Spend much time talking to people in Japan, and you’re sure to hear the phrases “gambaru” and “shou ga nai” over and over again. The fact that they both come up so often in conversation is kind of ironic actually, since their meaning are complete opposites.
Gambaru means “I’ll do my best,” and gets used for any topic that requires effort, including school, sports, work, and even finding a boyfriend or girlfriend. Shou ga nai, on the other hand, translates out as “it can’t be helped,” showing that you’ve already given up.
Unfortunately, a recent poll suggests that an increasing number of people in Japan are saying shou ga nai, with roughly a third of young adults saying they feel like their efforts in life won’t be rewarded.