5 Ways to Use “Sumimasen” in Japan

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Sumimasen
Source: pakutaso

There are certain expressions used in Japanese to show apology or ask for forgiveness. The most common words are “Sumimase” and “Gomennasai”. These words are the first expressions you will learn In Japanese because of their humble culture. Here are few tips to help you use Sumimansen expression appropriately.

1. Meaning of “Sumimasen”

Waiter
Source: Guoming Xu

Sumimasen means I’m sorry in Japanese. It is sometimes used with the word doumo; “doumo sumimasen” also meaning I am sorry. Sumimasen can be translated to other meanings as “sorry “, “excuse me”, used to summon someone especially in a hotel or restaurant; used to summon the waiter or waitress. It also means “thank you”, this is a way to show politeness and to appreciate what someone had to go through for your benefit.

2. How to use it

culture
Source: Danny Choo

When giving an apology to family or friends, it is advised that you use the term Gomennasai. For those who have grown in Japan might have used this expression to apologize for something you did. A lighter and a shorter version of it is “Gomen”, which you can use for being late. When it comes to a formal situation like business or work scenes, sumimansen is used.  You can say something like sumimansen deshita (sorry for what I did) which is more appropriate.

3. The Importance of Sumimansen in Japan

bow
Source: Naval surface Warriors

Knowing the importance of the “live language” in Japan is very crucial. These words indicate their culture and how they value one another. Treating each other with care and respect is the humble thing you will see. The words are not only spoken, but are also followed by body expressions like when you bump into someone you may say sumimansen then bow a little while holding your hand in front of you. This shows you are more sincere.

4. Situations you may use Sumimansen

If you are planning to visit Japan it is good to understand these words but most importantly how to use them. Here are some examples of situations you may encounter during you visit.

  • When you do not know the direction and you need to ask for guidance. Start by saying sumimanse which means “excuse me”
  • In certain situations where the native speakers would say thank you, the Japanese would say sorry. Situations like when someone opens or holds the door for you.
  • When apologizing so someone on a higher rank than you in a business set up.
  • In Japanese at the end of a business letter or email, you may add “Sumimasen ga” in front of “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” To show humbleness.

5. Wrong ways to use Sumimansen

As much as Sumimansen is used to apologize, do not use it with a person who you have a close relationship with like your girlfriend and vice versa use Gomennasai. This may not be applicable when it comes to relationships with your boss. Do not use Sumimansen to a person you know little about and not a close friend instead use “Gomen”. This may occur when you pour a drink on the table in an event Gomen is more of a casual expression. As you enjoy Japan and learn their language, try to listen how they use these expressions in different scenes. This will help you sound local and professional in business scenes.

Have a good trip and travel!

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Asia, Japan