Japanese Greeting Etiquette and Customs – Lesson One on Forms of Address

by ebazaar 22 September 2009 One Comment

japanese greeting etiquetteWhen it comes to forms of addressing a person while you’re in Japan, you’ll probably come across the –san suffix pretty often. The word –san is added to the end of a person’s name as a sign of respect. As you know, Japanese is classified as an extremely polite people in social and cultural context, especially with people they are not acquainted to. In the everyday life of Japanese people, the word –san is used as an addressing suffix added to a person family.

This is pretty similar to the English way of adding Mr, Ms or Mrs in front of a person’s first or last name, just a little more extensively in custom than this. Well, most of us would simply be fine with other people calling us our first name without adding any honorifics right? But it doesn’t go the same way in Japan. The word –san just have to be there. However, never use –san to your own name or when addressing yourself.

But they do use first names too, but only between close friends and other family members especially. Besides that, there are also a much friendlier but a little diminutive terms as name suffixes such as –chan and –kun. How and when to use them? Well if you are a foreigner and just new to the place, it’ll be much safer to go on with using –san instead of the two, unless you’re told to use other terms by the individual themselves.

The term –chan is much widely used by many people, especially among women friends, family members and even guys. But since at times it can be a little weird to call a guy’s name with –chan, you can ask the person and see how he reacts. –chan is also used by grandma to call to their grandsons.

Whereas –kun is most commonly used for young and teenage boys, usually in elementary, junior and high school students.

There is another honorific form of addressing a person that is –sama, which is usually used by people of service and lower status to a person of high status and being served to.

Well, that’s about what I can recap on addressing a person in Japan. To play safe, just stick to using –san all the time, alright? ^0^

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One comment

  1. Andy

    Hmm… interesting, i have been greetings Japanese colleagues with -san for years earlier. was looking up this page as i can’t quite remember if it’s a suffix for the family name of nog.


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