How to say thank you in different languages. A guide to gratitude.

A guide to gratitude

How do I say thank you in French, German, Japanese or Chinese? In fact, how do I say thank you in a variety of different languages?

How will my thank you be received?

What do I need to consider if I want to say thank you in a different culture?

What's the etiquette when showing thanks?

What’s the best way for me to say or send a thank you?

 

Thank you is universal

Thank you is said universally around the world as a show of gratitude and in most contexts, is considered to be courteous. The way people chose to show and share gratitude can vary across different languages and cultures.

Saying thank you has positive value, with the intention of the giver and receiver to show and share positivity, kindness, care and thought. When someone’s actions have made a difference, no matter how small, saying thank you can be very powerful.

In the exchange of gratitude and recognition, the reaction of both the giver and receiver of thanks, can create real bonds, lasting empathy and respect.

Avoid making a mistake or faux pas

If you get it wrong, even if it’s unintentional or innocent, it may create a socially awkward situation or be perceived as a tactless act, which may violate accepted social norms, standard customs and etiquette. Arghhhh what a minefield.

A guide to gratitude

Here’s a quick guide to understanding the basics, what to say, and how to say it – and what aspects to consider so you can avoid making an inadvertent mistake, ‘false step’ or ‘faux pas’, as they say in French.

Remember that basic manners may differ across cultures, but they really do count in all cultures.

Thank you in different languages

See how many you know and can recognise, and remember that when you write ‘thank you’ in some languages you’ll need to correctly identify the sex of the recipient by what you write and how you spell it. This will be important if you’re sending a card or gift.

 

Phrase (generic)

Language / culture

Adding emphasis

Cultural considerations and social etiquette

Thank you      

English

From informal to more formal it would be – thanks, thanks a lot, thanks a million, thank you very much, I very much appreciate …

Thank you can be used sarcastically. Listen carefully to the tone in which it’s used and other accompanying gestures, facial expressions and body language.  

Merci

 

French

Merci mille fois – thanks a million and merci Beaucoup – thanks a lot.

 

Merci Monsieur. Merci Madame.

Gracias

 

Spanish

Use muchas gracias or muchísimas gracias for more emphasis.

 

Danke

German

Vielen dank – thanks a lot.

If someone offers you something, it’s better to use bitte when accepting. Danke, in that context, may give off the impression that you’re declining the offer.

Grazie

Italian

Grazie mille – thanks a lot.

Careful to use the right tone, intonation and say it with a genuine smile, otherwise grazie mille can be perceived as being sarcastic.

Obrigado

Portuguese

 

Use obrigada when addressing a woman.

Dank je

Dutch

 

If speaking formally, it’s better to use dank u wel.

 

Kiitos

Finnish

Use kiitos paljon if you’re extremely grateful to someone.

 

Takk

Icelandic

Þakka þér fyrir - thank you very much.

 

               

Dziękuję Ci

Polish

Dzięki is a simpler way and dziękuję bardzo means thank you very much.

 

Mulţumesc

Romanian 

Use îți mulțumesc when you need to be more informal.

 

Tack

Swedish 

It’s common to say tackar -thanking, or tack så mycket - thanks so much. The latter is slightly more formal but still quite casual.

 

Cпасибо - Spasibo

Russian

You may also use Большое спасибо - bolshoe spasibo or, when trying to show immense gratitude, огромное спасибо - ogromnoye spasibo.

 

ευχαριστώ 

- efcharistó

Greek

 

It’s also acceptable to pat your chest with one hand as a small gesture conveying your thanks.

शुक्रिया – Shukriya is informal

Hindi

धन्यवाद (dhanyavaad) is a formal address.

 

 

Mahalo

Hawaiian

Mahalo nui loa - thank you very much.

Mahalo is pronounced mah-ha-low.

תודה - Toda. Pronounced Toe-Dah

Hebrew

Toda raba - תודה רבה and rav todot - רב תודות is thank you very much.

You can use Toda to give thanks in virtually any situation. E.g. when you are served food, in response to a compliment, or when someone gives you a helping hand. The Hebrew language doesn't have strict rules for in formal and formal situations.

شكرا - Shukraan

Arabic

 

شكرًا لك - shukraan lak  when talking to a male or شكرًا لكي - shukraan laki when talking to a female.

