Hello and Hajimemashite. ‘Hajimemashite’, along with many frequently used greetings such as ‘Konichiwa’ or ‘Yoroshiku’ are commonly heard and used during daily conversations here in Japan.
Despite its common usage and familiarity in daily Japanese conversations, many still do not know of the meaning and usage of this term. In this article, we will go through the meaning of ‘Hajimemashite’ and when to use this term in daily conversations.
Let’s go over the meaning of ‘Hajimemashite’ first.
Meaning of ‘Hajimemashite’
Many know of ‘Hajimemashite’ as ‘Nice to meet you’.
‘Hajime’ in English carries different meanings depending on the Kanji used.
Haji (初) me(め) : This kanji is used to signify the beginning. The beginning in time sense. Often used to imply ‘for the first time’
Haji (始) me(め) : This kanji is used to signify the start. The start of an action. To indicate an initiation to something or the start in doing something such as starting a race.
These two can be incredibly confusing, but the first Kanji (the one with the dagger) often signifies time whereas the other (the one with the girl) often signifies action.
However, combined, they both indicate a start or beginning.
‘Hajimemashite’ means nice to meet you for the very first time. Therefore, the dagger Kanji is used when we are greeting each other with ‘Hajimemashite (初めまして)’. In other words, ‘Hajimemashite’ means ‘Pleased to meet you for the first time’. Interestingly, such short words say so much.
When to use ‘Hajimemashite’
Now that we are fairly comfortable with the meaning of ‘Hajimemashite’, let’s discuss when do we use ‘Hajimemashite’’ in our daily conversations.
First time meetings:
‘Hajimemashite’ is often used for meeting someone you do not know of at all, for the very first time.
Apart from using ‘Hajimemashite’ for first meetings, this greeting term is often used for self-introductions. For example, in a self-introduction during a job interview or a family gathering for the first time.
In response to a greeting:
‘Hajimemashite’ can also be used in response to the other party’s greeting. Signifying it is nice to meet you too.
Asking about someone’s whereabouts:
‘Hajimemshite’ can also be used to ask, ‘How do you do?’ or ‘How are you?’
Initiating a start of an acquaintanceship
‘Hajimemashite’ is also used to signify the start of an acquaintanceship. It shows that the speaker is pleased to be acquainted with the listener. Initiating the beginning of a bond.
Used as a combination:
‘Hajimemashite’ can be also used to show a combination of any of the above. For example, to ask how you are and to show the start of an acquaintanceship with a co-worker at a new workplace.
Unlike many casual forms of greeting, ‘Hajimemashite’ can only be used once and cannot be reused over and over again, in greeting the same person. We do not say ‘pleased to meet you for the first time’ repetitively to our friends that we have known for a while. That would be a little out of the ordinary, wouldn’t it?
‘Hajimemashite’ seems short and quirt, but polite in its form. It can be used in the workplace among peers or with neighbors, meeting for the very first time. It can be used in addressing seniors in age and positions too. Simple, but polite.
‘Hajimemashite（はじめまして）’ VS ‘Hajimemashita（はじめました）’
This brings us to our next point. A common question.
What is the difference with ‘Hajimemashite’ and ‘Hajimemashita’.
The verb form of ‘Hajime’ is ‘Hajime(ru)’ which would mean to start or to begin something.
‘Hajimemashita’ in the greeting setting, is often the much more formal way of addressing ‘Hajimemashite’. However, ‘Hajimemashita’ can often signify other meanings, henceforth, ‘Hajimemashite’ is commonly used for greeting.
‘Hajimemashita’ is often used to show the past tense of starting an action. For example, I started eating rice. ‘Hajimemashita’ would be used to accompany the ‘to-eat’ verb in this sentence formation. Therefore, the confusion tends to lead to ‘Hajimemashite’ to be an easier and commonly used greeting for meetings.
When using ‘Hajimemashite’ as a greeting term, it is often not accompanied with a verb or action.
Despite it being not accompanied with a verb, ‘Hajimemashite’ is however, accompanied with another greeting.
I’m sure this accompanying greeting is no stranger to many.
It is, none other than, ‘Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu（よろしく おねがいします）’
It is not uncommon for many to use ‘Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu’ or ‘Yoroshiku’ after using ‘Hajimemashite’. ‘Yoroshiku’ is used after ‘Hajimemashite’ to carry across the meaning of ‘please take care of me’ or ‘please treat me kindly’. It is to show a favorable first meeting and impression, the start of a relationship in good terms.
If you hear this combo in any setting, do not be alarmed, it is simply to show more hospitality and formality in first meetings.
Among friends and peers, omitting this accompanying greeting of ‘Yoroshiku’ is very common. However, in the business formal setting, it is preferable to add ‘Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu’ (a formal way of ‘Yoroshiku’) into the mix. You will after all, be working with your colleagues for a while, might as well get on a good start, don’t you agree?
Equipped with the information above, when speaking, how often will we know of which Kanji was used in the sentence formation.
A typical scenario where ‘Hajimemashite’ is used among two strangers meeting for the first time in the neighborhood:
Speaker A: ‘Hajimemashite’
Pleased to meet you.
Speaker B: ‘Hajimemashite’
Pleased to be acquainted with you too.
Simple, isn’t it?
Moving onto a scenario workplace where speaker A is new to the work environment.
Speaker A: ‘Hajimemashite. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu’
Nice to meet you for the first time. Please look after me favorably.
Speaker B: ‘Kochira koso. Yoroshiku Onegashimasu’
Same here. Pleased to meet you too. Let’s look after each other favorably.
The beauty of these simple examples is that, so little is said, but it carried so much meaning behind it.
Oh and, do we always bow when we use ‘Hajimemashite’.
Short answer, yes. It is more polite with the bow, in showing acknowledgement to both parties.
Synonyms of ‘Hajimemashite’
Lastly, are there any synonyms of ‘Hajimemashite’ in greeting each other for the very first time?
There is not quite a replacement for ‘Hajimemashite’. Konichiwa’ can be used for first time greetings instead of ‘Hajimemashite’. However, ‘Konichiwa’ simply means ‘Hi’ and is in a very casual format.
For a much more formal and friendly first impression, especially in wanting to show the other party that you would want to be acquainted with them, ‘Hajimemashite’ is still the safest bet. Some people would also omit ‘Hajimemashite’ and swap it with ‘Yoroshiku’ but the meaning does not carry the same.
I hope this helps!
- ‘Hajimemashite’ means ‘Pleased to meet you for the first time’.
- Often used in first meetings and first-time self-introductions.
- Different Kanjis used can mean different things but essentially, ‘Hajime’ means the start or beginning.
- Often accompanied with ‘Yoroshiku’ in greetings.
- Can be used in any environment between different age groups and seniority levels.
- Very often accompanied with a bow in greetings.
- A great way to leave a first impression and to start a new acquaintanceship!
I hope when you meet an acquaintance for the very first time, the term ‘Hajimemashite’ comes to mind in handy times. Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu. See you next time!
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