Ways to Say "Thank You"
In America, it is the custom to express appreciation to people who help you in any way. Because it is commonly practiced, most people expect to be thanked when they do something for someone. Sometimes the absence of a "thank you" is misunderstood to mean the effort to help was not appreciated or was not wanted. There are a variety of ways to express gratitude, and the type of help received can help one determine what method of saying "thank you" is most appropriate.
A foreign student should not be overly concerned about how to say "thank-you," most important is to remember to always express appreciation in one way or another. One should also feel free to be creative in the avenues used.
Here are some possibilities:
1. Always verbally communicate appreciation. When the favor shown did not require a great deal of time or effort, a verbal "thank-you" is enough.
2. Write a short letter or "thank-you" note. Small note cards with "Thank You" printed on the front are sold in most campus bookstores, as well as "Thank You" greeting cards. However, regular stationary is often used and perhaps less expensive.
3. Give a small, inexpensive gift. The gift can be purchased or something you made.
4. Treat the friend to a meal, a movie, or just a snack (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pie and coffee, etc.)
If the favor shown is small, a verbal "thank you" is adequate. For example, if you ask someone for directions, for help with a homework problem, for information, etc., saying "thank you" verbally is enough. The closer the relationship, the less formal the expression of gratitude needs to be. If a classmate is your close friend, a verbal "thanks" is probably enough. If another student whom you do not know well spends many hours helping you prepare for a test, perhaps a written note would be nice. If an American student helps you on a regular basis (weekly or before each test, etc.) perhaps at the end of the school term you could give him or her a small gift and/or a written note of appreciation. To write a thank you note each week would not be appropriate or necessary.
When an American family or friend invites you into their home for a meal, mailing a thank you note to them a day or so later would be appropriate. It is not necessary to carry a gift to the home when you go to eat, but you may if you wish since that may be your custom. It is not the American custom but would not be strange or inappropriate. A small bouquet of flowers or a small box of candy would also be appropriate. If you stay overnight in a home, a thank you note should be left on the bed or bedside table as you leave or mailed to the hostess soon after. A small gift can also be left for the hostess with the note or presented to the hostess prior to leaving, but is not necessary. If your time in the family's home is an extended visit, a small gift should be given to the hostess. If you spend Christmas with an American family, prepare to give a gift to the family. It doesn't need to be an expensive gift. Present the gift at the time they exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or just quietly place the gift under their Christmas tree with the other gifts. It is not necessary to present gifts for other holidays.
If an American friend gives you a gift, it would be nice to write a short note to express gratitude to them.
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