Weblio Philippines’ president on cultural differences, working experience, and his definition of home

Sho Takeda has been in the Philippines for three years. He grew up in Yamagata, graduated from Tohoku University with a degree in Educational Psychology, and studied abroad for a few years. He has been the President of Weblio Philippines, Inc. since 2014. Weblio Philippines’ Human Resource staff, Louella Vizcarra sat down with him to talk about his working experience in the Philippines.

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WP: You’ve been living in the Philippines for three years now, how has it been so far?
ST: Before coming here [to the Philippines], I did not have any sort of expectations about working or living here. But now that it’s been three years since I came here, I can say that I am pleasantly surprised. For example, people here are very committed when it comes to what they want to achieve and I really admire that.
WP: What do you appreciate about the Philippines?
ST: I really appreciate the fact that the people I work with here are sociable. No matter how busy or preoccupied I am with work, they always find a way to reach out to me. I also appreciate how the people here are striving to improve themselves. The energy in this country is really something, too. Like its people, it is continuously growing and is full of life, and I like that a lot.
WP: How do you feel about working with foreigners despite differences in language, culture, customs, and the like?
ST: In the case of certain differences like you’ve mentioned, respecting people’s differences is important, but there are things we cannot change overnight. Let’s say, at the age of 20 – a person’s values or beliefs are already almost complete, and for them to change something as fundamental as that is going to be difficult. But facing the same direction or achieving the same goal with the people you work with is more important than these differences.

WP: I’m curious as to how you maintain a cordial relationship with your coworkers.
ST: It’s by being respectful. Back in Japan, the company [head office] operates in a top-down fashion- the managers decide on something and they delegate tasks to their subordinates. I’ve always wanted to do things differently – I want to do things in a bottom-up fashion. I mean, we do have to hit the right balance between bottom-up and top-bottom, but I’ve always wanted to reach out to everyone working in this company. In my experience in Japan [head office], it has always been rigidly top-down to the point where it felt oppressive and filtered.
WP: Could you elaborate on that?
ST: They don’t accept any form of criticism. If you don’t like how things are being done, then the best thing to do is leave. Those who can stay, stay. That said, it taught me not to run things that way once I have my company.
WP: You took that experience of yours and turned it into something positive.
ST: Yes, that is correct.
WP: That’s very admirable.

WP: Tell us about Yamagata, your hometown.
ST: It’s a region in Japan that is famous for its cherries, regional dialect, and climate. What I miss about Yamagata is the fact that you can enjoy four seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter. I really enjoy winter because I love skiing.
WP: How would you compare Yamagata to the Philippines? In terms of culture and people.
ST: It’s hard to come up with a very detailed example. But I guess you can say that in the countryside, there aren’t many people, so the distance between them is more apparent. I wasn’t, at first, used to the friendliness of the Filipinos, since people in my hometown aren’t really like that. In the Philippines, it’s easy to ask help from someone when you’re in trouble or when you need help. People are easier to approach here.
WP: There’s always an impression that people in the countryside are more, how do I put it, tight-knit? In a sense that they know each other and I’m curious if that ever applies to your hometown in Yamagata?
ST: People in my hometown are quite distant from each other, so only friends would have that kind of familiarity with each other.
WP: In your household, were you particularly close with one another?
ST: Yes, but there is also that distance we’ve grown accustomed to. An example of that would be when we eat together. We do talk when we eat but it’s less chatty compared to when Filipinos talk when they eat together.
WP: That’s an interesting comparison. Is it something you now enjoy?
ST: I’ve already grown accustomed to that kind of behavior so yes, it is something I do enjoy.

WP: To wrap things up, I’m going to have to ask you a very cliché question. Do you consider the Philippines to be your second home?
ST: I have not seen the Philippines in its entirety, so I can’t completely say that the country itself is my home but if anything, I consider this company my home. The physical space or surroundings don’t matter, as our office has moved into different locations for the past 3 years. The people who work for this company, they are my home.

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