This is something I haven't seen commonly, since people react with strangers less often (at least compared to America or Great Britain). However, if you wanted to say "excuse me miss/sir", what would you call them? Thank you!

  • In most cases すみません is the go-to, I'd say. I don't think, that there is a general phrase to include "miss/sir", since it depends a lot on the situation and who you are talking to.
    – Geshode
    Jun 11 '18 at 7:07
  • I don't have a "complete" answer, but I've heard people addressed or called out simply with something like すみません, ちょっと伺いますが, or with things like お兄さん、お嬢さん, お客様, etc., depending on the situation. However, it's common not to use pronouns, so this question seems founded on a bit of a misconception IMO. Jun 11 '18 at 12:48

This is a fascinating question, because how you choose your words can set the tone of a dialog! I think there are many ways to go about this, but off the top of my head,

  • すいません(が) すみません(が) literally means "I apologize [for bothering you] but ..." and as such it shows a decent amount of respect to the person you are talking to, which makes this a safe choice in all sorts of situations, in particular when you are going to ask for something.
  • 失礼(ですけど) literally means "[I'm going to be] rude" and so the expectation is that you are going to ask for something that might be considered rude. e.g., 失礼ですけど、ここは禁煙ですよ "excuse me, this is a non-smoking space." The word lacks the formality and proper respect, which makes it more useful when you want to be a little more confrontational, or you intend to get your way.
  • あのー いやー is just a sound that shows a little bit of hesitation, like "Err", and it can be used to catch attention of somebody without conveying any real meaning. This is useful when you want to first see the other person's face before figuring out how to say something. Very handy when you are learning Japanese!
  • Nouns like ぼく お嬢さん お客様 that describe a class of people can be used as an opening. This is not limited to talking to a stranger, but it labels the other person, so it can be used to talk to a stranger. The label sets the tone of the conversation to follow, so depending on that label, it conveys different meaning. So for example, お客様 would set the scene where the other person is a customer and thus you are a shopkeeper, ボク would set the scene where the other person is a kid and thus you are a senior and in a position of authority/strength.
  • ねえ ちょっと is like "Hey", so it's more casual. At the expense of formality and respect, it emphasizes friendliness and closeness. If used in a proper context, for example in a party with strangers, it conveys your intent that you want to befriend them. But in a different context, it might come across more like a cat-calling.

I'm sure there are more!

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