When you’re putting the flash cards away, make sure they’re going in the right pile,” I said in my best Japanese. “Sometimes they get mixed up because we have multiples.”

Understood,” the new staff member said, using the polite form, or keigo. “Should I do anything else after that?”

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The magic of enkais

One of my pet peeves is being used for English practice without being asked beforehand.

It’s one thing when I enter a shop and a staff member attempts to speak English to me–that’s someone who is just trying to do their job and make our transaction go as smoothly as possible. If you speak Japanese, all you need to do is tell them so and you can continue on as normal. And if you can’t speak the lingo or they’re asking you something complicated, it can be a godsend to have someone explain what’s going on in English.

It’s another thing when you’re in a hurry somewhere and you feel someone tap your shoulder… and upon turning around you’re confronted with someone who wants to go through the whole “Welcome to Japan”/”Where are you from”/”How long you stay in Japan”/etc. script with you to practice their language skills.

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