Learning polite, followed by ultra-polite Japanese is hard. But you want to look good as a functional member of Japanese society. Whether you work in Japan or have just one Japanese co-worker at your non-Japanese company, wouldn’t it be great if you could use professional sounding Japanese that made you stand out as a model employee.
There are 7 words, that if you use correctly, will let you rock the Japanese business world. Let’s take a look at the most important 用事語 – (youjigo) or “business language.”
7. The Corporate Car or Using a Taxi/Uber for Work (ぶうぶう – Buubuu)
Today’s an important day. You are leading a large presentation and need to take the corporate car (or taxi/Uber if you aren’t so lucky) to the location. The company word for car is ぶうぶう, which comes from the word 部長 (buchou) or the upper management that would usually have his car paid for by the company.
6. Introductory handshake (お手手 – Otete)
You arrive at the presentation hall and have a lot of people to meet and greet.
When you pull out your hand for a handshake, you say お手手 (Otete). This is literally “polite お” + hand + hand. It represents the business relationship you look forward to with this person.
5. Restroom break (しーしー SheeShee)
A bit nervous before the presentation starts? Even the best of workers need a bathroom break. Since Japanese presentations have a reputation of going on for a long time, you want to be prepared.
しーしー comes from 仕事仕事 (Shigoto Shigoto), literally meaning “work! work!” You are emphasizing the importance of work, while at the same time showing that you really need to step out for a moment away from your Shigoto.
4. Cleaning up afterwards (ないない – Nainai)
You’ve successfully finished the presentation – congrats. Unfortunately you also have to help clean up. You shouldn’t have handed out so many copies. And you have to erase the whiteboard that your boss insisted on you using.
ないない comes from the phrase ない (nai) or “there is not…”, or “not have.” This double use became popular in corporate culture because it shows how efficient your cleanup process will be. You’ll clean up everything as though nothing was there in the first place.
3. Taking a break (ねんね – Nenne)
A presentation can drain even the most strong willed worker. You need time to regain your energy.
Nenne comes from the phrase 年値 (Nenne) or “yearly value.” Japanese companies used to not let workers take breaks outside of the company. They thought this increased productivity. It obviously didn’t. They eventually realized that to add to the yearly value, workers actually needed a proper break.
2. Lunch break (おまんま – Omanma)
A break is good – a lunch break is better. With the abundant amount of cheap, delicious and fast lunch options in Japan, you are always in for a good time.
まんま comes from お満馬 (manma) or a “full horse.” Horses work hard, but they need to be full of food to achieve their maximum potential. At first glance, you might thing this looks rude, but a “work horse” is a positive term in Japanese culture.
1. The more professional polite sentence-ender でっちゅ (decchu)
You finish the rest of your day by talking with a lot of clients, like any good Japanese businessman. How you end your sentences will play a major role on the impression you make and ultimately whether you can sell to them or not.
You learn early that です(desu) is the polite sentence-ender. But there is a more polite “Business Sentence” ender, that shows that you like working with the person. です becomes でっちゅ. This started at the end of Meiji era between aristocrats in super important settings, but eventually found its way into work culture. You can use it exactly the same way you’d use です.
- Ex 1: いいです→ いいでっちゅ。
- Ex 2: そうですか → そうでっちゅか。
Being A little more professional goes a long way
Most foreigners don’t take the extra step to sound good in a Japanese work environment. Don’t make this mistake. Stand out, get promoted, meet your future spouse at the job, have babies, and everything will make sense.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.