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#1
Old 12-28-2014, 02:34 PM
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'You're welcome' in Japanese

I spoke Japanese when I was a small child, but it's been a loooooooong time since I was a child of any sort; let alone a small one!

I was taught that 'You're welcome' is Doo itashimashite. As foreigners, we may have been forgiven any usage errors. I've read that Ieie ('No, no.') may be preferred. How about Daijoobu desu yo ('It's all right.')?

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#2
Old 12-28-2014, 03:13 PM
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I've always heard it as your first entry. I only know daijoobu as just "okay!" or "great!", but then I didn't speak the language and there's no accounting for colloquialisms, e.g. sick=terrific.
#3
Old 12-28-2014, 04:27 PM
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In my experience, it is far more common for Japanese people to say iie or tondemonai than to say do itashimashite in response to thanks.

However do itashimashite is perfectly correct and won't sound strange when you say it.
#4
Old 12-28-2014, 10:22 PM
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Let me preface this by saying that in Japan, it’s not a big thing to say “You’re welcome”. We feel “bad” that we’ve imposed a burden on someone by putting them in a situation where they have to be attentive to my need of gratitude in exchange for whatever it was that precipitated the word of thanks. That’s why we often say “Ki ni shinaide”, (Don’t worry about it), or “Ieie”, (Not at all). Some people respond back, “No, thank you”.

Do itashimashite is technically correct (and formal), but it's not something that is used in regular Japanese conversation. It would be somewhat analogous to someone saying "Greetings!" in English in place of, "Hello". Not wrong, but not natural. hibernicus' suggestions are fine, except "tondemonai" is very informal, and it can also be used to express outrage or something preposterous, which is how this word came to be used as a response to “Thank you” - It’s preposterous to think that my trivial deed deserves your attention and word of gratitude.
#5
Old 12-29-2014, 08:09 PM
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Posting from my phone, so forgive the mistakes.

First, a little background on the culture and the elements which determine the usage.

All cultures have "polite fictions," things which are pretended in society. In America, we pretend that almost everyone are social equals.

OTOH, Japanese culture is based social status, including if a person is even one year older than the other. For people of relative equal status, the fiction is that they both treat the other as a social superior.

dooitashimashite is more appropriate for social superiors to use to social inferiors. It also implies that the person who says it believes that they deserve the thanks they receive. Same thing for food, the will apologize for the simplicity, even if the spend all day cooking.

Japanese routinely deny that their gifts are adequate, even if they spent a lot on them. They will say something like "please do me the favor of accepting this worthless trinket."

You then thank them profusely, as if they just gave you their daughter in marriage and they openly worry that you will now be inconvencied by the additional baggage.

In most of the formal situations where responding to a thanks, I usually went with the ieie bowed and said that it was I who needed to thank them.

Among good friends such as golfing buddies, ii yo "that's all right" works.

I can't think of a situation to use daijoobu desu yo as that is mixing the polite ending with the sort of rude accepting the thanks. It can be used to accept apologies, in the sense of "it's nothing (so you don't need to apologize)."
#6
Old 12-30-2014, 01:18 AM
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Dumb question: people keep using "ie", is that just written shorthand for "iie", or are both acceptable? I notice my dictionary lists both for "no", but now I'm wondering if there's some intricate formality details between the two. I've never heard of "ie" before, I've only seen the one with the long vowel.

E: Though I am familiar with "iya" as a more informal form for "iie".

Last edited by Jragon; 12-30-2014 at 01:20 AM.
#7
Old 12-30-2014, 01:29 AM
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"Iie" is "no" when written, but "ie" is the pronunciation when spoken.
#8
Old 12-30-2014, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
"Iie" is "no" when written, but "ie" is the pronunciation when spoken.
Not quite. Iie (no) and ie (house) have different pronunciations. However, when doubled, iie comes out as ie-ie rather than the more cumbersome iie-iie.
#9
Old 12-30-2014, 08:19 PM
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ie, chigaimasu.
#10
Old 12-30-2014, 09:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
ie, chigaimasu.
Iie is pronounced iie. Ie, ie. "いえ" and "いいえ" are written and spoken differently.

