EXPORT TO JAPAN
Early on, Oteiza saw the potential for export his gourmet ham in the country of Kobe beef. Aside from licensing for Japanese export, the greatest difficulty was navigating the language and cultural differences in business.
To a westerner, Japan’s business culture can seem formal, and silence plays a valuable role in negotiations. On the contrary, western business dealings are often more casual, and silence is generally a negative sign.
On one occasion, Oteiza hosted a group of potential Japanese customers. So, naturally, the group hired an interpreter so they could communicate.
However, the group quickly realized even a skilled interpreter could not resolve the difficulties of a business negotiation across cultural differences. The interpreter was not there to explain away long silences to one side, or provide guidance on how to properly show respect.