For many avid travelers, meeting new people and expanding their social circles are a priority when going from one country to another. If you are going to Japan, you will find that the Japanese are some of the politest, nicest, and friendliest people in the world, and experience firsthand their willingness to go the extra mile to help you find your way to the train station or translate words and phrases on signage’s or restaurant menus. Even if you speak or understand zero Japanese, you will not have a hard time getting around the country and having the greatest adventure of your life.
To be successful in making friends in Japan, you have to be aware of the common social etiquette in the country so as not to disrespect the local customs and traditions or come across as rude and offensive. The discussion below lays out how you can effectively grow your social network while in Japan.
What are the common greetings that you should learn?
In Japan, you might notice how English is not as widely spoken as in other countries. This should not stop you from meeting new people, because you can just memorize a number of common Japanese words and phrases that you can use the first time you meet a local. Here is a table with examples of these popular Japanese greetings and what they mean in English:
What you can say to break the ice:
|Ohayou gozaimasu.||Good morning.|
|Konnichi wa.||Good afternoon.|
How to introduce yourself and ask for their names:
|<your name> desu.||I am <your name>.|
|Watashi wa <your name>.||My name is <your name>.|
|Onamae wa nandesuka?||What is your name?|
|Hajimemashite.||It is nice to meet you.|
|Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.||It is a pleasure to meet you.|
What to say to get to know them more:
|<Your home country> desu.||I am from <your home country>.|
|Dochira no goshusshin desuka? (formal)||Where are you from?|
|Shusshin wa doko desuka? (casual)||Where are you from?|
|Eigo o hanasemasu ka?||Can you speak English?|
|Anata no shumi wa nandesuka?||What are your hobbies?|
|Konshuumatsu yotei ga arimasu ka?||What are your plans this weekend?|
What to say to end a conversation:
|O isogashii tokoro arigatou gozaimashita.||Thank you for your time.|
|Mata kondo asobimashou.||Let us hang out again sometime.|
|Arigatou gozaimasu.||Thank you.|
|Jaa mata.||See you later.|
Other useful Japanese words and phrases to remember:
|Gomen nasai.||I am sorry.|
|Nihongo ga wakarimasen.||I do not understand Japanese.|
How do you bow?
In your home country, you probably shake the hand of or just smile to anyone you meet for the first time. However, in Japan, the practice is different. If you are introduced to someone, you should bow to show respect.
In many different social situations in Japan, bowing is expected and customary. The Japanese bow when they meet new people, when they say goodbye to their colleagues, when they thank store employees for their service, when they pray or make an offering at a temple or shrine, and when saying sorry for causing inconveniences, troubles, and other problems.
Because you are a foreigner, it is alright to not know every single nuance and rule when it comes to bowing. You are not really expected to strictly keep your back straight or keep your arms at your sides. You also get a pass for not bowing low, deep, or long enough. It is okay for you to only do the bare minimum, i.e. bowing by bending your waist a little bit for a second or two, to at least show that you are familiar with local etiquette.
Where do you go to meet people in Japan?
The Japanese love to eat and drink. These two activities are their most common ways to bond with family, friends, and co-workers. Wherever you are in the country, you will find numerous izakaya or family restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, karaoke bars, and other entertainment spots that welcome groups of people looking for a good time.
So, to meet locals and fellow travelers, you have to go to these sorts of places. Do not be scared to check them out, even if you are traveling on your own. A lot of solo travelers in Japan actually like going to these establishments at night to find like-minded individuals who are also looking for travel buddies or to grow their friends list.
To not be rude or offensive, you should bear in mind some important dining and drinking etiquette. Remember to say “itadakimasu” (which is a Japanese phrase that has a similar purpose as the French phrase “bon appétit”) before you dive in to your food. And, when drinking, hold your glass up and say “kampai” (which is a Japanese phrase that works like “cheers”) to get everyone going.
What are the best Japanese language and translation apps to download to your phone before your trip?
To help you communicate in Japanese, you can take advantage of several free resources easily accessible and readily available today. Prior to your trip, you should download the apps enumerated below, and give them a try to prepare you for your social interactions in Japan:
- Akebi – You can download the app here for free: Android
- Obenkyo – You can download the app here for free: Android
- Google Translate – You can download the app here for free: iOS, Android
- Imiwa? – You can download the app here for free: iOS
- Yomiwa – You can download the app here for free: iOS, Android
- Learn Japanese – You can download the app here for free: iOS
- Japanese Translator Offline – You can download the app here for free: iOS
- Waygo Translator and Dictionary – You can download the app here for free: iOS, Android