When it comes to parting ways, context is important in Japan. As I mentioned in my previous conversation tip, often the simple “Sayonara! (さようなら!) is good enough in most situations, and often expected to be the one standard farewell from foreigners. When your first starting out, no one will correct you from saying the standard phrase, because technically using it is never “wrong.”
However, depending on the context, you could be saying something that either a bit too formal or not formal enough. Whether you’re talking to friends or colleagues, specifically, is what this conversation tip will focus on. For the sake of brevity, we won’t be focusing on any high level politeness (a.k.a. keigo 敬語).
Friendly goodbyes are easy, and often short. A simple “Matta ne! (またね!)” is perfect for most friends, as you’re expecting to see each other again some time in the near future. When you’ve got plans to see each other again, say next Monday, then it might be nice to say something like, “Matta raishu (no) getsuyoobi! (また 来週 の 月曜日!)” Then, if you’re on really good terms with this person and don’t know when you’ll see each other again, a really simple “Ja ne! (じゃあね!)” is fine.
With colleagues and co-workers, usually they’re expecting more formal goodbyes. A nice way to say goodbye formally is “Otsukaresama-deshita! (おつかれさま でした!)” It can be a mouthful to try and say all at once, but it’s very useful nonetheless. Just try thinking about it like so: “Oats-car-eh-summa-deh-she-tah!” Practice saying that ten times fast and you’ll have the right idea. Usually, you can shout this over your shoulder to your office as you leave to go home.
If you want to say this to a single co-worker, you might simply say, “Ostukaresama-desu! ( おつかれさまです!)” or when you’re really close in age and experience a simple “Otsukare! (おつかれ!) is nice too.
You can sometimes use these phrases with friends. If you see someone after they’ve gotten off work, it’s nice to say these goodbyes as hellos instead.
What?! You say, confused. How does this work?
That’s because “Ostukaresama” means more along the lines of “Good job on all your work today!” It’s not a direct translation of goodbye. Often when you see an anime subtitled, you’ll see an “Otsukaresama-deshita” translated to something like “good work,” “good job,” or “goodbye.” However, that’s more of a cultural translation, as we don’t really have a word in English that’s used like “Ostukaresama-desu.”
I recommend that if you should meet up with a Japanese friend at a cafe on a workday in the evening, you may want to say, “Ostukaresama-desu! Genki desu ka?” as a greeting. You’re telling them you’re recognizing that they are making time to meet you after a long day, and you’re asking how they’re doing all at once. They’ll appreciate the kindness!
Now, there is another way to say goodbye to co-workers, but it’s a little high level and specific. At the same time, it’s usually appropriate for ALT’s and ELT’s, as usually the foreign teachers leave work earlier than all the others in the office.
When you’re the first to leave, or one of the first, then it’s very appropriate to say the following phrase: “Osaki-ni-shitsurei-shimasu! (お先に失礼します!)
The translations for this are also more cultural than direct for this type of goodbye. Basically, it means “Please forgive me for leaving!” or if you want to want to make it complicated “Forgive my rudeness for leaving before you!” Some of you more advanced learners might recognize “shitsurei-shimasu (失礼します)” as the more high level way of saying “excuse me” and you’re not wrong. You could also translate this goodbye phrase into “Excuse me for leaving you!”
Saying this before you leave is a really polite way to recognize that you’re going home while everyone else is working. As always, Japanese people won’t get upset if you don’t say it because they know you’re learning, and they don’t expect you to become fluent overnight. Still, saying this phrase is a nice way to say goodbye and show you’re a little more aware of their situation.
And so, those are the ways to say goodbye. Next week I’m going over how to do different versions of “Excuse me!” and “I’m sorry!”
See you next time! またね!