It’s not widely known but in fact, people who speak Japanese fluently or at least at business level, have many job opportunities in Germany in regards to Japanese-related industries. There are around 2,000 Japanese companies in Germany and many of them have European headquarter functions, which can offer you dynamic assignments, career development, and a diverse environment.

This article will explain the advantages of working in Japanese companies, expected salaries, and job functions for Japanese speakers in Germany.

What are the expected roles for Japanese speakers?

Host country nationals, or HCNs, are the people who grew up in the local country and know the local culture better than foreigners. In this context, German people who work for Japanese companies in Germany are regarded as HCNs.

For HCNs, although it depends on the size of the company and job position, the following tasks are normally expected as Japanese speakers in Japanese companies in Germany or Europe:

  • Acting as an intermediary/facilitator between local (German) employees and Japanese expatriates.
  • Acting as an intermediary/facilitator between subsidiaries and Japanese headquarters.
  • Task management of the local (German) employees.
  • Work in sales, marketing, etc., where the internal communication is done in Japanese.

One of the most important tasks for Japanese speakers is cross-cultural facilitation between Japanese managers (expatriates or HQ in Japan) and local parties (local employees, local market), thus you are expected not only to be proficient in the Japanese language but also to know Japanese culture.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

The expected task is not only limited to being a translator but you are also required to focus on the development of Japanese subsidiaries in the German (European) market, thus the tasks might include sales/marketing management, accounting, and HR management. Besides the language skills, commercial (BWL) skills are also welcome by the companies.

Contrary to Japanese companies, German companies require Japanese speakers to expand to the Japanese market or deal with jobs related to external Japanese parties, which includes:

  • Doing business with regard to the Japanese market
  • Dealing with Japanese companies in Europe
  • Dealing with Japanese customers (e.g. call-center)
  • Dealing with Japanese products (e.g. translations, transactions, customs)

Japanese speakers in Germany

Japanese Companies German Companies
Internal communication Japanese (English) German
External communication German, English English, Japanese
Company culture Japanese German
Job opportunities Rare Very Rare
Roles Communication between Japanese HQ and German market Communication between German HQ and Japanese market

Expected salary

The expected salary for Japanese speakers differs depending on the positions, size of the subsidiaries, job experience, and roles. If you have graduated from BWL (including marketing, sales, accounting) or Jura (law), then the expected salary would be 10%-15% higher than the salary of the other candidates majoring in these fields. The number of Japanese speakers with BWL or other specialties is very low in the German market, thus it is considered a “talent war”.

However, if your specialty is only the Japanese language (e.g., Japanology), then the expected salary for a Japanese speaker is 35,000-40,000 euros/year -almost as same as the average salary of new graduates, regardless of your degree.

The yearly average salary for Japanese speakers in Japanese companies (in Germany, in euros)

Position Job experience Salary
Sales Assistant New graduate 30,000 – 35,000
Few years Around 40,000
Sales Manager New graduate 35,000 – 40,000
Few years Around 40,000
Engineering New graduate 30,000 – 35,000
Few years Around 40,000

Required skills

As mentioned before, the required skills depend on the position, company, and market segment. Generally, for Japanese speakers, the most important skill is „intercultural communication skill” as a facilitator.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The more different the two countries are, the more difficult it is to manage the local subsidiary (Referred from Cultural distance, expatriate staffing, and subsidiary performance, Colakoglu & Caligiuri, 2008).

Due to that dilemma, many Japanese managers cannot manage their subsidiaries in a desirable manner (e.g. due to a high turnover rate, bad sales results, etc.). These problems mostly occur from a misunderstanding because of the lack of intercultural experience. As a result, the interviewers do not only focus on your language proficiency, but they also check if you have any experience working for/with Japanese companies.

Required skills

  • Language skills (Japanese, English, German) – B2~C1
  • Intercultural Communication skills and experience

Additional skills are an advantage, especially if you apply to get a higher position or a higher salary. Speaking Japanese fluently and knowing Japanese culture well is a requirement that a candidate needs to fulfill, and further skills are meant to differentiate yourself from the other candidates.

Additional skills

  • BWL knowledge (marketing, sales, accounting, market research, and data analysis)
  • Law (labor law, commercial law)
  • Additional language skills (e.g. Chinese, Spanish, Italian)

Other specifications in the scientific field such as Civil engineering, Computer science, and medicine are also an advantage, however, the demand for these kinds of jobs is very limited (1 or 2 positions a year).

Required character

In Japanese companies, both soft skills and hard skills are taken into consideration when hiring a potential employee. According to the so-called PE-fit theory, if you have similar characteristics to the company’s culture, you tend to stay in the company longer. Based on that theory, Japanese companies tend to hire people who fall into the category of “similarity” with Japanese companies.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For example, according to Brannen and Salk (2000), German and Japanese people have very different characters/behavior when doing business. Japanese approach can be characterized as “long-term” instead of “short-term”, and “collectivist” instead of “individualist”.

German Japanese
Importance of the individual Importance of the group
Well-defined job-roles Job-role flexibility
Fast and efficient decision-making Thorough decision-making
Leader as a decision-maker with absolute authority Leader as a decision-maker & facilitator
Rules more important than the situation The situation more important than the rules
Importance of job security Importance of lifetime employment
Importance of expertise Importance of age seniority

(Adopted from negotiating organizational culture in a German-Japanese joint venture, Brannen and Salk, 2000)

These characteristics are certainly not obligatory to have, but more regarded as “nice to have” and HR managers will probably judge your characteristics during the job interview from several perspectives to seek candidates who match their company style best.