Effective communication is about more than understanding a language. It is about understanding culture. When you truly understand culture, you are able to not only communicate, but to participate in building relationships. This means taking the time to learn and understand the cultural nuances that permeate every part of the globe. It also means understanding the cultural “don’ts” that can lead to misunderstandings or possible confrontation. One of these cultural “don’ts” in Japan is serving yourself a drink. In American culture, when you sit down for a meal or meeting and drinks are on the table, you would pour yourself a drink. In Japanese culture, however, it is customary to sit down and wait for someone else to serve you a drink.
While it may seem like a small detail, serving yourself a drink during a Japanese business meeting can cause a cultural miscommunication that can have a negative impact on the business relationship. With Japanese classes from Berlitz, this is a cultural lesson that would be included in the language class. This is the reason why cultural training is such a big part of our Japanese classes and any language course we offer. The ability to speak the language is obviously very important, but it is equally as important to understand how to use the language. Understanding cultural nuances improves communication and helps build lasting relationships across cultures.