For example, you – a Japanese businessperson – meet a foreigner who speaks fluent Japanese at a business meeting. You give him your business card, introducing yourself with your surname. He does the same. How do you thereafter refer to that foreigner? This was a recent thread on a translation mailing list. Few non-Japanese members said they were called by their surnames. Some even said they were called by their first names without the honorific suffix, -san. Everyone is speaking Japanese in line with the Japanese cultural norms, but why do few Japanese not call non-Japanese counterparts by their surname? If this happened among Japanese businesspeople, everyone would think you lack commonsense, no? You are looking to work in business together, so why not start off on even footing?
The Japanese version first appeared in the November 2012 issue of the goodspeed monthly newsletter.