Just spoke my first Japanese word, unsure about reaction

Hi, I was on my way to a popular swimming lake when I saw some Asian tourists who I presumed were Chinese (like usual), but I heard them speaking Japanese. I am an upper beginner but don’t really want to speak the language much until I become more comfortable speaking (I don’t need advice for this, I learned several languages before but I am taking the slow road here because of my long-term illness) - and yet I got myself to say ‘‘konnichiwa’’ to one of the women, after which I pretty much froze.
I came walking from behind so I might have startled them a bit, and the woman said ‘‘sugoi’’ a few times but due to her sunglasses I could not see her eyes to read her reaction. I want to ask some more experienced people whether this word was used in its positive or negative meaning (negative: as in startling, rude behavior, whatever). As I walked ahead I heard the word ‘‘nihongo’’ a few times so I guess they thought it was pretty cool or fun, but I think the indirect communication culture of Japan is quite confusing. Any ‘‘intel’’?

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It’s unlikely it was overtly negative. I don’t think they would have said すごい, if it was like “Wow, I can’t believe he tried to talk to us.” You probably would have heard some other words if it was negative.

Not that すごい can’t be negative, but there’s just no reason to jump to that conclusion here.

Presumably they were genuinely surprised.


There’s reeeeeally a lot of context lacking here. I’d guess they were surprised (not unpleasantly), and maybe the conversation afterward was something like…

“How did he know to say konnichiwa to us? Did he understand we were speaking Japanese? Do you think he knows Japanese?” “I don’t know, do you think a lot of people around here speak Japanese?”

In my experience (including hearsay from other people’s stories), most people react very positively to hearing their native language outside of their country/ethnic area/normal cultural context, especially from people they wouldn’t expect to speak it.