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We are asked to stay at a family friend's house for a couple of days. I was wondering, given that we're guests, what are the appropriate greetings to say when you're leaving and coming back to the house? Can one say 行{い}ってきます and ただいま?

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The 行ってきます is no problem.

As for ただいま, even Japanese people hesitate whether use it or not when they're not returning to their own homes. You can find many questions about using ただいま at in-laws' house, and how to respond to neighbor's おかえり are asked in Japanese forums (as well as here!). I still don't know how to greet back my landlord when she says おかえり to me each time :)

My advice is, if you don't have feeling of resistance, or the host greets you おかえり, then use ただいま. If you're disinclined to do, say ただいま戻りました instead. It'll greatly reduce the "I'm home" vibe.

  • Thanks so much for your answer! I am a little baffled though why Japanese people would hesitate using it when they come back to their own homes!! That's a little strange! – Tyress Dec 20 '14 at 7:54
  • Are you referring to my answer? What I wrote was "when they're not returning their own homes". Sorry if something in my sentences misled you. – broccoli forest Dec 20 '14 at 9:40
  • Oh, haha, no it was my bad reading skills that misled me. Thanks again! – Tyress Dec 20 '14 at 9:43
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    I did a home stay a million years ago, and it was quite appropriate. Your mileage may vary, of course. On that note, I stayed for several weeks with a family recently when I was in a transitional period, and they always asked "when are you coming home tonight?" and similar. It's probably going to be more dependent upon how nice the host family is. – kiss-o-matic Dec 24 '14 at 13:10
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Yes, it's appropriate. Chalk that one up to Japanese hospitality.

The only gotcha word as a visitor (for your 2nd time) is using 帰る when saying you returned to Japan. I don't know what the cut off is, but you have to have spent quite a bit of time there to properly use it.

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