Currently I am working on an ethnographic research study. As a part of working on that, I have to observe and compare differences between and within cultures, much like this course. Recently I have began to look at the relationship between culture and language. Language can be a reflection of the culture’s values and can give a deeper understanding of the backbone of the culture. An example that best paints the picture is in Jewish culture the word “Shalom” is of multiuse. It is typically used as a greeting, but also is translated to peace. It is one word that carries plenty of connotation that gives a peek into what the Jewish culture holds dear. In comparison, Japan has many variations of the greeting “hello”, that vary in appropriateness depending on situations.
Japan’s culture has a strong belief in respect, which is shown in how many different ways to say hello there are. When addressing specific people more versions of hello are more acceptable than others. For people from other cultures trying to adapt it may be easy to make cultural gaffes. The most common and universally known of Japanese greetings is “moshi moshi”, but this is the most casual of greetings, and is typically only appropriate to use amongst family and close friends. Moshi Moshi is typically used when picking up phone calls, but can be used in real life as well- typically if someone is zoning out or to get someone’s attention.
There is some folklore background for why moshi is repeated twice as “moshi moshi” as opposed to just “moshi” (Richey 2015). There are sayings that Ghosts are only able to say moshi once, so if someone said moshi just once, chances are the receiver of that message may be a little spooked (Richey 2015). Another background for moshi moshi is rooted in the common Japanese folklore of kitsune, or magical shape shifting foxes that are common throughout fairytales (Richey 2015). These foxes are particularly conniving, but legend has it are unable to speak full words, and would have particular difficulty pronouncing moshi moshi (Richey 2015).
Moshi Moshi is unacceptable in business conversations. It is considered rude because it is a shortened phrase, too relaxed and casual to be appropriate in professional settings. Alternative greetings that could be used are “Yes, or Hello”, “thank you for your call”, “I have received your forwarded call”, or even taking it to “I appreciate all you have done for us” (Richey 2015). There is a strong emphasis on identifying who is on the phone and the company you are representing to ensure there are no mix ups, and making sure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible.
It makes sense that a culture that is rooted so much in respect and appreciation have so many greetings to differentiate between professional and personal relationships. It is important to remain respectful to all and show appreciation to those where it is due.
- (2007, November 3). Discover Japan. Retrieved November 05, 2017, from http://discover-jp.blogspot.com/2007/11/moshi-moshi.html
- Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan: Kitsune. (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2017, from http://academia.issendai.com/foxtales/japan-lafcadio-hearn.shtml
- Richey, M. (2015, October 01). Why Do Japanese People Say Moshi Moshi on the Phone? Retrieved November 05, 2017, from http://www.tofugu.com/japanese/moshi-moshi/