12 Jul

Otsukaresama desu
Otsukaresama deshita

What do they all mean? You may wonder because you’ll hear them spoken in JP dramas probably at the scenes of workplace. Sometimes English sub for JP dramas says “good work” and you may wonder why we greet like that. I think there’s basically no perfect translation for Otsukaresama because it reflects something cultural. In fact, there’s no day without saying these, since I’ve started working at an office.

Basically Otsukaresama is a consoling word and greeting to the colleagues. Let me see in what occasion I’m using them.

Otsukaresama desu

1) When making a call to someone in the same company
The first thing we should say is “Otsukaresama desu”.
For example
person A: Hello this is the sales department, and this is A speaking.
person B: Otsukaresama desu. I’m B from HR department.
person A: Otsukaresama desu.

2) When sending out an email to someone in the same company

It’s a sort of general habit for us to start with Otsukaresama desu. (with Kanji:お疲れ様です。 with Hiragana: おつかれさまです。)

3) When seeing colleagues in a washing room or somewhere outside the office or far from my desk
There’s no equal word for “Hi” in Japanese, we’d use “Otsukaresama desu” as a greeting at work. Of course, I know you learn “Konnichiwa” is like “Hi” but we don’t use it like how you’d use “Hi”. If you say “Konnichiwa” as a substitute for “Hi”, it’d sound too rigid, serious and a bit funny.

4) When someone (colleague) gets back from an outside job or a fieldwork

Otsukaresama deshita

1) At the end of the day, when a colleague is leaving the office
It is a common sense in Japan for a worker who is leaving the office at the end of the day to say “Osakini shitsurei shimasu” to others who are still working (such as doing over-time work). That means “I’m leaving earlier than you” in a modest way. Then the rest of the workers respond to him saying “Otsukaresama deshita”.

2) When someone (colleague) gets back from an outside job or a fieldwork


1) It’s a casual way of “Otsukaresama desu” used between close colleague.
2) It’s spoken from a senior worker to his junior or from a boss to his subordinates.


1) It’s a very casual way used between close colleagues or friends.

I still remember how I was shocked to hear “Otsukaresama” at work when I started working. I felt as if I were very tired when I heard it. “Tsukare” is to be tired or fatigue. “O” or “sama” I think are the frills of consoling or respecting thought. I personally don’t like this greeting honestly. XD

BTW, have you realized we don’t use Otsukaresama to the people from other company or the clients, customers and etc.? Otsukaresama is to be used for inner people not outer people. Then what kind of greeting do we use for outer people? It’s “Osewani natte orimasu” (お世話になっております) or “Osewani natte imasu“.(お世話になっています)

Well, but I’ll say “Osewani narimashita” (past tense) with thankfulness when I’m leaving the company office this Friday! 😀


14 Responses to “Otsukaresama”

  1. Salma July 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    Thank you very much for the post, dear Kirin. 🙂
    I'm so glad that I knew these cultural meanings of the phrases because I actually use them but online.
    However, it seems then that I made a big mistake. I used "otsukaresama desu" and "otsukaresama deshita" to mean "Cheers for great work", saying them to a Japanese celebrity as I noticed many Japanese fans telling him so when the celebrity finishes a tour, recording an album or a single, etc.
    I feel ashamed of myself for using them with wrong meaning. 😦

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Don't worry, please don't feel ashamed, as Japanese people are happy to hear foreigners trying to speak in Japanese, even if it's not 100% correct. Also, it looks OK to say Otsukaresama deshita to the celebrity when other JP fans say that, although I personally feel it's the word that is supposed to be spoken by the staff or a manager of the celeb. ^ ^;;

  2. comparative eye July 13, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Thank you for the post! Its very useful and explains a lot!!!!

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      My pleasure! ^_^

  3. Walter July 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks very much for posting this 🙂 And all the best after your job et the office ends friday 🙂

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Thank you! I was asked to re-start the work after I return from my trip but I couldn't guarantee anything then. ^ ^;;

  4. whatmakesuslive July 16, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    thank you so much for this post! it was really interesting 🙂

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Thank you for reading. ^ ^

  5. Lore July 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    how complicated is the different way of talk to one or another in japan!! a very interesting lesson, thanks 😉

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      Haha, it does sound complicated…there are many more examples like this that even the locals find difficult…^ ^;;

  6. cinnamon July 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Thanks so much for this insight:) I just recently started to teach myself a bit of Japanese and I find this kind of entries incredibly useful:) Thanks so much!

    • kirin July 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      My pleasure!! ^ ^
      I hope you enjoy studying Japanese. ^ ^

  7. lupe December 25, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    Tks for the lesson.

    But is it appropriate to say "Otsukaresama DESU" when saying goodbye to co worker (instead of "… DESHITA") ? Does it sound weird?

    • kirin December 27, 2012 at 11:29 am #

      It's not weird, it's understandable but …DESHITA at good bye is more appropriate, because work is done. ^ ^

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