If you really want to go into the details of the difference between iie, ie and iya, you can read this. For those who can't, the gist is that there are situations where you can use all three, and situations where only two or one of them is appropriate. Hence, the difference ie, iie and iya isn't between written and spoken form, and it's only partly between formal and informal.
#11
Old 12-30-2014, 10:27 PM
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I'm a native Japanese speaker and I agree with jovan. ie and iie are very similar in meaning, but they are distinct words pronounced differently.
#12
Old 12-31-2014, 12:14 AM
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I'm a native Japanese speaker as well, and the argument isn't about whether "iie" and "ie" have different pronunciations, (they clearly do), but whether they can both mean "no", and the answer is, yes. Sure, their usage is different, but they are both used to respond in the negative, just as Nope, Nah, Uh-uh, is used to mean "No".
a
ETA: "Ie" to mean "House" and "No" have different intonations as well. A native Japanese would not mix those two up.

Last edited by Saturn Dreams; 12-31-2014 at 12:18 AM.
#13
Old 12-31-2014, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
I'm a native Japanese speaker as well, and the argument isn't about whether "iie" and "ie" have different pronunciations, (they clearly do), but whether they can both mean "no", and the answer is, yes.
That's not true, I was replying to a post of yours in which you wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams
"Iie" is "no" when written, but "ie" is the pronunciation when spoken.
This would lead to believe that iie is the written form and ie the spoken form. Like scr4 agrees, that's not the case. They're two different words with mostly but not completely overlapping usage and similar but distinct pronunciations.

Anyway, a happy new year to all!
#14
Old 12-31-2014, 11:38 AM
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I have a related question for our native Japanese posters.

Based on my idea of Japanese ultra-politeness in formal settings, I would have expected Japanese people, when receiving a gift, to be extravagantly thankful, to talk about how wonderful and special the gift is, how unworthy the recipient is of such generosity and so on. Effectively, I am extrapolating from what would be considered polite in western cultures.

However, what I've experienced in reality is that the Japanese person receiving the gift puts it aside almost immediately after the most cursory of acknowledgement. This is in the context for example of a work meeting where the visitor brings a memento from his/her home country as a gift for the host. I've noticed overseas visitors being taken aback by this seeming abruptness.

The best explanation I can think of is that the giving/receiving transaction is potentially "awkward" and the receiver is aiming to minimise any awkwardness by getting it out of the way with as little fuss as possible.

So, two questions really:
1) Is my observation correct? Is this how Japanese people generally behave when receiving a gift, or only in certain contexts?
2) Why?
#15
Old 12-31-2014, 11:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
However, what I've experienced in reality is that the Japanese person receiving the gift puts it aside almost immediately after the most cursory of acknowledgement. This is in the context for example of a work meeting where the visitor brings a memento from his/her home country as a gift for the host. I've noticed overseas visitors being taken aback by this seeming abruptness.
IAN Japanese, but I think it's considered rude to open a gift in the giver's presence. It would be embarrassing to the giver if the gift was somehow inappropriate. I understand that Japanese society is stratified, so if gifts are given to people of different 'ranks', it points out the 'pecking order', which could be awkward.

But again, IAN Japanese and have been removed from the culture for most of my life.
#16
Old 01-01-2015, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
This would lead to believe that iie is the written form and ie the spoken form. Like scr4 agrees, that's not the case...
That's never been the case. We can see "Iie" written on its own to mean "No", but not so with "Ie", (or "Ie-ie"). It is often used orally to negate something, usually taking the form of a phrasal interjection. It sounds like you interpreted that to mean "No" in Japanese is rendered differently depending on whether it's written or spoken. I'm sure you're aware by now, but that is not the claim being made.
#17
Old 01-01-2015, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
I'm sure you're aware by now, but that is not the claim being made.
Yes, but it's what you wrote.

