“Wow, you can speak Japanese really well!”

5 Feb

ImageThis past weekend, S and I decided to take a weekend trip to Tokyo.  This isn’t out of the ordinary in any way, and nothing (besides the two pairs of shoes I bought, yay) about it is really worth mention… except for a particularly amusing exchange I had in a makeup shop with the shopkeeper there.  

A little background information: Japanese shopkeepers are hugely attentive to their customers.  In clothing boutiques, in my experience, shopkeepers will often hang around to admire the clothes you try on and say that they suit you, or to find other items to match your outfit.  In makeup stores, it’s much the same; they offer you various tools with which to sample the products and suggest things that they think will suit your style or your skin tone.  

In this particular makeup store, S and I were checking out some glittery nail polish when the shopkeeper came up to offer us slips of cardboard on which to test the products and to tell us about the line of nail polish.  When she picked up a particular shade, a commented that actually, I had already bought it, and was wearing it at the moment, as well as another colour of nail polish also sold from that makeup brand.  The shopkeeper was really shocked, and responded, “Wow, you can actually speak Japanese really well!”  

ImageThis isn’t the first time I’ve had this reaction.  When I respond to Japanese shop keepers with anything more than nodding and “thank you,” they often are shocked to discover that I’m capable of making conversation in Japanese.  I suppose it’s surprising with the number of foreign tourists in Tokyo (and particularly in Harajuku, where this particular shop was located), but it’s always a little amusing to receive this comment, nonetheless.  It also always inevitably leads to the conversation about how long I’ve studied Japanese, where I’m living, what I’m doing, etc.  

Eventually, we got back to the topic of nail polish, and after complimenting my Japanese abilities, she also complimented my nails, and even noticed that I had planned it so that they matched my sweater.  Very few people notice these intricacies in my outfits, so I was really pleased.  All in all, it was a funny but positive experience… and I’m always glad when someone seems to actually mean it when they tell me I’m good at Japanese, rather than the common reaction of “You’re so good!” when I so much as say “hello” in Japanese.  I always knew I liked that makeup store, but this definitely added to its good points!

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One Response to ““Wow, you can speak Japanese really well!””

  1. Elizabeth February 6, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    My textbook tells me that when someone compliments you on your Japanese you should say “いいえ、まだまだです”. This is all well and good but ONE DAY when that happens (which currently tends to be not when I’ve understood what’s been said to me, but when I know what the person is likely to be saying, e.g. when paying a bill, and guess!) I’m going to say “まだまだだね” and insult EVERYONE.

    It’s an accident waiting to happen 😐

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