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Personal gift to company address 2019/8/1 19:45
I have a friend who works for a Large corporation in Japan. I want to send a personal gift for his birthday. The only postal address I know is his company's address. I can't ask anyone for his other postal address.

I thought to send the gift to the company's address, listing his name as a receiver, hoping that the parcel will be passed onto him.

My doubts are:

1) Is there a chance that the parcel might be opened by somebody else at the company (e.g. by a secretary)? I don't know if large corporations have a rule to open any post that arrives, even if it's addressed to a specific employee's name?

2) As it will be an international parcel, I will have to fill out a customs form, which means I will have to mark it as a "Gift" and list the parcel contents.
As far as I know, Japanese salaryman don't like mixing personal with work.
I imagine a person at the company, who gets all parcels arriving at the company's address, reads the contents and then handles the parcel to my friend...
The fact that somebody else knows what was sent to him and that it came from a female person to a male person - might that be embarrassing to my friend or make him feel uncomfortable in front of the colleague?
Might receiving a personally addressed parcel affect how he is perceived at the workplace?

I might be overthinking this all...
I only know his work address... but I'm afraid that sending a personal parcel to his name might affect his work status, etc... (I don't know for sure, but...)

Could you please advise? or share your thoughts on the above?
Thank you so much.
by Anitako  

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/2 09:47
The best thing to do would be to ask your friend if it would be OK to send the package to his office. I've worked for multiple companies in Japan, and have received personal packages at them (care packages from my parents in the U.S.), but even in Japan, each workplace has its own policies and atmosphere, so there's no way to know how practical your plan is without checking with someone who actually knows the office, in this case your friend.

uThe fact that somebody else knows what was sent to him and that it came from a female person to a male person - might that be embarrassing to my friend or make him feel uncomfortable in front of the colleague? v

I'm guessing that your friend in Japanese, and while it might be going too far to call it embarrassing, it'd definitely be a little attention-attracting for someone who lives in Japan to receive a personal gift overseas package at their office. It wouldn't be full-on gossip, but yeah, someone might say "Oh, I heard you got a package from overseas. How come?" simply because it's an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence.

But if you're worried about your friend feeling embarrassed at the office, why not just mail the package to his home address instead?
by . . . . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/2 15:15
Thank you so much for your kind reply and sharing your experience and advice! It is helpful.

I agree, it is not possible to know the atmosphere in a particular organisation... You are right.
Yes, it would be so much easier to send to the home address, but I have no way to find it out (I cannot ask him directly)...

He was recently transferred back to Japan; before that he was working in the overseas branch for a few years. So may be something coming from overseas and addressed to his name won't look that out of ordinary... But I get what you are saying. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I will be in his city soon, and thought may be to just pop in at the company's reception and ask to pass the parcel (a small box) to him, but that will be a way behind his birthday, and might actually look to the receptionist more strange than something arriving by post...

I even thought of may be sending the parcel to the post office near his workplace, from which he would need to collect it once the post office notifies him at his workplace. (I don't know if such service exists in Japan. Something similar to a registered post, where you need to be physically present to receive a parcel.) But that would require him to take time from work, he also might be absent from the office for a business trip, so I thought this would be too inconvenient for him.

Yes, he is Japanese and is at a certain level at the company, so I'm trying not to interfere with his work just not to 'damage' anything for him.

Thank you so much for replying!
It helps to hear your thoughts rather than just my own in my head :-)
Thank you.

by Anitako rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/2 18:59
You can't just send people things out of the blue like that in Japan. You must ask him explicitly whether it's ok to send him something, and if so how he would prefer to receive it. Probably you just know his company name and you got the address from Google. Stop it, it's creepy.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/2 19:35
To the last gc(guest)h:
The OP explicitly explained the situation – that he got transferred back from an overseas branch back to the one in Japan, so it is nothing gcreepy.h


To the OP,
If it really is a big corporation, and he is one of the staff members working in a big open office, the mail room staff/admin staff would not really look individually at who receives what from who/where, but would just sort the mail/parcels out to individual sections/persons inbox.
If he is someone senior like executive and has a secretary, he/she might open it or show it to him gMr. so-and-so, there is a parcel fromch and he might ask her to open it for her, but secretaries are supposed keep private matters private, so gunlessh it is something that goes completely beyond ga small gift from a former subordinate to the boss,h that should be fine. Also you say he is a gfriend,h so nothing is wrong if it is something that comes from someone he would call a gfriendh too.

