1

「国籍はどこですか」ではなくて「何人ですか」と聞いたことや、名前がカタカナだったので外国人だと思って、在留カードを見せるように言ったことがありました。
There were cases where [the police] asked people "what is your nationality" rather than "what is your nationality", and told people to show their identity card thinking that they were a foreigner because their name was in katakana.

What is the difference between 国籍はどこですか and 何人ですか? I'm guessing the former sounds more polite, but is the latter actually offensive? The literal translation of "what person are you" certainly sounds unpleasant in English but I have no feel for whether this is bad in Japanese.

2 Answers 2

3

I assume you mean 何人{なにじん}ですか.

It does sound more rude than, for example,

  • どちらの国からいらっしゃいましたか
  • どちらの国のご出身ですか.

I suppose this is simply the lack of politeness, and 何人 per se is not particularly rude. As such, if you are in casual conversations (without using heavy keigo), you could use it.

To give some idea, it is like "If a shop clerk talks to a customer, s/he would certainly need to use the above, but an immigration officer may use なにじん."


Just reminded me of the following episode (which I guess was invented):

Kakuzo Okakura was walking in NY (late 19th century). And a man told him:

What sort of -nese are your people ? Are you Chinese, or Japanese, or Javanese ?

Okakura replied:

We are Japanese Gentlermen. But what kind of key are you ? Are you a Yankee, or a donkey, or a monkey ?

2
  • Love the monkey story. By the way must it be pronounced なにじん? I was pronouncing it なんじん。 Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 17:15
  • 1
    @user3856370 Yes, for this sense, it is always なにじん.
    – sundowner
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 22:57
0

何人ですか is usually read as 何人{なんにん}ですか and means "how many people?" instead of "what person are you?" aka "where are you from?" Besides its rudeness, this is not the customary way of asking "what person are you?"

Yes, to say "what person are you" in itself is somehow rude in both Japanese and English, and it's better to ask "which country are you from" which would be どの国{くに}から来{き}ていましたか? Or even どの国{くに}から来{き}ましたか? 

0

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .