Have you heard of the saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans?" The Japanese have a similar saying: "郷に入ったら郷に従え" which roughly translates to "Follow the town once inside the town."
Although it can take some time, understanding the environment surrounding around oneself can take a lot of psychological stress away and help you to live a more comfortable and harmonious life in Japan.
Many Japanese are known for not telling somebody else (Japanese or otherwise) their honest opinions or feelings, perhaps because they do not want to cause unpleasantness or conflict with the other person, and may passively agree while the other person is speaking to show that they are listening.
I've written up a select list of words to use, or words you might hear when listening to a story.
You might be wondering why these words are so common, and why should I try to understand them? Perhaps you're thinking that one should say their honest feelings instead. But the part about not wanting to arouse unpleasantness or causing a disagreement is actually a very important aspect of conversation in Japanese.
To say something like "Iya, sore ha chigau" is very direct and tells the other party that you not only disagree, but they are wrong.
So because many native English speakers are so direct with language, I think they may have some trouble conversing with Japanese people. When talking to other English speakers, YES and NO is a major bass of communication. However, in the Japanese language, there are several ways to respond. Let's look at some different ways that you can say YES or show affirmation to the other person:
・まーそうだよね (maa soudayone)
The weight of these words are the same in most situations and are all suitable answers when you want to agree with the other person, or even just show that you are listening.
On the other hand, when you want to say NO to something, the answer can be slightly more complicated. In Japanese, we almost never say NO directly.
Let's look at some different responses to this sample question where you want to say no:
(Konshu no douyoubi ni paatii ga arundakedo doukana?)
(I'm having a party this Saturday, wanna come?)
・行けそうなら連絡するね (ikesou nara renraku suru ne) (I'll contact you if I can come)
・うーん、考えておく (uun, kangaete oku) (hmm, I'll think about it)
・へー楽しそうだね (hee, tanoshisou dane) (oh, sounds fun)
These are some passive ways to respond to something without being really direct and hurting the other persons feelings.
(souyu no ha sukijyanai kara ikanai)
(I don't like it so I'm not going to go)
This is a really direct way to decline an invitation, but I think most Japanese people would not respond with something like this unless they were unique in the way that they excelled at self-assertion.
I'm not going to tell you how you should respond to others speaking to you. That's for you to decide. This is simply me sharing a few tips on how to have a conversation with someone in Japanese comfortably and trying to give some insight into how people communicate in Japanese.
Do you have some useful tips about how to have a conversation with or maintain a friendship with people in Japan?
Photo by ashraful kadir & Susan Sermoneta