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Japanese Business Etiquette: Omiyage



What do you think of business trips? Hectic schedule, nice hotel, or unique landmarks? For workers in Japanese companies, business trips are synonymous with omiyage.


What is Omiyage?

Omiyage is a concept that is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. It refers to a gift given to someone as a token of appreciation or a way of showing gratitude. The word consists of the honorific prefix “o” and the word “miyage” means gift.


Omiyage is considered to be an important way of starting and maintaining relationships. It is more than just a simple exchange of gifts; it is a way of expressing thoughtfulness and caring for others. Here are some situations when omiyage is expected:

  • After visiting someone’s home

If you are invited to someone’s home for a meal or a party, it is suggested to bring omiyage to express your gratitude for the invitation and show respect for the host.

  • After a hospital stay

It is common to bring omiyage for the hospital staff as a way to show your appreciation for their care during your or a family member’s hospitalization

  • After traveling

If you have gone on a trip, whether it be a domestic or international trip, you are expected to bring back omiyage for your friends, family, and coworkers. The omiyage should represent the place you visited and is usually a food item or a small trinket.

  • After a business trip

Like traveling, returning from a business trip is also a common situation to give omiyage to coworkers. It can strengthen your business relationships.


What Can You Buy as Omiyage?

When it comes to selecting omiyage, the most important consideration is choosing something appropriate for the recipient and reflecting the culture and customs of the place you are visiting. These are some ideas for omiyage that are popular in Japan:

  • Local food specialties: Regional delicacies are always a popular choice for omiyage. You can easily find a variety of local snacks, candies, or tea unique to the place you are visiting.

  • Traditional handicrafts: Japan is well known for its traditional arts and crafts. Pottery, lacquerware, or textiles can be your choice of omiyage.

  • Stationery: Items such as notebooks and pens make great souvenirs, not only because Japanese stationery is known for its quality and designs, but it’s also useful.

  • Cosmetics and skincare products: Women of any age must be thrilled to receive J-beauty products. You can go to high-end products such as Shiseido and SK-II if you have a big budget. But don’t worry if you don’t, because drugstore products are also popular and have high quality.

  • Small souvenirs: Little trinkets and souvenirs such as keychains, magnets, or postcards are easy to carry. They are also often affordable so that you can buy them in bulk.


Fruit is considered as local specialty and can be given as omiyage.


It is important to note that when choosing omiyage, it is crucial to consider the recipient’s preferences and tastes. Try to select something that they will appreciate and enjoy. It is also a good idea to consider any dietary restrictions or allergies when selecting food items as omiyage. The key to choosing a great omiyage is to think carefully about the recipient and the culture of the place you visit.


Tips for Buying Omiyage for Coworkers

Giving omiyage is a common practice in a Japanese office to show appreciation and build relationships with coworkers. You must want to start on the right foot if you are a new employee or new to Japan, but buying omiyage the first time can be a little bit confusing. If you don’t know where to start, here are some thumb rules of giving omiyage:


Consider how many people are in your department

If you give an omiyage to one coworker, you are generally expected to give it to all of your colleagues. Depending on the size of your team, you may need to buy multiple gifts or opt for a larger, shareable gift, such as a box of regional snacks. People who work as English teachers may attend multiple schools, meaning there is a whole lot more omiyage to buy. You must consider your baggage size during traveling, the possibility of buying in bulk, and, of course, your budget.


Set your budget

Relating to the previous point, you have to set a budget for omiyage. Other than the size of the team, you probably go on business trips a couple of times a year. Therefore, budgeting is essential. Giving an expensive gift is unnecessary, but it should be thoughtful and reflect the culture or region you visited. You don’t get judged by how expensive it is but by the thoughtfulness of remembering others when you’re away and sharing your experience with them.


Choose something appropriate for the workplace

While choosing a gift that reflects the culture or region you visited is crucial, it should also be appropriate for the workplace. When in doubt, food specialties are the to-go option.


Present your gift with care

Make sure to give omiyage nicely wrapped and presented. You can also include a small note of appreciation. However, if you don’t have time, choose food specialties. Many brands sell their omiyage products in individual and attractive packages, so it’s ready to be shared.


Don’t expect too much from omiyage

In the workplace, omiyage is customary. Some people may don’t like this tradition, and you can tell they are being insincere when giving omiyage. On the other hand, you may wholeheartedly prepare the best for your omiyage, but some people may not appreciate it the way you want. It can be harsh but don’t expect to be friends with everyone in the office because you exchange omiyage often. For some people, omiyage is simply a business etiquette.

 

Whether you are the one who gives or receives, omiyage can be a sweet, caring, and enjoyable experience. Think of it positively as a way to share something nice with people who support you and appreciate them. Don’t view it as a mere formality or obligation but rather a meaningful interaction. Giving omiyage as a genuine expression of gratitude and thoughtfulness towards others will make you experience the essence of Japanese culture and social relationships.

 

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