Postcard from the Kaisha: business card edition

Because who would I be if I wasn’t the lonely whitie who couldn’t smoothly execute an old Japanese-style “card exchange” receiving line without incident?!

The Kaisha doesn’t let me out to see customers very often, so I do a lot of back office work. No, that is not a euphemism for something else, although it would certainly make for an interesting memoir pitch. The downside to this is that I’ve yet to hone my business card exchanging skills. What was that you said? It takes skill to pass a business card back and forth? You obviously haven’t been in a boardroom with a line of 15-20 people to get down, stopping at each person along the way to say “oh Honorable Customer, I am humble Lonely Whitie, please think of me favorably in the future” while deftly handing your business card over at the right angle and speed with one hand, taking theirs with the other, careful not to defile it. You really need about four hands to do this, so I am surprised that the arms of the Japanese salarymano erectus have not evolved more to accommodate this basic survival need.

I’ve bungled the receiving line before, usually because I have been called in for training observance or some such insignificance and so I try to back into a corner to hide out until it becomes painfully apparent that I need to get my ass in that receiving line. This is probably one of the only times I would rather be an OL passing out green tea, because at least they are expected to keep quiet and blend in with the curtains. I would blend so hard.

My most recent spectacular involved my running out of cards halfway down the line. Nothing says business competence like having to mumble that you don’t have any more cards to a couple people before deciding to dash out and grab some more. In my defense, I didn’t realize how many Honorable Customers I would be trading cards with, so I didn’t think to put a one-inch stack in my pocket. Back in line I struggled to maintain my composure while neatly stacking the received cards in one hand and passing out one at a time of my own from the stack clenched in my other hand, the card stock probably mottled by then with sweat. Ever the lady.

It’s a constant tug-of-war deciding whether to act like a bumbling foreigner or to do my best “Japanese act” in these situations. On the one hand, owning my foreignness unloads all responsibility but makes me feel rude, while trying to imitate my hosts is a bit awkward and embarrassing. I usually go for awkward, if not only so I can regale you gentle readers with stories of it.

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15 thoughts on “Postcard from the Kaisha: business card edition

  1. Randy says:

    One does the best one can, realizing that the purpose of gaijin is to amuse the non-bored among the locals.

  2. Melon says:

    as my gaijin-lady-working-in-Japan-senpai, I humbly and respectfully have a query for you. Are your cards written “Princess of Sound” or “Sound ・ Princess of”? I am having inner turmoil about what I was taught in Japanese class the reality of gaijin names in Japan…

    • princessofsound says:

      Princess of Sound, but that’s just because of my exotic gaijiness. Japanese names on cards are last name first name. I think as soon as it’s a foreign name all bets are off and it can go either way!

      • Jeffrey says:

        My last stint in Japan began just as the Bubble was going flat. During the go-go years a lot of folks from the States thought they were going to cash in with whatever business they were bringing. This meant a lot of them rushed in not even half cocked and with less than zero cultural moxie. My favorite failure was a guy that had his English business cards translated, apparently, but someone with a great sense of mischief or who learned his Japanese in Bulgaria as his title of “President” somehow became “Generalissimo” or shogun!

  3. rclaffolic says:

    Hi,
    just letting you know that I have started following your blog, as I think you write very amusingly, and a friend linked me here. :-)

  4. Sarah says:

    BLOG UPDATE PLEASE WOMAN!!

  5. Blank says:

    I just found your blog and read the last four years of your life like it was a friggen novel, lol. Your style really speaks to me and I just wanted to say that I think you’re great and I really enjoyed your perspective (I haven’t been hunting them down or anything, but I’m pretty sure the majority of gaijin blogs are all sparkles and sushi and wonder.)

    I hope you continue with your blogging and I will definitely be back to read more in the future. <3

  6. Bill says:

    Is the blog dead?

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