In my fourth year of working, I was wondering how I should treat people from overseas when my company was doing business with them, and I searched the internet for ‘International Etiquette and Manners and International Education’ and by chance came across the ICPA. I spent a year studying International Etiquette, Manners and Culture from beginner to advanced level. After studying, I realised the significance of studying international etiquette and manners at The InterCultural Protocol Academy of Japan – ICPA from three perspectives, so I would like to write about them as a student.
I would like to give an example of myself as a working adult.
When I first became a new employee, I took a training course on business etiquette. This includes how to greet people, make phone calls, send emails and exchange business cards. These are the first things you need to know in order to live as a working adult in Japan.
However, once you get used to your job to some extent, you realise that these business manners alone are not enough. This is because, depending on the company and department, you will be interacting more and more with other departments and people outside the company. As you interact more with people outside your own department, you realise that you need to take into account the position and personality of the person you are dealing with, not just knowledge for formal interactions.
Especially in Japanese companies, which are increasingly developing their business globally, communication with people from other countries is an inseparably important task. In situations where you need to greet someone in English or send an email in English, you need to not only understand the appropriate grammar, but also be careful to ensure that the content does not offend them.
What learning opportunities does companies offer their employees for this type of environment?
Company training is limited
To succeed in a globalised society, I feel that English is the most important aspect of company training. English is truly a skill directly related to communication. However, in practice, it is not enough to just use English; you have to understand the other person and speak according to the situation. Yet, what you learn in English classes is a ‘pattern’, and when it comes to communicating, you often lose sight of what to say and how to say it. And they tend to stop communicating in the first place.
Looking at my colleagues around me, I have seen cases where people have been unable to communicate what they want to say to people from overseas and have stopped in the middle of their statements. I feel that this is a waste of time and a missed business opportunity. It is thought that people who regret missing out on opportunities also become less aware of globalisation once they leave their work, although they are aware of the term globalisation.
I wonder how much of the globalisation is felt in some places on a daily basis? Probably limited to interactions with tourists, shop assistants in the hospitality industry, etc. This alone is not sufficient to feel a sense of being confronted with globalisation.
Therefore, even if you feel at work that you are trying to keep up with the trend of internationalisation, you may not be able to maintain the motivation to do so.
The features of the ICPA as I discovered it
At ICPA you can learn from Japanese lecturers who have lived abroad, as well as from lecturers from other countries, and there is a constant need to have an international mindset.
I feel that no other school can offer such a chance to meet instructors who actually feel the aforementioned problems that are often seen in Japan, and who always provide lessons with an international perspective.
You cannot learn if you do not learn
I have described what I feel as a fifth-year working adult, but I believe that there are many university students and experienced working adults who have felt the need to respond to the challenges of increasing globalisation, even if they are not in the same position. Even if you recognise that studying English alone is not satisfactory to cope with the above-mentioned steps towards globalisation, it is difficult to pin down what is missing.
Suppose you are lucky enough to reach the ICPA website with the keyword ‘globalisation’. Then, for the first time, you realise that the missing element is International Etiquette and Manners.
You would then start thinking about what International Etiquette and Manners is.
How to learn
If you realise that you lack knowledge of etiquette and manners, when you think about what it is, you may often think that it is something that has somehow been taught to you since childhood, or something inherent in your nature as a human being. Therefore, rather than ‘learning’ etiquette and manners, they may think that it can be solved by acting ‘consciously’.
So what should we actually be aware of? Without a proper understanding of the meaning of Etiquette and Manners, nothing can be done and there is no point. Without knowing what the Etiquette and Manners you are trying to be conscious of are and what you actually need to be aware of, you will end up being stuck in a situation where you are only being conscious of it and nothing progresses.
If you are vaguely conscious of it, you would also assume that you will probably acquire it through seniority. However, when you become an adult and need to be educated in etiquette and manners, you may often find yourself at a loss because you have no idea what to do. And if you can get by on the spur of the moment, your awareness will fade again.
It would be good if we could pass on these lessons to the children, but I feel that in many cases these lessons are not passed on and the next generation is repeating the same process again.
ICPA recognises the issues with this situation and focuses on providing learning opportunities for young people. Learning about etiquette and manners does not happen overnight. We feel that it is valuable to have an environment where this is communicated to trainees and taught from an early stage as a skill that will be useful long into the future.
You can’t learn it on your own
Why can’t etiquette and manners be acquired overnight?
The reason is that the knowledge required for communication is not just about memorising patterns, but also about historical and religious backgrounds and other seemingly unrelated topics that need to be studied extensively to gain an essential understanding of the subject. If you try to learn on your own, no amount of time will be enough. You wouldn’t even know where to start. It is important to learn from an expert in the field, so that you can efficiently absorb and master the subject matter.
Also, many people who feel the need to learn about etiquette and manners in earnest probably reach for books first. There are many books on ‘etiquette’, ‘manners’ and ‘culture’. However, etiquette and manners are a necessary part of human interaction. It is not something that can be comprehended by text alone. Furthermore, there is no right answer or end to this learning. I believe that it is through discussion with others that we can understand the essence of the subject.
What is also necessary in the learning process is not only input but also output. Many times, what we think we understand in writing cannot be put into words when we try to put it into words, and in fact, we do not fully understood it. I strongly feel that presenting what you finally know and receiving feedback will lead you to real understanding.
At ICPA, as you progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced level, you are not only required to provide more input, but also more output. The system is designed to allow students to work until they truly understand and are satisfied with the results. We feel that this is also possible because of ICPA, where you have time to work seriously with your instructor on a one-to-one basis or in small groups.
From the above, I believe that International Etiquette and Manners is something that everyone living in the global world needs to learn in earnest, and that it is highly necessary to study at ICPA to make this happen.
I would like to continue to deepen my learning so that I can convey to others more than I felt and share what I learnt this time with many people.
A word from the Dean
Congratulations to Ms Kinoshita on completing the advanced level!
When she first applied, Kinoshita-san seemed a little lost in life. She took the course very seriously, and it was impressive to see how she changed week by week, and she told us a lot of stories during the course.
She progressed smoothly through the intermediate and advanced levels, and overcame a difficult time during the course of the year due to the change of environment caused by Corona, and I think she had a year of exceptional growth.
Her eyes are humble and reserved, but she has a strong will and can see the future, and I think she is full of hope and ambition in a good way.
Young people like this will support Japan’s globalising society in the future. I look forward to your continued growth as a global leader leading Japan with your inherent seriousness, meticulousness and ambition in a positive sense, and also as a woman, with your great love, kindness, politeness and beauty.
Let us continue to work together to improve society and the world. And let’s live a shining life.