Again:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams
"Iie" is "no" when written, but "ie" is the pronunciation when spoken.
That post was misleading, especially to novices. That's what I was pointing out.
#18
Old 01-01-2015, 03:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
Let me preface this by saying that in Japan, it’s not a big thing to say “You’re welcome”. We feel “bad” that we’ve imposed a burden on someone by putting them in a situation where they have to be attentive to my need of gratitude in exchange for whatever it was that precipitated the word of thanks.
If I' understanding you correctly, you're saying that gratitude is a sort of gift with it's own value, and that expressing it with a "thank you" reduces or negates that value of the gift.

I'd equate this to giving somebody in America a gift and failing to convince them there's no need to reciprocate.
#19
Old 01-01-2015, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
If I' understanding you correctly, you're saying that gratitude is a sort of gift with it's own value, and that expressing it with a "thank you" reduces or negates that value of the gift.

I'd equate this to giving somebody in America a gift and failing to convince them there's no need to reciprocate.
In this context, it may be worth mentioning that Japanese people often respond to a small favour (such as refilling a cup) by saying sumimasen (excuse me) rather than arigatou (thank you).
#20
Old 01-01-2015, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
Let me preface this by saying that in Japan, it’s not a big thing to say “You’re welcome”. We feel “bad” that we’ve imposed a burden on someone by putting them in a situation where they have to be attentive to my need of gratitude in exchange for whatever it was that precipitated the word of thanks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
dooitashimashite is more appropriate for social superiors to use to social inferiors. It also implies that the person who says it believes that they deserve the thanks they receive. Same thing for food, the will apologize for the simplicity, even if the spend all day cooking.
I just want to say that even though I have been married to a Japanese person for many years, have Japanese friends and family and have lived in Japan, I have gained valuable learning and understanding of Japanese culture from this thread. どうもありがとうございます。
#21
Old 01-01-2015, 07:00 PM
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Regardless of the "iie" controversy, it should be noted that in English, using "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you" is only a little more than 100 years old. Many cultures appear to use dismissive phrases as responses to "thanks." English "think nothing of it," Spanish "de nada", French "de rien," etc. Germans respond "please" (bitte) and the Italian "prego" can also mean "please."
#22
Old 01-01-2015, 08:06 PM
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In my experience most Japanese will not respond verbally to this at all. It totally depends upon who you're "thanking."

Someone at the corner convenience store will merely nod (maybe) and as you walk out, will shout in a loud voice (to nobody -- it's a robotic response) "Arizatozaimashtaaaaaah" just like all his/her colleagues.

If you are a foreigner, a normal Japanese will never respond with "iiee," "Iya" (I would say more possible) and CERTAINLY not "tonedemonai" or "dou itashimashite."

Excessive bowing will definitely take those places, or merely a rigid smile and a fervent wish for you and your foreignness to depart as quickly as possible.

Please do NOT say things like "arigatou gozaimashita" to store clerks; it's bizarre and unnatural. Don't even bother with "arigatou." A simple "doumou" will be precisely what you should say and what they will expect.

