Except from a superior at work or a "senpai" (someone older or higher ranked) in school, a direct "No" to a question or request is less common in Japan than in the West.
Instead, the sales clerk or office staff person or Ministry of Finance negotiator may well reply: それはちょっと難しいです（Sore wa chotto muzukashi desu）.
The direct translation is: "That's a bit difficult."
The implied meaning is usually: "That is not possible" (or, more informally, "...when hell freezes over").
To the American trade negotiator, "difficult" means "hard but not impossible to accomplish."
Japanese however know that that is the end of the conversation.
Another polite and semi-vague way to decline or refuse a request is 検討する（kentou suru）. This literally means "to consider."
Like "muzukashi," though, it often means "no."
When the door-to-door salesman shows up and starts blathering on, just say "kentou shimasu" as you close the door with a smile.
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Friday, May 30, 2008
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