Moving to Japan and anxious about the language and culture

Hello everyone.

I will be moving to Japan in less than a month and live there - hopefully permanently in the long run. My knowledge on Japanese right now is mostly theory and I plan to take only N3 next December.

What I am very worried is my current speaking level as I speak very broken Japanese in my current state. As such, I feel very anxious and not confident about the community’s acceptance, understanding and culture.

I know there are lots of books and references that teach you phrases to survive the day.
But do you guys have any other suggestions based on real culture experiences?
What are some other helpful common phrases that sound less-textbook-ish?
e.g. speaking with anyone and didn’t understand what they are saying (or possibly tell them my Japanese is not that good).


In my experience, the Japanese has been almost too kind and forgiving when you try to speak their language. You’ll constantly get praised for the simplest stuff like いただきます. They’re also good at adjusting things to your level, I feel. I usually say either, よくわからなかったので、 もう一度言ってください or え?いみわからない。。。 depending on who I’m talking to. It helps to look extra confused. ^^

The common phrases that sound less textbook-ish would probably be slang or informal Japanese you’ll pick up on actual conversations you are a part of or listen in on. Just be observant and try to read the room as much as you can. Good luck on your move!


One tip I’ve learned from George-sensei from Japanese From Zero is regarding self-introductions. Most Japanese learners learn the (わたし)名前(なまえ)は「なになに」です pattern, but Japanese people don’t talk like that. He suggests wowing your newly made Japanese friends with 「なになに」と(もう)します.


I’ve never had someone say 申します to me. It’s almost universally ( 名前) です. I’ve used 申します when introducing myself to someone important , no one was wowed.

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To support @jneapan, I met a japanese guy for the first time yesterday, and he introduced himself with 「なになに」と(もう)します. This was a casual setting where we were going to be playing some Mahjong, so It does seem to be somewhat standard.


I’ve heard and used「なになに」と申します before.

I usually follow up “Please excuse me, my Japanese isn’t very good” with “but I want to speak well so I’m studying every day,” or something along those lines. Having a pleasant attitude and showing that you are making a consistent effort to improve is commendable and will earn you some respect.


I’ve lived in Japan for five years ( yes I’m just studying kanji now, I’ve got reasons) I’m not saying nobody says 申します but it’s pretty formal. Honestly it should be used in formal or business settings, but maybe your mahjong partner takes the game pretty seriously.

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I live in Japan know so I know the feeling. I think even if you had all the knowledge of every Japanese textbook ever written in your head, the transition from learning/studying to speaking is a slighty bumpy one filled with trial and error and picking up on little things as you go by listening to and observing everything around you (as children do when they learn their native language). And the best place to do that is in Japan. For example, even though I’ve been studying Japanese from textbooks for around 6 years, my total time living in Japan is about 17 months (I just moved back after a gap of 4 years) and I feel that my speaking has greatly improved in that time but that I’m now at the equivalent of a toddler level…I’ve learned more about learning to speak from observing my 2 year old daughter learn native English than from any textbook.

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If you live a normal life in Japan you’ll learn normal life Japanese. Get out and be active in your community, people appreciate effort much more than perfection.

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Japan is Asia on easy mode. Enjoy.


Where are you moving to in Japan? Some areas (generally larger cities) are easier to navigate with less Japanese, but honestly everywhere is pretty forgiving if you’re genuinely making an effort to use and improve your language skills. You’ll be surprised at how people open up if you’re willing to put yourself out there and work through mistakes!

Generally speaking, I would say don’t worry about set phrases too much. No need to say your Japanese isn’t good, no offense, but people won’t need you to say that. Just try and most people will either help you out or just be really grateful that you aren’t trying to get them to speak English (they all took it in school, but the average adult will freak out about having to try to remember it). You’d be surprised how far you can get with limited language ability. My Japanese was rather “meh” when I moved to Japan and my caligraphy teacher spoke basically no English. We got along fine. By the time I left I was able to talk to bankers and the utilities people to close out my accounts. I wasn’t even trying to learn that kind of Japanese, it just happened. If you come across Japanese people who have decent English ask them for a few things to say (write down a list of things as you come across them during your day to day life). Seriously, it’s amazing how far you can get by just trying. Oh, and textbook Japanese isn’t how people talk. Don’t be offended when people tell you how you should have said something (basically repeating what you just said in a less formal way). You will be just fine :slight_smile:

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One thing I forgot to add is, if anything, work on counting and money if you aren’t good at it yet. I don’t have any links to audio of numbers/money/amounts spoken at a native speed, but try to find something. Reason being, you will be paying mostly in cash if in person and store clerks will be really relieved if you know/understand numbers well enough to easily put down the right amounts. That was the one area that no one slowed down. So just practice numbers. Also, if you speak Japanese to people they may assume you are fluent or something and start speaking too fast so learn how to ask to slowdown/please repeat that and those types of basic phrases.


You will learn speaking and listening, by doing them in practice, so don’t panic :slight_smile: Just, once you arrive, try to be as active as possible, by either signing up for Japanese classes or trying to find people who are willing to talk with you in Japanese and help you learn. Many Japanese people are really patient with us foreigners and are often happy to repeat thing more slowly or in easier words/concepts.

We had introductions at university just last week and around half of the class used と申します. Oh yeah, and they were natives introducing themselves to me, though a professor was present so the situation was semi formal. I use と申します or といいます depending on situation, though と申します is often a good choice, since I tend to speak fairly politely with people I’ve just met. In super familiar (or loud) setting, or if one asks my name directly, ~です works as well, though those moments have been rare.

Thanks everyone for the input.
It’s just my bad habit to worry too much about other people’s perception about myself, even though all those are only what I assume and may not actually be true. I just have to get better there over time.

The more you learn, you will pick up fluency. Don’t feel uncomfortable! Every Japanese as a second language people are all at different levels of progression, but you will never be judged. You will be respected for at least trying. You have to have a good mixture of reading, listening, writing, and speaking skills. The more vocab you memorize combined with practicing new grammar patterns in daily life, the better your Japanese will become. You really have to hit the books hard though. Trust me, it took a lot of memorization before I could even start putting sentences together.

Very interesting is that one Japanese teacher once said that it is easily noticable when people use the と申します pattern when they want to sound like they’re not basic Japanese students anymore. So this may also make you sound less natural?

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