Working in an office in Japan – Part 2

Based on my experiences working here, I’ve realized that many Japanese in the office don’t just say “No” to you or say “You’re doing a terrible job.” They like to indirectly hint at the idea of these, instead, using carefully worded phrases. For your consideration, I have translated them below into more plain-spoken English.

NOTE: Please keep in mind, this is just from my experience. I in no way aim to say that this applies to every single office environment here. This is only what I have learned from my own experiences.

Saying no

“That would be a little difficult to do.”
That’s never going to happen.
“Let me think about it.”
And the answer is no.
“We’ve never done that before.”
And we don’t plan to start now.
“That’s an interesting idea.”
That’s a weird idea I don’t like.
Dear God it’s such a hard pass that I couldn’t even find a way around being indirect.
“I’m sorry but…”
…this is not going to happen.

Saying you did a bad job at something

“That was hard to do, wasn’t it?”
You did an absolutely horrible job.
“You worked hard.”
A for effort.
“Would you like my help?”
I can’t stand to see you do such a horrible job anymore.
“You’re so good at this.”
I’m trying to build up your confidence.
“It’s an interesting take on it.”
This is completely wrong.
“It’s a little different than how I imagined it would be.”
Did you even listen to me when I gave you the directions on how to do this?

Hopefully this helpful new pocket translation dictionary I just wrote up will help you out if you ever decide to work in a traditional Japanese office setting so you don’t waltz around the office oblivious to the undertones of what people are saying to you.