The Truth About Working at Japanese Companies (Part I)

The Truth About Working at Japanese Companies (Part I)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a Japanese company? Well, we interviewed a few friends for their inside stories! Read on for honest thoughts and important tips for people looking to step into the corporate world of the Japanese…

First, let’s get to know whom we’re talking to!


Interviewee 1: Tomomi


Full Name: Tomomi Yamamoto
Nationality: Japanese
Age: 30 years old
Company(s): Insurance companies in Japan, Capita Pte Ltd
(PERSOL Singapore)

Current Position: Recruitment Consultant (Full-time)
Length of time worked in Japanese companies: 4 years
Level of Japanese proficiency: Native

Interviewee 2: Kath


Full Name: Katheryn Chan
Nationality: Singaporean
Age: 36
Company(s): Panasonic Singapore, Toreta Asia Pte Ltd
Current Position: Accounts Executive (Full-time)
Length of time worked in Japanese companies: 1.5 years
Level of Japanese proficiency: Elementary

Interviewee 3: Nico


Full Name: Nicodemus Ng
Nationality: Singaporean
Age: 24
Company(s): Beyond Global Pte Ltd
Current Position: Human Resource Consultant (Intern)
Length of time worked in Japanese companies: 4 months
Level of Japanese proficiency: Advanced

Note: The interviews were conducted separately, but we’ve consolidated their thoughts so you can have an organised overview.

Some background…

Qn: Please tell us about how you came to be working where you are now.

I’ve always wanted to work overseas since I graduated from university. When I was offered this job in Singapore, I accepted it because I wanted international exposure, and experience working alongside people of different nationalities, which I cannot have in Japan.

It was entirely by chance that I ended up in Japanese companies. I didn’t even realise that Toreta was a Japanese company until I came for the interview!

I met some Japanese people and even used to have a Japanese girlfriend. I got really interested in the way they talk and their culture, after that. When I saw a job posting by NUS (National University of Singapore) JSS (Japanese Studies Society), I applied even though I’m still studying in SIM (Singapore Institute of Management), as I had a summer break coming up. I chose to join a Japanese company because I hope to live and work in Japan!

Probing a little deeper…

Qn: So how do you find working in your current company?

Working with colleagues of diverse cultures is a good opportunity to learn. Every single day, I see different attitudes, thought processes, and ways of life… It is a challenge to understand their perspectives, and I am still learning.

It is also eye-opening because they are so different from what I believed. For example, in Japan, colleagues are very open to helping each other. We are flexible about ad hoc work. Whatever comes along, we’ll do our best. This gives employees more exposure since we handle various duties. However, in Singapore, it’s not like that. People are stricter about their job scopes and seem to prefer to mind their own business. The boss is more approachable, though!

I had never been to Singapore before this and was a little surprised by how fast they work here. It feels like they are rushing all the time. I don’t know how they control their timelines and quality. They must be very good! I get worried about keeping up with the pace, I think we Japanese are too careful at times.

Before I started working in Japanese companies, I heard many negative rumours, but I have yet to experience any negativity.

My current company, Toreta, is modern and cosmopolitan, where the bosses are open to suggestions and willing to think out of the box.

My Japanese colleagues are also friendly and open, not much different from Singaporeans. They may be shy and quiet at first when they’ve just joined the company, but they eventually adapt to local culture and become lively and easy to talk to. The language barrier is the only issue, which makes it a bit of a guessing game sometimes when they try to express themselves.

When my bosses found out that I was learning Japanese, they were very encouraging. My CEO said that I could text him anytime to practice my Japanese! Nowadays, he even helps to check my homework. 😊

I find it a very enjoyable experience, especially when speaking Japanese at my company. I really feel that when you speak another language, you are having conversations from another perspective. As my colleagues are also curious about the English language, it’s like a learning exchange at the workplace, in both language and other areas.

And the ‘Nomikais’ (drinking sessions with colleagues) are fun! That’s the only time when you can be so informal that you can even scold your boss… you can call him ‘stupid’ to his face if you want to! It’s really casual, and you don’t have to drink, you can just go have fun. I have heard of cases where bosses pressure their employees to drink, but I never got that. I think it really depends on the boss and you as an individual.


Join us as we dig even deeper into the Japanese working world in Part II of The Truth About Working at Japanese Companies!