Saying “NO” in Japan is not as easy as you might think. It’s an art. Japanese people do not usually say NO to anyone. In some situations, they would say it directly. But in general, they tend to evade instead. It takes some time for foreigners to accustom to this trick. It needs precision to understand the hidden NO.
In Western countries, it may seem perfectly okay to say NO to anyone. But in Japan, the way of communication is pretty much indirect. Japanese normally take into account the other person’s position when speaking and tend to avoid conflict. They do not simply say ‘iie (no),’ ‘iya desu (I do not like),’ ‘yamete kudasai (please stop),’ or other related phrases directly. One needs to give some consideration to other person’s feelings, pride and social status in Japan.
Also, one should show some interest in the offer even though you do not want or need it. If the other person in the conversation is your friend or someone who you have been hanging around with for a while, it is okay to say NO with a little extra dose of excuses i.e., phrases such as ‘Gomennasai (Sorry)’. However, when speaking to your boss, maybe you should know how to properly turn the offers down.
In Japan, workplace invitations are very common. Your boss or your superior usually invite you to go out for a drink or dinner after work once a week or even more frequently. It may not be possible to join each and every time. So, when you find yourself in such a situation, here are some tips to follow:
1. Do not stay silent
If you stay silent without any response, it usually translates into being disrespectful. You should show some interest in the conversation and speak in between or nod.
2. White lies
You can say white lies like ‘I have a fever’ or ‘It’s my brother’s wedding’ or something like that often. But make sure you do not say the same thing twice.
3. Protracted ‘Maybe’
If you are really pushed into a situation where you cannot reject an offer, it is better to say a ‘Maybe’ but with a display of deep thought. Make sure you tell the reason and explain a bit more about the possibilities of joining.
If you keep the above things in mind, you are set to be on a cooler side in Japan.