Name: Ina Lepel
Title: Ambassador of Germany
Hometown: Cuxhaven, Germany
Years in Japan: 1.5
What was your first encounter with Japan?
Japan was a very important subject of my studies as an economics student. In the business administration class I took in the ’80s, we learned about fashionable business approaches such as “just in time” and kaizen. My professor was fascinated with Japan and always talked about his experiences traveling there. So, from early on I had the perception that Japan is very advanced, bright and smart.
Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?
It’s difficult to claim accomplishments because in diplomacy a lot of what is accomplished is the result of teamwork. It’s easier to find concrete accomplishments early in my career, when things were more project-oriented. For example, when working at the German Embassy in Thailand, I advised people who wanted to start a German school, and helped them establish a connection with German school authorities.
What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?
The more complex relations become, the more difficult it becomes to set concrete specific targets. But I would like to see more exchange between young Japanese and Germans. I have the impression that the picture that Japanese people have of Germany, and vice versa, doesn’t really reflect what’s going on in both countries. It’s important to get the younger generations more involved and more exposed to the modern reality of the countries.
What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?
I would advise people to have an open mind and to do some preparatory reading. For example, in Germany there are a lot of intercultural guides that explain the cultural characteristics. Although some of them contain exaggerations, I feel that I benefited from reading them.
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