(From a Japanese woman who has worked at both Japanese and non-Japanese companies)
by ....... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/2 20:51
Thank you so much for the replies.

To "....... (guest)", thank you so much for sharing the possible scenarios. It greatly helps. Thank you so much!! It made me feel better, especially after the comment about 'creepy'.

"... (guest)", sorry if it sounded creepy :-) We've known each other for several years while he was working here. We were a part of the same sports group, where people become good buddies, so we know where others work. It was a sad day to find out about the transfer. I don't know if he will ever come back. He did good things for me and supported me, so I want to give back a little bit, expressing that he is not forgotten. But I get what you are saying - that if it's something unexpected, it might be not welcomed, so thank you for your reply.
by Anitako rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/6 11:21
uYes, it would be so much easier to send to the home address, but I have no way to find it out (I cannot ask him directly)...v

Since I don't personally know you, your friend, or the specific nature of your relationship, this is just my gut impression, but I think that if your relationship is such that you can't ask him directly what his home address is, he might be startled to receive a present from you.

If you can't ask him directly, that implies you don't have his email address, phone number, social media account name, or any other way to get in touch with him, and that makes it feel as though your friendship might not be particularly close. In that case, the emotional gap between "We're not so close that I can ask you what your home address is, but I bought a birthday present for you and mailed it overseas" could be pretty startling, especially in Japan, where casual friends don't give each other birthday gifts as commonly as in some other countries.

Again, though, you're the one with first-hand knowledge of your relationship and the reason you can't ask for his home address.
by . . . . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/6 21:08
Hi '. . . . (guest)', thank you for taking the time to reply and for explaining details behind another person's potential perception. This helps to understand it better. I truly appreciate your time and input. I will think about that and will apply to my situation. Thank you so much.

Gift-giving and receiving is definitely a bit different with Japanese people whom I know. I'm only in the very beginning of learning all the intricacies, making mistakes along the way, of course.

May be you, or anyone who would like to contribute, could please give some guidance/explanation on the below situation that I had? If that's okay. I don't know the answer to the puzzles that I experienced in those situations.

(Situation 1)

I'm in a good friendly relationship with one Japanese lady. She's been living outside of Japan for many years. One day I made something handmade and she saw it. She liked it so much that wanted to buy it. I didn't want her to pay money for it, as she was my friend. I would be happy if she got it, but didn't want any money for the thing. One day I found that she would have a birthday soon. I asked her (via a private message) for a postal address. I told her that I have something really small that I'd like to send her as a birthday gift. She replied that I didn't need to send anything to her. I was shocked to be honest, as I read that response as 'don't send me anything'... I felt sad that I couldn't send her the thing she really liked and wanted... I respected her wish (or what I thought was her wish) and didn't send anything.

Later, I read on the internet that a Japanese person would refuse to receive a gift, even if they would be pleased to. The article suggested to ask three times, implying that the Japanese person would refuse twice, and they might agree on the 3rd time. Is this true? At that time that advice sounded so strange to me. If somebody says they don't want something, do they really mean that or are they just "shy" and you would need to ask again or present the gift?

More later, I started noticing that a Japanese person might say, 'You don't have to [do X]', which might mean both 'You are not obliged to do X (but if you really want, go ahead)' and 'There is no need in doing X (so don't do it/don't go ahead).'

It's been a puzzle for me since then. I don't know how to interpret 'you don't need to give me anything'. Probably it depends on the situation. It's easier to interpret what the person really means in a face-to-face conversation, as you can see their body language. It's almost impossible via social/online media (especially when a Japanese person just does not reply to what you are asking, as they might be uncomfortable to give an answer, as I think...).