To this you should expect no verbal response past perhaps a "hai" or most probably, nothing at all.
#23
Old 01-01-2015, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Kamakiri View Post
Please do NOT say things like "arigatou gozaimashita" to store clerks; it's bizarre and unnatural. Don't even bother with "arigatou." A simple "doumou" will be precisely what you should say and what they will expect.
There are regional differences on this point. In Tokyo, it is indeed uncommon for customers to thank store clerks. In Kansai, though, it is considered polite and normal to say arigatou, or ookini.
#24
Old 01-01-2015, 08:29 PM
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Another question, arigatou gozaimasu vs arigatou gozaimashita. Obviously the latter is the past tense, but are they totally interchangeable or is there a real difference? I've listened to a lot of stuff in Japanese and they seem to be used totally interchangeably, but it bugs me not knowing for sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomndebb View Post
Regardless of the "iie" controversy, it should be noted that in English, using "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you" is only a little more than 100 years old. Many cultures appear to use dismissive phrases as responses to "thanks." English "think nothing of it," Spanish "de nada", French "de rien," etc. Germans respond "please" (bitte) and the Italian "prego" can also mean "please."
American English, IME, seems to be circling around to "no problem" being the default.
#25
Old 01-01-2015, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
In Kansai, though, it is considered polite and normal to say arigatou, or ookini.
Polite maybe, but Kansai is a very large region to attribute the usage of "Ookini" for "Thanks". Geishas in Gion for sure and pockets of shitamachi areas in Osaka perhaps, but even then it's used by the older generation and usually between customers and shops that are familiar with each other.
#26
Old 01-01-2015, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomndebb View Post
Regardless of the "iie" controversy, it should be noted that in English, using "you're welcome" as a response to "thank you" is only a little more than 100 years old. Many cultures appear to use dismissive phrases as responses to "thanks." English "think nothing of it," Spanish "de nada", French "de rien," etc. Germans respond "please" (bitte) and the Italian "prego" can also mean "please."
I think "you're welcome" is also a dismissive response. "Why thank me? You're welcome to it!"
#27
Old 01-01-2015, 09:15 PM
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It is so automatic that I don't really think about how I respond, which is typically just "Iya" with a little up-waive of my hand as I say it.

When I think about it, it seems a little dismissive, but I've never gotten a bad reaction to it.

I've gotten "Iya" as a response as well when I've thanked others, depending on the situation, and then only from those I consider my peers.
#28
Old 01-01-2015, 09:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
Another question, arigatou gozaimasu vs arigatou gozaimashita. Obviously the latter is the past tense, but are they totally interchangeable or is there a real difference? I've listened to a lot of stuff in Japanese and they seem to be used totally interchangeably, but it bugs me not knowing for sure.
In a lot of situations they are interchangeable, but sometimes not. For example, if someone is thanking you at the end of the night for an enjoyable evening, they would use "Arigatou gozaimashita". If someone is pouring you a drink and you want to say thanks, you would use "Arigatou gozaimasu".
#29
Old 01-01-2015, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
Polite maybe, but Kansai is a very large region to attribute the usage of "Ookini" for "Thanks". Geishas in Gion for sure and pockets of shitamachi areas in Osaka perhaps, but even then it's used by the older generation and usually between customers and shops that are familiar with each other.
I hate to derail this thread again with a (very) minor disagreement, but I think you underestimate how common ookini is. I hear it frequently not only in Osaka and Kyoto, but also in Nara and parts of Mie. Even here, in southern Gifu, I hear it on occasion, though very rarely. There's certainly a big age/occupation bias in usage but as discussions like this one hint, it's still used by younger people and outside of Osaka and Kyoto.

And to add to what you wrote on arigatou gozaimasu vs arigatou gozaimashita, here's an example:

- Here, let me carry those heavy bags for you.
- Arigatou gozaimasu <- Can't use gozaimashita because you're thankful for something that hasn't happened yet.

- I left the bags in your room.
- Arigatou gozaimashita. <- The action is completed. Gozaimasu could be used also.