谢谢 - Xiéxié

Mandarin Chinese

多谢 - Duōxiè - thanks a lot.

 

唔該 - Mh gōi as a general term of address

Cantonese

 

Use 多謝 - Dòjeh to thank someone for a gift or compliment.

ありがとう - Arigatou

Japanese

 

ありがとうございますいます  - Arigatou gozaimasu. Use this when addressing someone of a higher social status, as it’s more polite.

 고마워 - Gomawo

Korean

 

To show respect to strangers or those of a higher status, add 요 (yo) to the end. With someone of a higher social status, you’ll be safer using 감사합니다 – Gamsahabnida, which is much more respectful.

        

Giving gifts

You may choose to demonstrate your gratitude above and beyond saying thank you, by offering a gift. This is a universally shared custom, and one which also requires some thought and consideration. The most important aspect is the thought that goes with the gift.

In some cultures, there are accepted customs and manners to consider about how you receive a gift as well. For example, in Japan be aware that it’s customary to bow as you accept a gift using both hands.

See the Thank You For selection of carefully curated gifts to say thank you with.

It’s the thought that counts

It can be tricky to navigate social etiquettes and customs, but as long as you show that you’re genuine and that you’re trying, a small faux pas or two should be forgiven. If your actions have been mis-interpreted, make sure you explain, and communicate from the heart. Give context and be sure to make clear your actual intentions.

Should I give someone money as a gift?

This is a controversial topic to discuss, never mind navigate, as people often have differing opinions as to the appropriateness of giving money as a gift.

There are no distinct rules about this, so you may find that generations differ in opinion but may also share the same opinion, (i.e., it’s not an age thing), and it’s not something commonly defined by sex (i.e., male versus female opinion), nor type and level of education, socio economic standing or social hierarchy.

Some see that giving money as a gift is thoughtless, with little effort being used to choose a gift, but if money is what the recipient prefers to have, it's easy to argue that it’s the gift that will give them most pleasure and reward.

In general, and particularly if you are unsure, the advice would be to ask the recipient and / or those close to them, about how they feel, and how the gift might be perceived and received.

If you are unsure, ask.

You can also use the conversation as an opportunity to explain your rationale and intentions. Consider that this may mean you have to reveal a surprise.

Table manners

Gifts aren’t the only way to show gratitude. Good table manners count, and in some formal situations, they may need to be impeccable. Dining etiquette is different all over the world and showing appreciation for a meal is wildly different from place to place.

In most Western cultures, it’s appropriate to thank the host (or chef in some cases) for a lovely meal, while in China and Japan, they’ll see your appreciation when you slurp your meal up or burp at the end, as an expression of real satisfaction and gratitude.

In Asian countries you may also drink directly from the soup bowl and spoons are uncommon, but don't cross or lick your chopsticks, or stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice as this is considered very rude.

Read more here, about how to say thank you for food, and about dinning etiquette around the world.

Can you go too far with your gratitude?

In China, thanking people for every small gesture of kindness can be taken as a sign that you’re being disingenuous. Such gestures are rarely appreciated.

It can also be taken as a sign that you’re trying to establish the need for formalities, which implies that you’re not interested in being all that friendly. In this context, the less traditionally polite you are, the friendlier you will appear.

The same applies in India as well, where a simple thank you can actually be offensive because gratitude is expected i.e., your thanks is automatically assumed, so there’s no need to actually say thank you.

 

Top tips to sharing and showing gratitude around the world.

1. Learn from the locals and do as they do.

Pay close attention to what the locals do and try to understand what the courteous customs are. Check out the context, who is sharing time together, their reactions to each other and to what is being said and demonstrated. Listen carefully to tone, intonation, and accompanying gestures. If this leaves you flummoxed, ask.

2. Do your research.

There are lots of easily available, free methods you can use to look up a place, its language, and its culture. Even a small amount of investment and time can go along way.

3. Use and engage with the media.

Listen to the local radio, watch the local and national TV, videos and engage with social media. Turn on the accessibility functions such as captions and annotations as these tools with help to explain the context and social etiquette as well as what's going on in the scene.

4. Communicate.

Let people know you’re a newcomer, that you are learning how to express and share your thanks in a culture that’s different to your own, and that it’s not your intention to offend. Sometimes it also helps to explain what you would normally or instinctively do, as a way of demonstrating the differences in cultures and social norms.