the experience a more rewarding one, instead of a more cultural shocked one on your first day!

The article is in reference to the personal experience of: 4 Ways a Japanese Company Works Differently from a Malaysian One by Normantc1

November 16th, 2018|How-to Guide|