Working in Japan as a foreigner

Are you moving to Japan for work? Is your office suddenly moving and you need to figure out how you will fit into the working life of Japan? Sometimes it can be scary – moving across the globe and having to figure out how the new country really works. It is a lot of work and a lot of adjusting. And looking for answers online can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Well, look no further! We have the answers you need! In today’s article, we talk about what it is like working in Japan as a foreigner.

Getting a job when working in Japan as a foreigner

First, let’s assume you are not moving office for work. Let’s say you are moving to Japan in pursuit of work. How do you get a job? Well, you will need to apply with some company, and go through an interviewing process. This is standard procedure pretty much everywhere around the world.

A job interview, like the ones you will have when working in Japan as a foreigner.
Japanese job interviews differ from the western ones.

What differs Japanese interview process from European and American, however, are the points of interest. Unlike the questions about your skills and other technical questions you might be used to in Western countries, Japanese interviews are focused on you as a person. Their interviewers will be interested in you, your beliefs and values, as well as your plans for the future.

The reason for this is because Japanese employers want people who will be a great fit for their company. Every Japanese company has a certain profile and image they want to uphold, and they are looking for the people who will help. The lifetime employment policy that was strong in Japan in the past has a lot of influence on this as well. People are looking to hire for life. So, your skills are important, but what kind of a person you are is also very important for them, too. Working in Japan as a foreigner might come harder if you worked a lot before – Japanese companies like to be the first company a person has worked for. This way, they can shape the person to fit their mold the best.

The first year of working in Japan as a foreigner

An interesting story people can tell you about their first year of working in Japan as a foreigner is that their status is of an ’employee’. What this means is that you will work answering the phone, but you will also serve tea and listen to the seniors’ orders. This is to prepare you for the work in a Japanese company. By doing this, you learn business etiquette, as well as how to conduct yourself as a professional.

When getting employed by a firm, you might not even know the name of the department until the first day of the job. This can also happen during company transfers. You can end up working for a completely unrelated department while you are learning about working in Japan as a foreigner. Simply put, because of the lifetime employment policies, the goals of the company are valued more than personal improvement and professional goals.

Survival guide for foreigners working in Japan

In recent years, with the advent of technology and mass communication, many companies have been going global. Japanese companies are included in this, of course. (And since there are so many people moving to Japan for work, international movers Japan often have their hands full!)

A Japanese lucky coin cat - a representative of Japanese culture.
Japanese culture vastly differs from the Western ones.

Thus, the way of business in Japan had to adapt and change to accommodate this. When looking into Japanese company advertisements, you might notice that speaking Japanese often is not a requirement for working in Japan as a foreigner. Since you are a foreigner, you might be exempt from some rules and expectations locals have. You can use this as an advantage when looking for work – as long as you fit a company well.

However, it can be very hard for Japanese companies to keep the people they employ from Europe and the United States. Even though the business world has been changing, the cultural roots still remain. And the cultures of the three continents can be vastly different. A lot of times, these culture clash and cause issues in the workplace. If you are, however, very passionate about Japan culture, and their language, you probably won’t have many issues adjusting to working in Japan as a foreigner. Showing your appreciation for Japan can be a huge help – and Japanese people will acknowledge your interest and help you.

Negotiating as a foreign worker in Japan

The pace by which people work in Japan can vastly differ from the western world. Simply put, Japanese like to think through every decision they make. And this process can take some time. This is why you will need to learn how to negotiate with Japanese employers when working in Japan as a foreigner.

People making a business deal, like you will have to do when working in Japan as a foreigner.
You need to learn how to negotiate when working in Japan as a foreigner.

For example, a simple decision in a Western company can take days in the Japanese one. You might think the decision doesn’t really have much with how the company works, but you’d be wrong. Japanese want to wage all the factors and make an informed decision. This happens because, as we discussed, Japanese companies want to keep a certain image of themselves. Every decision they make affects the company’s goals and visions. So, to people from Europe and the United States, this might seem inefficient and slow.

There is a trick to how to solve this. And it is quite simple for westerners – be firm and determined. Determination and knowing your goals is an obvious thing in how western companies conduct their business. However, these are not a huge part of the Japanese culture. When talking to your employer, make sure your argument is reasonable. Stand by it and you will probably be able to push forward faster than a local could.


To conclude, there are a lot of things you will need to adjust to when working in Japan as a foreigner. However, there are also things you can use to your advantage. Knowing how to work around and with both of these is a huge help. And once you are feeling confident enough to start your big journey, it’s time to call a reliable moving company, like Kokusai Express Japan, and start planning your move today.

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