There aren't many situations where arigatou gozaimasu would be inappropriate but I can think of one: thanking someone who is leaving, or who you are leaving. E.g. thanking a colleague who is retiring, or graduating students thanking a teacher. Using the present/future tense would be odd.
#30
Old 01-01-2015, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
I hate to derail this thread again with a (very) minor disagreement, but I think you underestimate how common ookini is. I hear it frequently not only in Osaka and Kyoto, but also in Nara and parts of Mie. Even here, in southern Gifu, I hear it on occasion, though very rarely. There's certainly a big age/occupation bias in usage but as discussions like this one hint, it's still used by younger people and outside of Osaka and Kyoto.
I suppose it depends on what your definition of "common" and "frequent" is. It's definitely not something I would hear on a regular basis living in Kobe, which is right beside Osaka, home of Kansai-ben. I can't remember the last time anyone used "Okini", except when in Kyoto. It would also depend on the company around you. If they are the type to use that language you may think it's "common" because it's used within your group, but not so among the general populace.
#31
Old 01-02-2015, 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
I suppose it depends on what your definition of "common" and "frequent" is. It's definitely not something I would hear on a regular basis living in Kobe, which is right beside Osaka, home of Kansai-ben. I can't remember the last time anyone used "Okini", except when in Kyoto. It would also depend on the company around you. If they are the type to use that language you may think it's "common" because it's used within your group, but not so among the general populace.
I think Kobe (and Hyogo in general) is probably one of those places in Kansai where ookini is on the way out. I don't think I've heard it used there either. Like most dialect it's very much a YMMV issue (like you say, it's mostly about where and with who you hang out), but the one situation in which you hear it most frequently, IME, is when someone gives you back your change.

To sort of bring this back on topic, the point is that what constitutes an appropriate response to something almost entirely depends on context. Where you are, who you are, who the other person is, what is happening...
#32
Old 01-02-2015, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by jovan View Post
I think Kobe (and Hyogo in general) is probably one of those places in Kansai where ookini is on the way out. I don't think I've heard it used there either. Like most dialect it's very much a YMMV issue (like you say, it's mostly about where and with who you hang out), but the one situation in which you hear it most frequently, IME, is when someone gives you back your change...
It's not a matter of being "on the way out" - It just isn't a common way to say "Thank you", except for pocketed areas in Kansai. It is strictly a regional dialect. As for people saying it when they receive change... I won't say never ever, but definitely not "frequently", especially in Gifu where you claim it's used "often".

Last edited by Saturn Dreams; 01-02-2015 at 09:43 AM.
#33
Old 01-02-2015, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Saturn Dreams View Post
It's not a matter of being "on the way out" - It just isn't a common way to say "Thank you", except for pocketed areas in Kansai. It is strictly a regional dialect. As for people saying it when they receive change... I won't say never ever, but definitely not "frequently", especially in Gifu where you claim it's used "often".
Wait, what? Please re-read my post carefully, because I never claimed so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jovan
Even here, in southern Gifu, I hear it on occasion, though very rarely.
Very rarely != often.
#34
Old 01-02-2015, 11:01 AM
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Ah, so it's rarely used in Gifu, but you hear it frequently when receiving change in Nara and Mie. I suppose that makes it common. Any other conditions to limit how frequently "Okini" is used?
#35
Old 01-02-2015, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
I have a related question for our native Japanese posters.

Based on my idea of Japanese ultra-politeness in formal settings, I would have expected Japanese people, when receiving a gift, to be extravagantly thankful, to talk about how wonderful and special the gift is, how unworthy the recipient is of such generosity and so on. Effectively, I am extrapolating from what would be considered polite in western cultures.

However, what I've experienced in reality is that the Japanese person receiving the gift puts it aside almost immediately after the most cursory of acknowledgement. This is in the context for example of a work meeting where the visitor brings a memento from his/her home country as a gift for the host. I've noticed overseas visitors being taken aback by this seeming abruptness.

The best explanation I can think of is that the giving/receiving transaction is potentially "awkward" and the receiver is aiming to minimise any awkwardness by getting it out of the way with as little fuss as possible.

So, two questions really:
1) Is my observation correct? Is this how Japanese people generally behave when receiving a gift, or only in certain contexts?
2) Why?
My emphasis.

I'm not a native, but I'll go ahead and give my thoughts.

