When venturing out into a new country, whether as a tourist or a new addition to the workforce or as a student, immersing oneself in the culture and consequently the language can be very key as far as blending in with the locals is concerned. This is true for almost every locale, but it's even more applicable when talking about a country like Japan. While the big buildings and busy lifestyle in Tokyo may seem very familiar to anyone from the Western world, not a lot of people in this city can speak English. If one wants to form new relations and connect with the Japanese, it will be more important to exert effort and learn the Japanese language.
The first step in starting a conversation is with introducing oneself. This article would be about how one is to put one's best foot forward, the Japanese way.
What to say: The Usual Greetings
The term Hajimemashite はじめまして）is used when one is interacting with a person for the first time.
While most Japanese books about speaking Japanese would insist on the usage of the term watashi wa（私は）, this part of the syntax is usually removed when it's clear that the introduction is the main objective of the conversation.
Saying Your Name
This may seem strange to some, but in Japanese culture, people are rarely addressed with their given names. Unless in the company of family or close friends, most Japanese are addressed with their last names. When introducing one's self, it is more proper to say one's last name.
If you want to say "I am Ruriko", you may say Watashi wa Ruriko desu.
This is one of the Japanese language's alphabets. This allows a person who has a foreign name to translate one's name in Japanese. This is not really a requirement, since most Japanese are already adept in saying and reading names from the West and other parts of the world.
The katakana system can also be used to spell foreign words and places.
As you would have probably realized from watching many Japanese films, the Japanese would most likely prefer a simple bow as opposed to a firm handshake. This bow is called the ojigi. This ritual of bowing to people that one meets is a very integral part of Japanese life. If your Japanese isn't good enough, bowing well to the people you meet might cover up for your shortcomings in the language.
After you've introduced yourself, striking up a conversation is more than necessary. Here are the more common questions that are asked during a Japanese version of chit-chat.
- O-namae wa nan desu ka - What's your name?
- O-shigoto wa nan desu ka - What's your job?
In summary, learning a language is not just about knowing the phrases. It's about studying the syntax and learning the new rules of grammar that govern the formation of sentences and thoughts. Sometimes, introducing yourself would involve not just language, but also your actions and gestures, like with the bow.