Many months later, today, I re-read the response of my Japanese lady friend. I'm afraid that I should have re-confirmed that she really didn't want me to send her anything... as from my current, better understanding, I think she was just polite in her reply. This makes me sad, because she really wanted that thing and I could not pass it on to her...

(Situation 2)

My Japanese male friend helped me buy something in Japan that I asked for and brought it back with him to the country where we lived. Upon his return, I asked (via a private message, i.e. not face-to-face) how I could give him money for that thing. He read the message but didn't respond. When we met up, he gave me the thing, but didn't mention the payment again. The thing was quite expensive and he paid his own money for it, not talking about time and effort he put into finding it, so I wanted to give what I owed as soon as possible. But I didn't know how, as he was not telling me. It felt like he wanted me to have it, but didn't want me to give money for it. As he didn't explicitly said it was a gift, the situation was very confusing to me.

When I had a chance to see him in person again, I asked him face-to-face how I could pay for the thing. He replied how, but it felt like he didn't want to reply about it. When I finally gave him money (I read on the internet how to properly do that), it felt like he was not very comfortable with getting the payment from me. But I don't know whether he wanted me to have the thing without the payment or whether the situation was confusing to him (for some reason). (Along with my thing, he bought a similar thing for another person. So the purchase act was not a 'too personal' gesture.)

Later, I read on the Internet that Japanese might be not comfortable with accepting money, even if you owe it to them. May be that was the reason. But it felt like, if I didn't 'press' for the answer, he would have never told me how he would prefer to get the payment... (I had no problem giving money for things that my Japanese female friends bought for me in Japan and brought back with them.)

It's quite puzzling...

I don't know if I offended him by my action. At the same time, I have no idea how I would have paid him otherwise. It would be hard for me to use the thing knowing I owe money for it.


~~
Sorry for a long read. I wish I had a trusted Japanese friends whom I could ask lots of "life questions" :-) But I learnt that the closer I become with a Japanese person, the less I can ask them questions, as that might confuse them or make feel uncomfortable. So I end up 'wandering in the woods', not knowing the answers. :-)

Thank you for reading.
by Anitako rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/7 10:20
I apologize if this sounds harsh, since that's not my intent, but if you're looking for "answers to puzzles" in your dealings with Japanese people, you're probably just going to end up more confused and in more awkward situations. As with any culture, sure, Japan has certain baseline values and attitudes, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that Japan is a country of almost 130 million people, and for each of those people, their personality is a result of their own thoughts, opinions, personal experiences, and even regional cultural influences which differ by specific part of Japan.

Because of that, any strategy like "When Japanese people say A, they really mean B," or "If you want to convey Idea X to a Japanese person, you have to present it in Format Y" is going to eventually get you into trouble. It's always best to think of a Japanese person as an individual person first, and Japanese second.

So, with that said:
Situation 1:
uThe article suggested to ask three times, implying that the Japanese person would refuse twice, and they might agree on the 3rd time. Is this true?v
Sometimes. It depends on the person. But if you're asking if Japanese etiquette has an iron-clad rule of "always refuse a gift twice, and accept it on the third offer," then no, that's not true.

uIf somebody says they don't want something, do they really mean that or are they just "shy" and you would need to ask again or present the gift?v
Again, sometimes, but it depends on the person.

uMore later, I started noticing that a Japanese person might say, 'You don't have to [do X]', which might mean both 'You are not obliged to do X (but if you really want, go ahead)' and 'There is no need in doing X (so don't do it/don't go ahead).'v
Yes, some Japanese people sometimes do this. But then again, I grew up in the U.S., and some American people do this too. Pretty much everyone has a personal line that separates what they think of as a kind favor they'd be happen to receive, and something that they feel is too large a gift, even if it's being given willingly.

For example, you've thanked multiple people in this thread for their advice, and your messages of thanks have been accepted. But what if you offered to send me 20 dollars as a thank-you gift? Sure, I'd like to have an extra 20 dollars, but I don't want you to go to that trouble, even if you were to say it's no trouble at all.

