There is a proverb going like this "When in Roman, do as the Romans do.". The proverb is to teach foreigners how to survive in other countries. However it is really not easy to live a comfortable live in Japan.
For example, a foreigner who lives in Japan has to call the manager of a company. He will say like this"Excuse me, is Mr Smiths in the company at present?" the clerk will answer like this"I am sorry, but Smiths is not here at present" the foreigner must be surprised by the answer for the ordinary worker can call the manager directly by his last name, which does not conform to the tradition of his country. In fact, it is a special tradition of Japan. In the companies of Japan, when people in the company talk about their comrades to other people out of the company, it is not necessary to use honorific even the people they talk about is the superiors. Foreign people in Japan may be most confused about how to use this kind of language properly.
Because Japanese have to change their ways of speaking according to the people who they are talking with and the occasion in which they are on, it is sometimes much easier for other people to deduce the relationship between he two speakers. If it is the conversation between two intimate friends, then it is not necessary to use honorific.people who at first use honorific to communicate will also shift to the common way of communication with the change of their relations.
In Japan, it is important to use honorific to express the respect to each other. However when you can not get clear of the way in which honorific is used, Japanese people will not blame you if you can express the respect in other ways. In other words, as long as there is respect for other people, you will not need to worry about getting blamed. Because body language and facial expression are understood all over the world.
Because of the special tradition in the use of language, even the same meaning when addressed to different people, there are in fact many ways to express it. It is expressed in every fields of Japanese culture like foods and drinks, work and so on. As a result, foreign people who would like to learn Japanese well sometimes get quite confused about this language point. However if he has mastered the language point, it will benefit him a lot.
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