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Getting more in touch with Japanese culture at work

Nestlé Ltd. E-commerce Department
Shang Ze Yu

Please tell us about how you came to Japan?

In my early twenties, I became interested in Japan by watching TV dramas, and I started studying Japanese on my own. After graduating from university in China, I studied abroad in France. After getting my Masters, I came to Japan to continue my studies in finance under a professor in venture capital at Kobe University.

How did you find your current job?

Although I wanted to continue my studies at grad school, I decided to start job hunting in 2018 because I also wanted to start working. As I was a little nervous about working only speaking Japanese, I focused on foreign companies rather than Japanese companies, where I could speak English when I needed to.

I considered several foreign companies in Kobe, but I decided to apply to Nestle since I like food, and was able to join the company as an intern. I really liked the company culture and decided to work here.

What is your current job?

I’m currently in my third year at the company and have worked in various departments since I joined. Now I’m working on online orders in the controller team of the E-Commerce Division. Specifically, my work has to do with finance and data creation. For example, my main work is in profit and sales analysis. Although it can be challenging, it’s intriguing to see the trends in the status of the products and how money flows, and to conduct detailed analysis at the same time. I’m always learning new things every day, and I can use what I learned from majoring in finances when I was a student. It’s also been great that my work has to do with coffee, which I love.

What kind of company is Nestle?

Nestle is an international company headquartered in Switzerland. It has a very open atmosphere and a diverse environment. I try to refer to the opinions and knowledge of members of various nationalities in my department as I work. Nestle has branch offices in many countries, so ours is a workplace where you can see the different communication methods of different countries.

What is your life in Kobe like?

I really enjoy my life here in Kobe. Although I tend to spend a lot of time at home watching dramas recently due to COVID-19, I go on trips or visit different cities on my days off. I often go to Kyoto to visit temples with my colleagues and friends, and I feel quite content with my life here.

What kind of city is Kobe?

I believe people around the world see Japan as a beautiful place, and Kobe is no exception. I feel that Kobe has the perfect population size compared to big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, since I don’t like places that are too crowded. Even if you’re a newcomer to Japan, I’m sure you’d enjoy the pace of life here enjoying the scenery of the ocean and the mountains. Kobe is also close to other cities like Kyoto and Osaka, so it’s also nice to be able to visit them in your free time.

I was really surprised by the experience of dropping my money and credit card at the station in Kobe, too. I picked up my credit card, and was about to walk away as I hadn’t noticed the money I’d dropped until a lady nearby kindly told me that I’d also dropped it. When going to eat out with my colleagues, we also talked about how you can get your wallet back even if you’ve forgotten it somewhere. I was really impressed. I think Japan is the only country in the world where something like this could happen.

Please share a message for students considered studying abroad or working in Japan.

I’m not sure if there are things at work that you can only experience in Japan, since I’ve never worked in China, but there are many things you can learn by being uniquely exposed to Japanese culture in the workplace. In my case, I’d also like to work in other countries in the same field if I have the opportunity.

In my work, I have thought that using Japanese is challening – especially the Kansai dialect, since since this is Kobe. Japanese also has many particular expressions, like the honorifics of keigo, or formal Japanese. When you want to ask for something in Japanese, you use the expression “dekinai deshouka?” (“You wouldn’t be able to do it, would you?”). Although I couldn’t understand this phrasing at first, I believe even these linguistic expressions can only be experienced as you work in Japan.

I hope that through working in Japan you too will have a more in-depth experience with Japanese culture!
  *This interview is re-published from the WORK in KOBE website. The relevant page is here.