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I work in an American subsidiary of a Japanese company. I met a few Japanese colleagues while working at the home office on an exchange. Do I need to use Keigo for:

Colleague A: 1 year younger in age than me and joined the company at a later time. It seems like I could use the desu/masu form without Keigo, but since we belong to different departments, different branches, etc., I'm not sure whether he is in-group or out-group.

Colleague B: Not 100% certain about age and seniority, but probably the same age and seniority as me or my junior.

Colleague C: 6 years younger than me and much less seniority. Should I use plain forms to talk down to him? I decided not to since I wasn't sure whether we were all in-group or considered out-group.

By "desu/masu form without keiko", are you using keigo in the narrow sense, namely the honorific form and humble form, but not the polite form? –  sawa Jul 26 '11 at 0:34
i talk in the polite form because I don't know whether I need to speak using honorific and humble forms to these colleagues. –  pingish Jul 26 '11 at 1:28
Talk to a higher-ranked member of another department, and see how (s)he answers :) –  Axioplase Jul 26 '11 at 4:37
+1 Great question! –  istrasci Jul 26 '11 at 14:24
@千里ちゃん: My managers don't ever use desu and masu when talking to their subordinates and they use 君 alot too when speaking to them. –  Mark Hosang Jul 27 '11 at 9:20

1 Answer 1

I think in general you are safe using plain form with people in your group who are younger than you and in lower position (usually the same at a Japanese company though).

the tricky part is someone who is younger than you in a different dpt. I would just use Teine-go which is what desu/masu can be referred to.

In general, you don't need to use keigo in your office while talking to people unless there is a huge gap in level. Like talking to a dept manager/CEO or what not.


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