On average, Japanese people draw that line of "I don't want you to go to any trouble for me" a little lower than other cultures, but again, it depends on the individual.

u I re-read the response of my Japanese lady friend. I'm afraid that I should have re-confirmed that she really didn't want me to send her anything... as from my current, better understanding, I think she was just polite in her reply. This makes me sad, because she really wanted that thing and I could not pass it on to her...v
There's no need to beat yourself up over this. You offered the gift, and she politely declined it. Even if she did, deep down inside, want it, she told you not to bother, and if she has any resentment or sadness over that result (i.e. she's upset that you didn't force her to accept the gift), that would be considered impolite even y Japanese standards.

Situation 2
Again, without knowing the specifics of your relationship with this person, it's hard to understand exactly what his thoughts were. If I had to guess, though, was there a long period of time between when you received the item and uWhen I had a chance to see him in person again, I asked him face-to-face how I could pay for the thingv?

This isn't a specifically Japanese thing, but some people feel uncomfortable receiving compensation for something they did a long time ago. For example, imagine that you and I are coworkers and go out to eat lunch. You forget to bring your wallet, so I pay for both of us. When we get back to the office, you ask how much your meal was and pay me back right away. No problems, no awkwardness.

On the other hand, imagine 10 years pass between when I pay for your meal and when we talk about how much your meal was. At that point, I might just be like "Eh, don't worry about it. It was a long time ago, so you don't need to pay me back."

It is odd that you specifically messaged your friend about paying him back and he didn't respond. Again, if I had to guess, maybe he felt that writing a message with the details felt too much like he was the one saying "give me the money," and would have been happier to discuss the matter in-person or over the phone. Again, though, that's not a specifically Japanese thing, so it sounds more like your friend is just an individual with some unique communication quirks.

Bonus gift-giving advice
It seems that you have a generous personality and enjoy giving gifts. However, while Japan is in many ways a gift-giving society, there's one aspect of Japanese etiquette that will probably be helpful for you to keep in mind.

In Japan, when someone gives you a gift, it's good manners to give them a thank-you gift in return. Sometimes you can anticipate this situation. For example, if you have a wedding reception in Japan, part of the planning is preparing thank-you gifts to give to your guests as they go home, since you know they'll have just given you wedding gifts.

But this applies even to smaller, unexpected gifts. For example, sometimes my wife's friend goes shopping, buys a shirt, doesn't wear it for several weeks, and then when she tries it on at home again, decides she doesn't like the fit as much as she thought she would. A lot of times she ends up giving the shirt to my wife, and then the next time my wife sees her friend, she'll bring her a thank-you gift. It's usually something small, like some cookies or chocolates or something, but still, it's something.

So if you're giving a gift to a Japanese friend, odds are they're going to feel like they should return the favor sometime down the line. On a basic level, that's nice and fun, but in practical terms, it can be sort of difficult, especially since the more trouble someone went to in giving you a gift, the nicer thank-you gift Japanese people feel like they should offer in return.

So while you might be totally willing to make something by hand and mail it to Japan for your friend, once she receives it, she's going to feel like she needs to do something just as thoughtful/involved for you, and that may not be something she's in a position to do. She might not know your tastes well enough to find something you'd like as much as a hand-crafted item, and she might not have the time to figure out what forms and postage she needs to mail a present to you.

And yes, sometimes this custom results in a pattern of Person A giving Person B a gift, Person B giving Person A a thank-you gift, and then Person A giving Person B a thank-you gift for the thank-you gift. Basically, simple "just for fun" gifts in Japan can often turn into extended shopping/mailing projects, and it's understandable that sometimes people would be reluctant to start the cycle, and will instead just say "Thanks for thinking of me, but that's OK, I don't need anything."
by . . . . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/7 19:44
Gift-giving in Japan can be confusing, even to a local (such as myself, though I spent some years outside Japan). Giving gifts of an appropriate value at an appropriate timing so that the other person doesnft feel obliged to give something back can be an art.

