I Have Known You For Years, I Don’t Know Your Name

May 27, 2020

I Have Known You For Years,  I Don’t Know Your Name

I have a relationship with a subsidiary of a large corporation since 1992.

There was a gruff but kind engineer who had been with this company from its inception in 1970.

He called me “anchan” all the time, which I guess was an appropriate suffix for him to use in this ridged Japanese hierarchal system.

By the way, the suffix “chan”, is usually used as a term of endearment for female children, where as the suffix “kun” is use for male children.

However, you can use this with adults depending on the situation.

Using “chan” with an adult is kind of like teasing in a way, but not offensive in any sense of the word (unless you mean it in a derogatory way).

This case in particular, was showing a kind affection toward me a caucasian anomaly among the salaried factory workers.

I had meet with this man several times during social company events, and he alway called me “anchan”.

Then, the time came for him to retire, and when he came to meet me to say good bye, he said, and this is after 20 years of knowing him, “”hey anchan, what is your name?”.

Get this, he only knew me by “anchan” for the entire time we knew each other, and interestingly enough this was appropriate for our relationship.

He said “it was nice to have know you “anchan” and he actually never called me by my actual name, no, not even once.

Which brings me to the next point, and that is the significant importance of using the correct titles and suffix for people on all rungs of the Japanese hierarchical ladder.

For example, if someone is a professional, one would use the title “sensei”, which is always applied to school teachers, and is also used for doctors, lawyers, among other professions.

I have run into unintended problems by not using the correct title or suffix, or good gosh forbid, use someones name without adding any suffix onto the name at all.

Only in the case where one knows someone intimately, you could use their name without any suffix on it at all, and if you don’t add a suffix it is what is know as “yobisute”, which in most cases is a breach of this important Japanese social convention.

My suggestions is to play it safe and add “san” on to everyone’s name whether it is their first name or last name, until you understand their appropriate tile or suffix.

This will show you understand the Japanese hierarchical systems and are adhering to it.

I have personally gone through pain and suffering by at first resisting this unfamiliar protocol, and trying to be “friendly” with the Japanese.

Trust me, adding “san” on to someones name will make one look like a thoughtful and caring foreigner while you visit, stay or live here, in the Land Of The Rising Son.

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