10

I think some of you might have heard of the Japanese word, “Yoroshiku onegaishimas” - literally translated as “Please be nice to me” and its shortened form, “Yoroshiku.”

“Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” or “Yoroshiku” is used ubiquitously in Japan as a form of greeting.

When we meet somebody for the first time, when we exchange a name card with a new business client, when we meet our doctor for diagnosis, when we have a job interview, when we ask a shop clerk / home delivery boy / hotel front staff for a service, we never fail to add “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” at the end of our conversation. Even an idol singer, actor / actress closes his or her ending messages from the stage to audience with “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

“Yoroshiku” is really a convenient word with which we can dispense with any other thinkable greeting / thank-you messages.

Even though it may sound a bit exaggerated, you can do well with four basic words, “Douzo – Please,” “Arigato – Thank you,” “Yoroshiku” and "Sayonara - Good bye" in social interaction in Japan.

Though I think this is a special parlance unique to Japanese, I heard Chinese, 請多関照-qing duo guanzhao-has a similar meaning.

I wonder if there are common or universally used English greeting words that can be compared to “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” or, “Yoroshiku”, whose main intention is none other than to give a good impression.

9
  • 3
    That is a fascinating cultural practice. This is a comment for lack of answer: I can’t right now think of any English near-equivalent. One might under restricted not general circumstances say something Take it easy on me or Go easy on me, but that would mean you were expecting the contrary. We instead tend to express formulaic courtesies focussing on the other party instead of on ourselves. So we might say Nice to see you again or in parting Take it easy or even perhaps Take it easy on yourself, eh. But you see how those are reversed from what I think I understand you to be saying.
    – tchrist
    Sep 27, 2014 at 4:51
  • 2
    When I lived in New York City about thirty years ago, I noticed that the expression "Take care" was an extremely common way of saying farewell. (The reason I noticed its popularity in New York was that in Washington, D.C., where I had been living prior to the move to New York, "Take care" was a much less common form of farewell.) I could never tell whether people used the expression to mean "Take good care of yourself" or to mean "Be careful."
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 27, 2014 at 5:44
  • @SvenYargs The way the kids pronounce it these days, it sure sounds more like the latter, whatever the original intent was.
    – Kris
    Sep 27, 2014 at 5:48
  • @jwpat. Both "Yoroshiku" and "Yorosiu" are used. The latter sounds more local and old style. I corrected "Yorosiu" into "Yoroshiku." Sep 27, 2014 at 6:07
  • 3
    @Joe Blow. I think you are referring to “Kiotsukete – Take care.” More decent, ladylike way of saying is “Douzo okiotsuke asobase. – Please take care.” Once I asked an old lady in Kimono with a parasol who came across to tell me the way when losing the way on a downtown street of Tokyo in late summer a decade ago, she added this phrase after teaching me the right direction, and saw me off. I was thrilled and mesmerized. I still remember the occasion. It’s so classic and beautiful Japanese word. Sep 27, 2014 at 9:18

2 Answers 2

9

No there isn't.

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu is a phatic expression — i.e. an expression that is used only to perform a social function. If you consider all the social functions that yoroshiku onegaishimasu performs, and the English phatic phrases used in the same way, you'll find that there's nothing that comes even close to matching all the uses of yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Teacher greeting students at the start of a lesson:

English: Good morning class.

Japanese: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

New colleagues meeting each other in the work place:

English: I look forward to working with you.

Japanese: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

People meeting each other for the first time at a social function:

English: It's a pleasure to meet you.

Japanese: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Performer at the end of a concert

English: You've been a lovely audience.

Japanese: Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

And so on.

5

Japanese politeness and honorific speech is very different and detailed than Western politeness. "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" is very unique to Japanese culture and is totally untranslatable into a single English phrase and there is no equivalent in English. There are literal translations but they wouldn't make much sense in English and they wouldn't cover all the situations that the phrase is used in.

This phrase covers a range of meanings from various social interactions including greetings, farewells, gratitude, requests, depending on the context. So, it is a key phrase in social relations in Japanese culture. It usually expresses a deference to the addressee.

Having said that, simply "Thank you" or "Thanks" can be compared to this Japanese phrase in English and Western culture. Because you can use it in most of the situations as a politeness. So, it can be considered as a universal phrase in Western politeness.

More formally, "Regards" can be considered along with "I appreciate" and "Much appreciated". "Thanks/Thank you in advance" is also used if we expect any help.

The English phrases that I mentioned do not cover all the meanings of "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu". Again, it is not a matter of equivalency, it is more of a comparison between cultures.

I also mentioned these phrases because "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" is a request in nature. It has the speech act verb of request, negai, which means "wish". The prefix "o" is an honorific, shows respect to the addressee. "Shimasu" is a verb meaning "to do", so "o-negai shimasu" means to wish for something. "Yoroshiku" means "well" and it comes from the polite adjective "yoroshii", meaning good.

When you use this expression, you humbly put yourself in a lower position by requesting a favorable action. In Japanese culture, acknowledgement of interdependence is encouraged so it is honorable for seniors to have the responsibility to take care of the juniors. Although people in lower ranking often use this expression to people in higher ranking, higher ranking people use it also.

This expression is often used when you request something but as I mentioned earlier it covers much more meaning and used in various situations.

Note: "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" even covers the sense of "Nice to meet you" when you meet someone so we can emphasize one more time that there can't be a single equivalent in English.

Although, in basic lessons, it is translated as "Nice to meet you" and there are several levels of formality:

enter image description here

4
  • 1
    I would say 'Nice to meet you' is the closest, in the sense that it can be used as both a greeting and a farewell, whereas some of the other expression will only do in one situation. There's also 'My pleasure' which could be said on being introduced to someone or, on parting, to mean you had enjoyed meeting them. But it would only work in certain cases and is not ubiquitous.
    – Mynamite
    Sep 27, 2014 at 9:41
  • @Mynamite: I don't think it is the closest. It is just a near equivalent in one of the social interactions that it is used. "Thank you" is more universal on the other hand.
    – ermanen
    Sep 27, 2014 at 13:20
  • But you don't say 'Thank you' when you meet someone, which is the point I was making.
    – Mynamite
    Sep 27, 2014 at 17:44
  • @Mynamite: "Thank you" doesn't cover all the situations that "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" covers but it is more universal than "Nice to meet you" in my opinion and covers more situations. I didn't give that as an equivalent also, I mentioned as a comparison. ""Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" is not only used for greetings also. All the details are in my answer. I clarified more points today with my edit also, let me know if anything is not clear.
    – ermanen
    Sep 27, 2014 at 18:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.