This is something that Westerners get wrong. As you say, people know that Japanese are ultra polite, so Westerners assume that Japanese would give the same ultra polite response that a Westerner would on such an occasion. Westerns are taught to ooh and aah over gifts, so people expect that Japanese would do the same. They don't.

Gifts are given under different circumstances in Japan. Bringing back souvenirs, usually sweets, is a social requirement, for example, when going on either a business or personal trip. However the gifts are not fawned over. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a perfunctory courtesy, but close.

In informal situations, such as among business friends, there is more appreciation shown, but it's understated. Gratitude by silence, widened eyes and a bow. A slightly audible intake of air if it's particularly impressive, such as then I gave a 1990 St Emilion Grand Cru Classé to a really good customer who appreciates wine. (Most Japanese do not, but this guy knew his wine and his Scotch. He look me to a Scotch bar once where he easily spend $500 for the two of us.)

In contrast to the West, it is improper for inferiors to evaluate superiors. A student would never think of telling a professor that their lecture was "good" only that they learned a lot. Native posters can weigh in, but this may be a factor for more significant gifts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dstarfire View Post
If I' understanding you correctly, you're saying that gratitude is a sort of gift with it's own value, and that expressing it with a "thank you" reduces or negates that value of the gift.

I'd equate this to giving somebody in America a gift and failing to convince them there's no need to reciprocate.
Not really. As hibernicus points out, Japanese tend to apologize to others in situations where Westerns tend to express feelings of thankfulness. They feel bad that they have had to inconvenience you.

Giving direct thanks is often considered juvenile behavior, or arrogant in many situations where Westerns would simply say "thanks" or "thank you."

One of the more common uses of doo itashimashite would be when an older person has given a child something, the child thanks the person and the older person would say that, especially elderly people or when you are teaching children manners.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
I just want to say that even though I have been married to a Japanese person for many years, have Japanese friends and family and have lived in Japan, I have gained valuable learning and understanding of Japanese culture from this thread. どうもありがとうございます。
どういたしまして。(doo itashimashite, an obvious joke, since this is where Westerners would very well say, "You're welcome.) I'll put on my Japanese hat and say いいえ、うまく説明できなくって、申し訳ございません。 "No, I'm sorry that I was not able to explain things well." 

How long were you in Japan and what were you doing? I'm really surprised how much less I understand Taiwanese culture despite being married to a Taiwanese (and I'm glad that you specified that it's a person you're married to ;-) ) and living here for almost two years.

I had been married previously to a Japanese and had lived there for 25 years over a 33-year-period, but the circumstances are completely different. Here, I don't interact with Taiwanese as a "native" where in Japan, I was more or less forced to as a salesman.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
Another question, arigatou gozaimasu vs arigatou gozaimashita. Obviously the latter is the past tense, but are they totally interchangeable or is there a real difference? I've listened to a lot of stuff in Japanese and they seem to be used totally interchangeably, but it bugs me not knowing for sure.
To add on to what Saturn Dreams and jovan say about mashita is thanking someone when the action is complete. Often you will hear the people at restaurants say arigatou gozaimasu after you have gotten up from your table and when you are headed to the cashier. After you pay, they will all call out arigatou gozaimashita.

Some of these differences are similar to the English use of the simple past versus the present perfect in that there can be subtle degrees of difference or they can be interchangeable.

I used to hang out in a jazz bar, where I kept a bottle of scotch. The mama-san would always say itsumo, arigatou gozaimasu "Thank you for always (coming here)" probably to emphasis our ongoing relationship, where the female bar tender at another club would always use arigatou gozaimashita.
#36
Old 01-02-2015, 11:47 AM
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jovan, how long have you been there? I long time IIRC.
#37
Old 01-02-2015, 08:40 PM
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After a couple of decades of living in Japan, it's been interesting to move to Taiwan where the customs are such different.