In your first situation, if I were you, and if I saw that my lady friend REALLY liked my handmade item, I would have pushed for it. I would have taken the first gnoh as her being shy or trying not to be greedy, and would have said that itfs ME who really want to give it to her, that gIh wanted her to have it. If she really didnft glikeh it, she could have said something like oh it wouldnft have suited her style, or something like that.
Also this goh you donft have to do thath is usually gyou donft have to take the trouble to do that for me (though I appreciate it),h a gpoliteh refusal. Probably the gyou donft need to give me anythingh came out a bit too blunt for you.

The second situation: if I am asking someone to do shopping on my behalf, I make it a rule (to myself) to either give the (approximate amount of) money for the purchase BEFORE that person actually purchases it (meaning in this case before he went on a trip), or at least make my intention clear to him BEFORE the trip that I was going to pay.
At least I would have raised the payment issue face to face on the first opportunity. Maybe he didnft know what to do either, and he thought he made a gift to you.

(Again from a Japanese woman who has worked at both Japanese and non-Japanese companies)
by ....... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/7 19:58
Very frankly that Situation 1 doesnft seem typical only for Japan. Ifd say that in a lot of countries it isnft customary to accept a gift / invite on the first asking. But to first refuse it.

It can lead to some awkward situations both way round. Eg Dutch (known to be very direct) saying directly no (or yes) to an offer can be strange for the person listening to that reply. As it will be strange if a Dutch invites you and you politely refuse but then he/she doesnft insist. And you actually wanted to go.

Not only in Japan this is a typical intercultural situation.

Regarding your original gift, didnft you say in one of your posts above that youfll go to Japan? Why not just make an appointment with him after work for a beer or so and you can give him whatever it is personally? It wonft arrive on his birthday but it will be more personal and less awkward.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/9 10:32
Hi guys, sorry for my late reply. I have a high fever over the last days, feeling like falling apart. I hope you are all well!

Thank you so much for the replies. I appreciate your time and thoughts.

". . . . (guest)",
Oh, you are absolutely right, we should use no generalisation at all. I totally agree. It's that some traits are common for a culture we come from. That does not mean that every single person will show that behaviour or reaction. Everyone is an individual and many variables define our reactions at a particular moment. As I originally come from a European culture, I can better 'read' or predict/explain to some extent the behaviour/reactions of similar cultures. I also travel a lot, which opened my mind and increased my acceptance of differences. I find Japanese people have something unique in their traits, which I am not very familiar with, but what I'd like to understand better to have better relationships and not offend anyone. But of course, everyone's reactions, as you said, are the individual's reactions first, with everything else applied on top of that.

Thank you for the bonus advice! Appreciate that :-)

"....... (guest), Japanese lady",

Thank you so much for your comment!
Yes, I can see what I could have done better with the gift for my lady friend. I would definitely should have pushed a little bit further. Looking at her comments, you could tell she absolutely loved the thing I made. When her 'no' reply came in, I already felt awkward because of asking for her postal address (which feels to me like a little intrusion into the personal space; for me, the postal address feels a bit too private/sensitive information to ask/share with anyone), and I probably had a rough day, so that affected how I perceived her response. I didn't even find what to answer, so I haven't said anything to her at that moment :-) Now that I'm aware of that, it will help me in the future similar situations.

With situation 2 - the paying for the purchased thing. Yes, I made it clear that I would pay for it, I told him before he would go looking for it. I didn't know if he would be willing or able to buy it for me, as he was on the business trip and that could be inconvenient for him. I mentioned to him that he didn't have to do that for me (and I meant that), only if it would be convenient for him. I did something for him some time before that, but... It would be a wishful thinking to think he wanted to 'repay' or give in return for that. And I didn't need to be repaid for that, as that would be absolutely unnecessary. So it's all a mystery for me. I will probably never find the answer to that :-)

LikeBike,

Thank you for the comment!
I totally agree, the situation of refusing an offer isn't unique to one culture. It's easier to interpret the answer when you receive it face-to-face, also the knowledge of common traits/default ways of doing things helps (although, variations do absolutely exist). Thank you for sharing about Dutch. It helps to be aware!

