Sven Paauwe in Japan: Real culture shock

As part of my studies in Business Administration & Agribusiness with HAS University of Applied Sciences, I’m currently doing my internship in Japan, at the Naniwa Flower Auction in Osaka. I’m the first international student working at the auction and I ended up here via a Japanese flower importer, a business connection of my uncle who owns Clean Fresh Wild Flowers & Foliage in Australia.

I had already travelled in a few different continents, but when I arrived here, I initially experienced a real culture shock, I literally felt I was lost in translation. Before I set off even, it hadn’t been easy to finalise all the details regarding the internship, because of cultural differences, miscommunication and especially, the unfamiliarity on both sides. I’ve been here for 1.5 months now and I’ll be in Japan until mid July.

The Naniwa Flower Auction in Osaka has around 90 employees. Despite the fact that the average office worker has a bachelor’s degree, only three people have fluent English. Luckily, one of those is my internship supervisor, who studied English as a major. Communication is still a challenge, but not because people don’t want to make the effort.

The Japanese are extremely friendly and happy to help in any way they can. But when you’ve tried to explain something over and over again, after ten times you sometimes just feel like giving up, especially when people start holding a mobile phone up against your mouth, hoping that this will provide them with an accurate translation. And if we get really stuck, we all smile and nod and just move on. Endless patience can be required.

The famous Japanese work ethic prevails in this company, too. A 50 to 55-hour workweek isn’t exceptional for most employees. They’re not unlike growers. Work is also considered more like family here. It is expected that, in addition to your primary tasks, you also fulfil other tasks in order to keep the family feeling strong.

When the first flowers are presented, auction staff start shouting in the bidding hall. The idea is that this will help drive up the prices. I’m not sure it actually works, but it definitely brings a positive buzz to the early morning.

Sven Paauwe ,

Is a third-year student of HAS University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch. He’s currently doing his internship with Naniwa Flower Auction in Osaka, Japan.

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