Tips for Living in Japan
Read a short entry on Japanese culture, including language, customs and etiquettes. Maybe you would find out something that you were always curious of.
Lesson 10Greetings at the office
If you can build up a trouble-free relationship with company people - that is, your bosses and colleagues - it will definitely be an advantage for your work.
First, you should cheerfully say Ohayô gozaimasu, meaning "Good morning". To your colleagues or your subordinates, it's not impolite to say just Ohayô without gozaimasu.
When you want to show your appreciation, you say O-tsukare sama deshita!
When you leave the office before someone else, you say O-saki ni shitsurei shimasu, meaning "I'm sorry to be leaving before you."
Go-kurô sama desu! meaning "Thanks for a job well done," is also an expression to show your appreciation, but it's only used by seniors addressing juniors, so you should never say it to your boss!
Lesson 9Handling names on the phone
It’s difficult to use the right honorific expressions on the phone. The point is to make the position clear between “you and the other end” or “inside and outside.” When you are talking about in-house people, you should use modest expressions just as you do when referring to yourself. For example, suppose there’s a call for President Suzuki. Inside the company, you would usually call him Suzuki shachô, which means “President Suzuki” However, to outside people you drop any honorific title or official titles of people in your company. So in this case you would say, Suzuki wa gaishutsu shite imasu, literally meaning “Suzuki is out at the moment.”
Incidentally, the most common surnames in Japan are Sato, Suzuki and Takahashi. But there are many other surnames and some sound very similar. If you cannot catch someone’s surname the first time, it’s best to ask them politely to repeat it without hesitation. In that case, you say Mô ichido, o-namae o onegaishimasu, meaning “Could I have your name again, please?”
Most Japanese people think it’s their duty to report to the police immediately if they find someone’s wallet or mobile phone. And people who have lost something immediately report to the police what they have lost and when they think they lost it. There is then a good chance of lost items being returned to their owner. That's why Miss Yamada said, "Let's report it to the police" in the skit.
Japan has many small local police boxes called kôban. The kôban system was created more than 100 years ago in order to maintain safety on the streets of Tokyo, and it gradually spread throughout the country. The policemen who work at kôban are generally called o-mawarisan, which is a kind of affectionate term. Their main duties are to patrol the local area, but their work includes racing to the scene of an accident or a crime and helping lost children or drunks. And if ever you are lost, remember a kôban is also the most reliable place to ask for directions!
Lesson 7Personal seals
One aspect of Japanese culture that often surprises foreigners is the use of “personal seals”, called hanko or inkan. They still play an essential role in important deals, such as opening a bank account or making a contract to rent an apartment. They consist of an engraving of the owner’s surname, and they’re generally made of wood, stone or plastic.
But don’t worry if you don’t possess a seal. Some major banks will allow you to open an account using just your signature, which they regard as having the same validity as seals.
There are also non-official seals that are used in daily life for purposes such as acknowledging the receipt of registered mail or parcels. Ready-made seals can easily be bought for typical Japanese surnames such as Sato, Suzuki, Takahashi, etc. You can get seals for your full name, nickname, or just initials if you place an order at a shop.
Lesson 6Services for foreigners
The number of foreigners living in Japan is increasing every year. Because of differences in culture and customs, the number of problems arising with the Japanese is also becoming noticeable. Local governments are making great efforts to deal with those problems.
Information in foreign languages is available at the service counters at local government offices and on their home pages. The main languages include English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and Tagalog.
Local government home pages provide information about public services and medical facilities that can handle different languages. They even explain about how to sort out different types of garbage, which varies from area to area, and the garbage collection schedule—such as newspapers on a certain day.
You can also find information about many local activities, including events and Japanese language lessons provided by volunteers.