I meet all kinds of people on the road and in my line of work. Most recently, I was introduced to a Swiss citizen living in America. As we started talking, I slowly took command of the conversation and switched the focus to Japan (naturally). To my surprise, however, her impressions of Switzerland seemed to me as if its culture and that of Japan were one and the same.
- Both the Japanese and Swiss have similar attitudes to the working environment: being on time to a fault, staying extra late, not indulging in vacations or long breaks, and examining the individual when it comes to forming a working relationship, as opposed to the company as a whole.
- Both tend to be very reserved in conversation and appearance; not being rushed into decisions or relationships, instead trying to find firmer ground.
In addition, the language barrier plays a large part in both cultures; although you are likely to get a more receptive audience speaking the native tongue in a country, in Japan (and apparently Switzerland), these barriers are much more defined. Not knowing Japanese in Japan is like being shut out of everything that makes the country what it is (English is good for the tour groups, in other words).
I guess I now know where to go if I visit Europe.