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.
1) When making a call to someone in the same company
The first thing we should say is “Otsukaresama desu”.
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
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. 😄
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! 😀