Understand the meaning of "hai"
Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 12 of 13 › view all entries
August 22nd, 2005 – by: grundman
My first trip and stay in an asian country was an experience that is not comparable with anything I ever experienced before. Although Japan might be considered one of the most westernized asian countries, it still has its traditions and customs. The japanese have a great sense of hospitality and politeness mixed with a structured society in which hierarchical order is an important and ever present factor. How deep you stoop before another person determines both your and the other persons social status. That was quite an important lesson to learn for me. Once you go out with your japanese friends - and you will make friends quite fast as they are curious to know you - you will come to know a totally different side - sake wine is the magical fluid that makes them go crazy. No matter if karaoke or doing all sorts of weird things - there's lots of fun hanging out with them. But next day - everything back to normal and being distanciated. Translation was of course quite a big problem for me and without a very kind and patient translator at my site I would not have been able to survive for 3 months (it took me about 10 minutes to read the word toilet paper and I used sodium glutamate instead of salt for most of the time). Outside my host university almost nobody was able to speak english (although they really try as I tried to speak japanese) - so it was hands and feet that kept me alive. That - of course - was different in Tokyo (by that time I was actually able to survive with some basic japanese, but nobody understood me anyways as nobody expected me to speak their language). So to simply translate "hai" with yes can be a fatal error. "Hai" translated means "I acknowledged your view" and can also mean that you either agree or disagree. Such confusions were not uncommon throughout my stay.
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