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What Japanese People Say And What They Really Mean — 17 Comments

  1. I can relate to these as I’ve experienced some already. But what makes it strange is, the more you improve, the less you get complimented. Which isn’t a bad thing. I have a japanese friend who doesn’t really talk to me in japanese much. It’s only when I showed how I transcribed a scene in japanese(fully correct), that she switched to japanese. I think it really comes down to showing people you can do it and show it to them.

    Keep up the good blog posts

  2. I got at my school…”your face is so small, your legs are so long”…all compliments of course. I thought it was funny. Wasn’t offended. They also say I’m fashionable which I totally was like “noooo I’m def not” lol I should write about that lol.

  3. When I went to a Japanese conference for young adults in NY, the people there would call me 可愛い every single time they looked at me. It got tiring quickly, and did not feel like a compliment. What do you say after the 10th time being called that? I just began ignoring them.

    • Whenever I hear a repeated stereotyped compliment I always try to respond in a creative way that amuses me. How about “当たり前じゃん。毎日特訓しているし”. Of course, after all I am doing special training every day.”

  4. These are great! My favorite is when someone tells me I speak great Japanese, when the ENTIRE conversation has been in English. It’s happened multiple times, and cracks me up every time!

  5. Hello, I’m Japanese. I’ve just found your blog and read this article. This is very interesting to me. :)
    I’ve been learning English and helping some friends who study Japanese. So, I’d like to know what they think, what is their culture more. Reading your blog also helps me improve my reading comprehension. Thank you. ;)

  6. You know I really agree with the idea that people actually say 「上手ですね」less the better your Japanese gets!
    I’ve been living in Japan for about 6 months now and in terms of speaking I would say I’m getting to the point of higher intermediate or early advanced. My host grandma still says 「偉いね」when I write down simple kanji but at the train station I asked for information about a train in regular Japanese and I seemed to get a very angry and dismissive response that I don’t think I would’ve received if I acted as if I could hardly speak Japanese.

    It is very weird! It’s almost like Japanese people recognise beginners and advanced speakers but intermediate is like a no-mans land?

    • Firstly, awesome blog!!
      Without blowing my own trumpet too much, my Japanese is probably advanced level. I can converse day-to-day and so long as the topic doesn’t drift into the history of coronary surgery I can hold my own.
      I still get jyouzu’ed all the time. I treat it as one part of meeting a new Japanese person. It is almost always followed with an explanation of how long I lived in Japan, etc.
      It still bugs me though. I never really know how to respond. Agreeing with them is a bit pompus and trying to modestly deny it in perfect Japanese is a bit dumb.
      I usually just say thank you but that’s not what I am thinking on the inside!

  7. I love your blog! It’s nicely written and very entertaining! I’ve a question – what do Japanese people mean when you give them some new information, and they say “Eh”? (へ) Does it have a positive/negative connotation? I often hear that when I talk to them, so just hoping they’re not confused or something!

    • If it’s a short え followed with a question it shows confusion and/or minor surprise (doesn’t have a positive or negative connotation). It’s kind of like saying “what?” Often written out as えっ? if you extend the length of the え, it can show major surprise.

      If you are talking about an extended へぇー, that is used for surprise, expressing interest (that something was deep or remarkable). Or it can be used a bit sarcastically to show that you don’t care at all and are completely uninterested.

  8. 1.2.5.6.7 are not the case.
    Some Japanese are malicious or uneducated.

    ” You say “What you said hurts me”, But I don’t think so,so I dont care. ”
    The people like said this is the worst.(Ex 1.)

  9. The longer I live in Japan the more I realize the people
    with whom I interact on a daily basis cannot recognize genuine kindness. Japanese people’s kindness is not from the heart. It’s manufactured to give a face value good impression.

    Anyone who lives in Japan for at least two years should have the experience of a ‘good and kind-hearted’ Japanese friend suddenly stop corresponding with them. The answer is the Japanese can only feign for so long, and you were around longer than they could endure.

    I know of Japanese who curse and slam their doors whenever they see a foreigner, get off public transportation if a foreigner alights, encourage their children to tease and call foreigners names, set off store alarms and call security when they see a foreigner, police/landlords searching foreigners’ (mainly those who live alone) apartment rooms among other devious things. A lot of foreigners do not know their rooms are searched.

    I could go on and on but will save some.

    • I lived in Tokyo for a year, so I’m far from being an expert on your notion of ‘Japanese kindness.’ However, while I had begun to develop similar, negative thoughts, after returning home to the U.S. for a while, I began to think (and still do) that politeness and ‘kindness’ are a way for Japanese people to ensure that their society functions smoothly—they live in a collectivist culture, after all. It was extremely rare for me to encounter openly rude people, even on jam-packed JR trains. As an American living in the contemporary U.S., I find your comments on Japanese xenophobia and racism absurd, at least in terms of such characteristics being as widespread as you make them sound. I would be willing to bet that in the ‘tolerant melting pot’ of America, we have FAR more nationalist/racist jerks than Japan does. And while I found the comment amusing, I seriously doubt anyone ever searched my apartment in Japan.

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