At my Japanese class we have a listening practice. At one lesson it was about having tea at someone's house. The story was ending this way - the house host asks the guests whether they want maybe another cuppa. The guests are supposed to refuse, as the host's offer means 'it's time to finish'. It was very unusual to hear that it was a way to give a hint of 'let's wrap it up'. It's good to be aware that such practice might exist and what it might mean.
When my friends come to my house and then they are about to leave, I sometimes jokingly say, "How come? Wouldn't you fancy another cuppa?" :-) So, I guess, it's similar to that situation. My feeling though is that it might be 'more strict' in Japan and among Japanese, e.g. not used in a jokingly manner (I might be wrong, as I haven't had enough of that 'tea' experience with them).

"Regarding your original gift [...] Why not just make an appointment with him after work for a beer or so and you can give him whatever it is personally? It wonft arrive on his birthday but it will be more personal and less awkward."
We talked about that before he left. It was probably not the best moment to ask about that. Anyway. It won't be possible in Japan. I wish we could catch up during my short stay, but I understand the reality. My decision is that I cannot disturb him with my presence, not in Japan anyway. He was used to receive something from me for his birthday while he was living outside Japan, so it's not something new to him. My only worry was whether receiving to the workplace address in Japan something which is personally addressed could potentially affect his reputation/status among the new colleagues. He has enough on his plate to worry about.


Bonus question! :-)
About omiyage.

As I know, when a Japanese person comes back from overseas, they are used to bring omiyage, usually small cookies, sweets, to share with the group.
The group I'm in (I'm outside Japan) has both Japanese and non-Japanese people.
When our Japanese sensei returned from Japan, he brought omiyage and shared with everyone. Other Japanese mates also try to share omiyage they bring with everyone.
I observed another behaviour as well - a Japanese man, who brought omiyage on the other day, asked our sensei to share only with Japanese people in the group, as if he wanted to build/strengthen the relationship or his position among my Japanese mates only, without caring much about others. (Which is ok, if that's his choice. Just different to others' behaviour.)
I understand that it's a Japanese tradition to bring omiyage and share with the group.
The question is, does a Japanese person feel obliged to bring something to the group after having a trip overseas?
If a person asks to share only with Japanese people, what would make them do that, what could that mean?
I'm just curious, as that person's behaviour was so different to others'. I think he kept bringing omiyage from the trips only for my Japanese mates. I'm not sure, as I didn't care. At some point it felt like he was separating 'us' and 'them', but my perception could had been wrong.
What do you think?
by Anitako rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/9 11:15
About the last part:
Just guessing, as usual.
He might have felt that the custom of gomiyageh in the first place would be understood only by the Japanese, so that the gothersh might just think gwhy would he buy anything for us?h – he might have felt that his gesture might not be appreciated.
Or maybe he didnft find a box containing enough to be distributed to everyone.
Or he just was stingy lol
But I wouldnft have done that – it does feel a bit like gthem vs. us,h and now the gothersh might think goh why would he buy just for them?h

(Again from a Japanese woman who has worked at both Japanese and non-Japanese companies)
by ....... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Personal gift to company address 2019/8/9 11:28
Mmm, I think that could be the reason:

"He might have felt that the custom of gomiyageh in the first place would be understood only by the Japanese, so that the gothersh might just think gwhy would he buy anything for us?h – he might have felt that his gesture might not be appreciated."

That behaviour happened when he joined our group. From what I know, even living overseas, he was not exposed much to communicating with a lot of non-Japanese people on a more personal/close level, so he probably didn't have a chance to observe/understand their possible reactions/perceptions... He also needed to be cautious about the image he conveyed, established and maintained in the Japanese community in our country, so I believe he would do anything to avoid potentially losing the face, i.e. be faced with the gwhy would he buy anything for us?h.

Thank you for your thoughts!!
by Anitako rate this post as useful

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