Whenever I’m in an English shop and a shop assistant comes along I say, ‘I’m just looking.’ Naturally, I carried this habit over into my Japanese, not knowing any better. But when I asked someone I was told that 「見てるだけです」 is rude in this situation.


  1. For the longest time I always wondered what would be the appropriate response as well. 見てるだけas you said is considered kind of rude so I stopped saying that.
    Usually, the sales guy will ask if you are looking for something in particular in which case I would reply something like
    That way they leave me alone. I hate shopping for clothes and the sales guy is right there giving me the generic talk about this or that like I care…

  2. How did you come to realise that 見てるだけ was rude? Did you ask someone or you felt it from the reactions you got?
    In your example, did you mean 特? Also, as we are the customers is it normal for us to use plain Japanese (そうだね etc) while the shop assistants talk politely? I think the answer is yes, but it seems strange to me…

  3. Anytime you are talking to yourself like when you say, “Let’s see…” you can use casual Japanese. 「そうだね」 can fall into this category. Though it’s a bit ambiguous, that still gives you the leeway you need. Also, if you’re old, you can speak rudely to basically anybody. 🙂

  4. Darren, thanks for the correction. My typo.
    I think if you say “I’m just looking” in Japanese it sounds like “Don’t bug me!” or “I’m not planning to buy anything” which I guess rubs people in shops the wrong way.
    I don’t remember if anyone ever pointed out to me that it was rude but I just never hear natives say that kind of thing.
    About the politeness thing. To a certain extent you can be polite without having to use formal japanese. I guess that would depend on the situation in the store. If I wanted someone to help me do something or give me a good deal I might use polite Japanese. But if I was bargaining in Osaka I wouldn’t. If the salesman was trying to get me to do something I might speak formally if I didn’t want to buy anything and casually if I did.
    Is that confusing? Maybe is helps to explain that you can tell when your J friends or co-workers are mad at you because they start to speak to you politely.
    In conclusion, using polite Japanese because you want to be polite often has the reverse effect. If its business, always polite, if you meet new people lose the desu and masu once you get to know them and they are around your age.

  5. If someone at a store asks to help you, you can reply 結構です and go about your business. Try and watch what Japanese people do in the same situation to figure out what you can do.

  6. I never got the feeling that people thought I was rude while saying, ‘just looking’. Maybe people hide their emotions and put it down to gaijin-ness 😉
    Yeah, the polite language can feel very cold at times and I wonder why people seem to use it at will with close friends. Ah well, I even find myself doing it sometimes these days.
    Isn’t 結構です similar to ‘no thanks’..? That wouldn’t be considered rude?

  7. It’s a quite interesting topic. Actually I didn’t realize this kind of thing until you pointed it out. Yeah, I think few Japanese say “見てるだけです” in that situation. I don’t know what other people would say, but maybe I would say just
    or something like Roy’s response.
    I think 「見てるだけです」is a bit cold response to them, and that’s why some people find it rude. But it’s still better than 「結構です」. When I say 「結構です」to them, I would feel cross with them. It sounds like “Leave me alone. I don’t need your help.”
    Or is it only me???
    But in any way, if you reply to them in a good mood, they wouldn’t feel your’re rude.

  8. Miyo, that was really helpful. So it’s 結構です is probably best avoided? I like 探しているものはないんですけど and 特にないんですけど… I think I’ll try one of them next time.