I'm typing this on the highway bus to Taipei. Boarding the bus, there was a woman with her son, around 4, on her lap, sitting on the side of the bus with single rows. (Children under 6 ride for free if they don't have their own seat.) I sat on the other side of the isle, in the rows with two seats. The bus didn't fill up but there weren't any two empty seats together.

I offered to switch seats with her, so her son could have his own seat. She nodded her thanks and moved. I nodded back and that was that.

This is a place where a Japanese would have profusely apologized for inconveniencing myself for her benefit. Although she would undoubtedly be grateful for not having to spend the 90 minute ride with a wiggly son on her lap, she'd also be somewhat embarrassed that a stranger had to help her. No embarrassed enough to refuse the help, but there is an element there which isn't in the other cultures I'm familiar with.

In this case, I'd probably say something like "ii desu yo." (it's OK) since I'm clearly being helpful and attentive to someone else's needs, something most middle aged men don't do.

An American would have thanked me and I'd respond with a "no problem."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kamakiri View Post
Someone at the corner convenience store will merely nod (maybe) and as you walk out, will shout in a loud voice (to nobody -- it's a robotic response) "Arizatozaimashtaaaaaah" just like all his/her colleagues.
Ah yes, convenience store and fast food workers who spit out overly formal Japanese with no feeling. Most Japanese simply ignore them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jovan View Post
To sort of bring this back on topic, the point is that what constitutes an appropriate response to something almost entirely depends on context. Where you are, who you are, who the other person is, what is happening...
Which of course happens in all cultures but to the nth degree in Japan, where they print manuals with diagrams where the people should sit in taxis, according to rank, where visitors should be placed in conference rooms and who give opinions when.

One problem with become better at Japanese is that the expectations of understanding all this starts to rise. For those who are not functionally fluent in the language, they do not suppose that the person will understand which words to use, but that doesn't give you a free pass forever.
#38
Old 01-02-2015, 10:01 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 498
Quote:
Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
...One problem with become better at Japanese is that the expectations of understanding all this starts to rise. For those who are not functionally fluent in the language, they do not suppose that the person will understand which words to use, but that doesn't give you a free pass forever.
The thing with the language is that a non-native can be as fluent as, or even a better speaker (in terms of word usage and honorifics) than a native Japanese, but they would forever be treated as an "outsider", with the sole reason being that they couldn't fully understand all the customs and nuances because they are not "true" Japanese. There still remains a glass ceiling that non-natives cannot break through which leads to talented foreigners leaving for greener pastures, i.e. outside Japan.

As a side note, I am a native Japanese born in Japan to Japanese parents but received my higher education overseas. I speak fluent English and hold dual nationality, the other being Canadian. At work, the running joke is that I'm the "foreign guy".
#39
Old 01-03-2015, 12:48 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Japan
Posts: 2,964
Quote:
Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
jovan, how long have you been there? I long time IIRC.
15.5 years. For most of which I've been almost entirely cut-off from the expat community. I think I get to speak English maybe four or five times a year nowadays.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
Which of course happens in all cultures but to the nth degree in Japan, where they print manuals with diagrams where the people should sit in taxis, according to rank, where visitors should be placed in conference rooms and who give opinions when.
I teach in university and I actually get to hand out those manuals to my students. Way back when I once decided to get a "real" job in Japan, I studied all those rules. Then I got a job for a small company in Osaka with a lot of clients in the manufacturing sector and found out a lot of what I had learned was wrong. When we went to visit clients in Tokyo, I found that what I learned wasn't so wrong after all.

A somewhat related anecdote: I'm building a house right now, and so I've been spending a lot of time at the construction company's offices. One day, my (Japanese) wife told me: "It's funny, the boss' sister doesn't look anything like him." I told her I didn't think the woman he always calls nee-san was related to him. My wife couldn't believe a boss would call an employee "sister," but I was right. It would be highly, highly inappropriate for a bank manager in Tokyo to call his secretary nee-san, but in a small construction company in Gifu? That's part of the culture.
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