September 21 is World Gratitude Day. This international celebration of all the good things in life began in Hawaii in 1965. It’s a day to appreciate the positive, whether that be good health, great friendships or a supportive and loving family. A little appreciative reflection has been proven to make people happier and reduces day-to-day stress, so even if you don’t regularly take the time for gratitude, this is the perfect day on which to focus on all the amazing (and little things) that make life joyful.
Different cultures have different ways of saying “thank you” and expressing their gratitude for everything from a gift to a kind word or gesture. Here are some of the ways to show gratitude when you’re adventuring far from home:
With family or friends, you can use “arigatou” to show your gratitude, which basically means “thanks”. It is important to use the more formal “arigatou gozaimasu”, however, with people you don’t know or those with a higher status like a manager or teacher. That also includes hotel staff, taxi drivers, and other strangers who assist you when you’re traveling.
In Japan, bowing is also a very common way of showing respect and gratitude. People bow when they exchange business cards, shop keepers often bow to customers after making a sale, and many Japanese bow to each other when they meet. Bowing is also used as a way of apologizing, so its meaning very much depends on the circumstances.
In France, a simple “merci” covers all forms of thanks, whether you’re talking to a bus driver or your boss. You can beef up your gratitude by adding a “merci beaucoup” (thanks very much) or a milles mercis (thanks a million) but be careful using “merci bien”. That one is most often used sarcastically, as in “wow, thanks a lot”.
In English cultures, people often send thank-you cards as a way of showing gratitude to a host or to acknowledge a gift. Thank-you cards aren’t particularly common in France, so don’t be offended if you don’t receive one even though you’d expect some kind of recognition back home.
Saying thank you in the Land of Smiles begins with a simple “khob khun krab” if you’re addressing a man, or “khob khun kha” for a woman. If you’re speaking with a child or a close friend, you can also use “khob jai ja”.
In Thailand, the wai is also used to convey gratitude and respect. Hold your hands together in front of your body and bow your head. It is very impolite not to return a wai if one is offered to you, and you should try not to be holding anything in your hands when you return the gesture.
In India, saying “thank you” is reserved for strangers. Cultural norms dictate that among family members and friends, there is no need to give thanks. There is an assumption that once you’ve established a relationship with someone, gratitude for favors and gifts is unnecessary and expressing thanks can actually cause offense.
Basic courtesy does require you, however, to thank strangers like hotel and restaurant staff. “Dhanyavaad” can be used in more formal situations, while “shukriyaa” is fine for a quick and informal “thanks”. Just be sure to look a person in the eye when thanking them or using the traditional Hindi greeting of “namaste”.
The most common way to thank someone in Greece is to say “efharisto”, and you can use the phrase in both formal and casual settings. The English are notorious for saying “thank you” to just about anything, however, and you’ll find that the phrase is used much more sparingly in Europe. When in Greece, using other gestures like a nod or a smile are just as effective for displaying your gratitude.
On a final note, Greeks will often pat their chest with the palm of their hand to acknowledge their thanks rather than use a verbal expression. This works well when dealing with waiters, bus drivers, service personnel, shopkeepers and just about anyone else you come across in your travels.
We wish you a happy World Gratitude Day and hope you’ll take a few moments to express your appreciation, no matter where you may find yourself on September 21st.