World Cup: Japan Soccer Fans Lose Game and Yet……

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The World Cup is still a buzz. And, as with any endeavor of such scale and ambition, there are controversies to go along with it. Questions surround the Brazilian government’s use of funds, the security presence in the favelas, and players who moonlight as vampires (Uruguay’s Luis Suarez). In the midst of these controversies, and the general madness and passion that accompanies the World Cup, Japanese fans have stood out for their conscientiousness and good sportsmanship.

After watching their team lose to the Cote D’Ivoire, 1-2, in Group C, Japanese fans stayed after the game to clean up their section of the stadium. Photos of their actions went viral on social media, and the global response was hugely positive, saying the Japanese fans are, the “most respectful” and “best fans at the World Cup.”

Japanese fans repeated their thoughtful gesture of community and respect after the Samurai Blue’s showdown with Greece ended in a scoreless draw.

An article on JapanToday.com covered social media’s positive reaction to Japan’s fans. It references the hanami season, when thousands of people descend on public parks to eat, drink and have fun. During that season of public events, there are rarely trash bins provided, but there is no mess left behind at the end of the day because people bring along rubbish bags to carry out their waste.

Japanese conscientiousness is also reflected in business and personal interactions. The concept of “face” is hugely important, wherein it is possible to give, lose, or save face. It is essential to consider how your behavior may impact others because causing someone to lose face can potentially make that person difficult to work with in any future transactions. Why? It may significantly de-rail the building of mutual trust and respect. By acting politely and conscientiously, the Japanese are showing respect to their hosts, and in the case of the post-game clean-up, to their opponents. By not becoming emotional and/or rude in the wake of their loss, the Japanese avoid loss of face.

Face also intersects with the Japanese value for hierarchy. For example, not all compliments qualify as “giving face”. The CultureWizard online learning platform provides examples of how to navigate the concept of face effectively:

1) In the presence of a supervisor, do not praise a subordinate for their talent. The boss should always be seen as ultimately responsible for their employees. Praising the subordinate makes the supervisor lose face. Instead, praise a supervisor for his or her ability to build and maintain such an effective team.Or, address the team directly for their good work. Singling out individuals in front of others violates strong collectivist norms.

2) Do not refuse someone’s willingness to pay for a meal or insist on splitting the bill. The Japanese prefer to take on the role of host when in their country. They also gain face by paying. As a customer or client, you will always be seen as the
“guest” by your Japanese vendors or suppliers, even if they are visiting you.

3) Understand the implications of hierarchy when interacting with Japanese, especially in meetings. Who contributes and who doesn’t contribute has a lot to do with the way hierarchy impacts meeting behaviors. Failure to consider this can easily violate deep cultural norms that may cause individuals to lose face, including yourself.

Do you have any experiences with receiving, giving, or losing face in a business setting? Share your stories and observations in the comments section below.