Ohayo, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa! 8 tricks to greet like a native

Ohayo, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa! 8 tricks to greet like a native

When we learn a new language, the first things we grasp are greetings. It’s very important to learn how to greet in any language. If you are just visiting Japan for a short period of time, it would be sufficient to know that “Ohayo” means good morning, “Konnichiwa” means good afternoon and “Konbanwa” means good evening. It shows an effort to greet in the native language even though you don’t speak any Japanese. If you are planning to stay longer in Japan or planning to live there, however, it’s important to learn how native people greet in Japan. I am a native Japanese speaker and I will explain how to greet like a native in various situations.



 

Ohayo, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa! 8 tricks to greet like a native

 

1. “Hello” is “Konnichiwa” in Japanese, but…

When you first learn Japanese, the first word you learn would be “Konnichiwa.” You learn that it means “hello” in Japanese. Although it’s easy to only remember ‘Konnichiwa” when you greet people, we don’t usually say it in many situations. In fact, we usually use it to people we don’t know and to people who are not our close friends in the afternoon between 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock. When you see your nice friendly neighbors, for example, you can greet them by saying “Konnichiwa.” We tend to pronounce the last “a” longer, like “Kon-ni-chi-waah.”

 

2. From when do we start saying “Konbanwa”?

The expression “Konbanwa” means “good evening” in Japanese. Therefore we use it when it starts to get dark, around 5 o’clock in the evening. If it’s still bright outside at 5 o’clock in summer, on the other hand, you can still say “Konnichiwa.” Just like “Konnichiwa,” we only use this expression to people who are not our close friends. You can say it, for example, when you see your neighbors or your clients from work in the evening. You can also use it when you enter to your favorite restaurants or izakaya (Japanese style pubs) that you go very often. Make sure to pronounce the last “a” longer to sound natural, like “Kon-ban-waah.”

 

3. Until when can we use “Ohayo”?

In Japanese, “Ohayo” is equivalent of “good morning” in English. There are, however, two ways of saying “good morning” in Japanese. The expression “Ohayo” is a familiar way saying “good morning.” If you want to say it politely, you must say “Ohayo gozaimasu.” It’s better to say “Ohayo gozaimasu” to people you don’t know or to your boss at work. When you see your friends or your colleagues, on the other hand, it’s more natural to say “Ohayo.” It is commonly accepted that we stop using “Ohayo” at 11 o’clock in the morning. After that, you should say “Konnichiwa.” Yet there are many ways of using “Ohayo,” which might be very confusing to non-native speakers. I will explain that later. Keep in mind to pronounce it as “O-ha-yooh,” pronouncing the last syllable longer. When you say it politely, on the other hand, it’s better to pronounce the last “yoh” a bit shorter. Some young people pronounce simply “O-ha-yo” to greet casually with friends. Use this expression wisely depending on who you are addressing.

 

4. Why do we sometimes say “Ohayo” in the afternoon and in the evening?

It must be surprising for you when you hear some Japanese people saying “Ohayo” even when it’s not the morning. In fact, the use of the expression “Ohayo” started to change in our society. Although we used to use it only in the morning, many people started to use it casually when we meet someone for the first time in a day. Suppose you are going out with your friends at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. To greet your friend, you can say “Ohayo.” It’s because, just like we meet someone in the morning, it’s the first time to see this person in this day. It’s also permitted to use “Ohayo” in the evening, when you see your friends for the first time in the evening. In fact, in those cases “Ohayo” has similar meaning to “hi” in English. How about the polite “Ohayo gozaimasu” then? Can you use it like “Ohayo”? The answer is yes. If you started working from the afternoon, for example, it’s better to say “Ohayo gozaimasu” to your manager or supervisor than to say “Konnichiwa.” In fact, it sounds very distant to say “Konnichiwa” as if you are talking to a stranger.

 

5. How to greet our friends

As I explained earlier, we usually use the expressions like “Konnichiwa” and “Konbanwa” to people who are not our close friends. How do we greet our friends then? First, you can say “Ohayo,” if it’s the first time in a day to see your friends. Second, many Japanese people greet their friend by saying, “Oh, genki?” which means “Hey, how are you?” in English. You can also say, “Saikin dou?” which means “what’s new?” Those are the very typical ways of greeting friends in Japan. Lastly, some men greet friends with “Ossu” as well. Although some girls use this expression, it sounds very boyish.

 

6. How do we greet at work?

Now you might have some idea of how to use “Ohayo,” “Konnichiwa” and “Konbanwa.” You now know that it would sound distant to greet with “Konnichiwa” or “Konbanwa” to people you know well. You can use them when you see clients of the company you work for. On the other hand, it’s not recommended to use those expressions to your colleagues or your supervisors at work. When you arrive at your workplace and see your colleagues for the first time in a day, you can say “Ohayo” to greet them. If you walk by some colleagues who you don’t know well enough or if you see your supervisor, you can say in a polite way “Ohayo gozaimasu.” It sounds friendly, yet polite at the same time.How about when you see your colleagues for a second time or a third time? How do you greet them? If you have already met your colleague in the morning and saw him/her again in the afternoon, we usually say, “Otsukare” which approximately means “good work” in English. You can say the same thing in polite way, “Otsukare sama desu.” I added “approximately,” because it literally means “you must be exhausted. Thank you for the good work.” When you use it, just remember that this expression is equivalent of saying “hello” at work.

 

7. How to greet with great respect

I have told you how to greet politely to people you don’t know and your superior at work. In Japan, there are even more polite way to greet. We use this level of politeness to clients at work, to the president of your company or people who are older than you in general. You can say “Ohayo gozaimasu,” “Konnichiwa” and “Konbanwa” to greet very politely. While you say them, you can bow down deeply to show respect. In addition to those expressions, you can add some words on weather to sounds more like a native. After you say, “Konnichiwa,” you can add “Kyou wa ii tenki desu ne,” which means “It’s good weather today, don’t you think?” When it’s cold, for example, you can say “Konban wa hiemasu ne,” which means “It’s cold tonight, don’t you think?” It’s also very common to say “Itsumo ogenki sou de,” which means “You seem like you are doing well.” With those expressions, you sound more like a native!

 

8. What to say when you enter stores?

Have you ever wonder how to greet when you enter stores in Japan? Most shop keepers greet you with “Irrasshaimase” which means “Welcome to our store.” If you observe Japanese shoppers, most people don’t say anything to shop keepers when they enter stores. That’s quite natural in Japan. You might feel impolite to do so, but most shop keepers aren’t expecting you to say anything in general. Some shop keepers don’t even look at customers when they say “Irrasshaimase.” If you feel uncomfortable of not saying a word when you enter stores, you can bow by lowering your head a little when your eyes meet theirs. That’s a polite way to greet in stores.

 

Conclusion

Greeting is a very important part of our lives. It’s great that you know “Ohayo,” “Konnichiwa” and “Konbanwa.” In addition, you can greet like a native if you can master how to greet correctly in different situations. I hope you now understand better how to greet correctly depending on when and to who you are greeting.

 

Ohayo, Konnichiwa, Konbanwa! 8 tricks to greet like a native

1. “Hello” is “Konnichiwa” in Japanese, but…
2. From when do we start saying “Konbanwa”?
3. Until when can we use “Ohayo”?
4. Why do we sometimes say “Ohayo” in the afternoon and in the evening?
5. How to greet our friends
6. How do we greet at work?
7. How to greet with great respect
8. What to say when you enter stores?