How are you?

Published 29th June 2011
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How are you?

“How are you?” seems to have become a habitual phrase used to start off a conversation. Something we put in before getting down to the nitty gritty of what we wanted to talk about. Rather than a real enquiry about someone’s well-being. Although we don’t have many of these habitual phrases in English, in some languages they’re not only very common. But also an essential part of daily life, particularly in the working environment.


In Japan, for example, at the end of the working day colleagues take leave of each other with the words お疲れ様でした (otsukare sama deshita). This literally means “you must be tired” (after a day of hard work). It’s customary to use the same phrase when going home after any kind of group or activity you belong to, such as after a sport or gym class. It’s a respectful way of thanking others for their hard work, and for taking your leave. It is therefore an essential part of the process of going home.

Another crucial phrase is お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu). This is an apology to colleagues who still have work to do that you are leaving the office before them. This phrase highlights the sense of duty and solidarity towards one’s co-workers and company which is part of Japanese culture. For example, in Japan, it is frowned upon to leave the office before the boss of the company.


It’s not only in working life that phrases like this are used. Before starting a meal in Japan, it’s customary to say 戴きます (itadakimasu). Which literally translates as “let’s eat”, but is used as a way of expressing gratitude to whoever has supplied and cooked the food.


¿Cómo estás?

La frase “¿Cómo estás?” parece haberse convertido en la forma más común de comenzar una conversación. Más que una pregunta real sobre cómo esa persona se encuentra. Es algo que empleamos antes de ir al grano sobre lo que queremos decir. A pesar de que en inglés no tenemos muchas de estas expresiones habituales, en algunos idiomas son, su uso es, además de muy común. Una parte esencial de la vida diaria, particularmente en el ambiente de trabajo.


En Japón, por ejemplo, al final del día los compañeros se despiden con la frase お疲れ様でした (otsukare sama deshita). Que significa literalmente “debes estar cansado” (tras un día de duro trabajo). Es costumbre usar la misma frase cuando uno se va a casa después de cualquier actividad o grupo al que perteneces, como una clase de deportes o de gimnasio. Se trata de una manera respetuosa de agradecer a los demás el duro trabajo y despedirte de ellos. Y por lo tanto, de una parte fundamental dentro del proceso de vuelta a casa.

Otra frase decisiva es お先に失礼します (osaki ni shitsurei shimasu). Que es una disculpa a los compañeros que todavía tienen trabajo que hacer por irte de la oficina antes que ellos. Esta frase pone de relieve el sentido de la obligación y solidaridad hacia los compañeros de trabajo y tu empresa, que forma parte de la cultura japonesa. Por ejemplo, en Japón está muy mal visto marcharse de la oficina antes de que lo haga el director de la compañía.

Sin embargo, este tipo de expresiones no sólo se usan en el embiente laboral. Antes de empezar a comer, es costumbre decir 戴きます (itadakimasu). Cuya traducción literal es “vamos a comer”, pero que sirve para expresar agradecimiento a aquellos que han provisto y cocinado la comida.

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