Irasshaimase?, part 2

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In the comments to the first installment on this ubiquitous Japanese greeting ("welcome; come on in / over"), skepticism was raised about whether a response of any kind is expected from the person to whom it is addressed.  I'm on the side of those who believe that an acknowledgement of some sort — if only a slight nod of one's head or a bit of eye contact — on the part of the addressee is appreciated by the addresser.  I know that for a fact because I see people smile when I give some type of response to their greeting.  It's not like they're mindless robots numbly mouthing the same phrase over and over.

A corollary demonstration of the efficacy of polite recognition of a welcoming phrase or gesture may be found in a daily exchange I have with trolley drivers in Philadelphia.

I love the Philadelphia trolley system (just as I love the trams in Kyoto, though apparently they are slowly disappearing in that enchanted city).  They are well maintained, come quite regularly, and reach to all parts of the city.  The motors are powerful, and propel the passengers swiftly from one stop to the next.  You can hop on or off at practically any block.  So convenient!

When I get on the trolley I usually don't say anything to the driver because I'm busy putting on my mask and tapping my payment card on the electronic reading device, and the driver is intent on getting ready to go forward.  However, when the trolley has come to a full stop and I'm about ready to get off, I always say "thank you", and I mean it, and the drivers always say "You're welcome" with genuine appreciation in their voice.

Then I walk away with a warm feeling in my heart and a spring in my step.


Selected readings


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    November 10, 2021 @ 10:21 am

    « [W]hen the trolley has come to a full stop and I'm about ready to get off, I always say "thank you" ». I don't remember the last time that I took a 'bus (or a tram, and certainly not a trolley 'bus) but I know for a fact that whenever I did, I always said "thank you" to the driver on dismounting if the exit door was adjacent to the driver's seat. This, at least in Europe, is frequently not the case, with passengers mounting at the front of the 'bus but dismounting mid-way along its length.

  2. Frank Chance said,

    November 10, 2021 @ 11:22 am

    I too follow the practice of thanking trolley and bus drivers, but usually try to say it both on the way in (always by the driver) as well as on the way out if I exit by the front door. I try to thank the attendants at subway stops too, when possible.
    But then again, I am a person who says "Thank you" to Siri and Alexa when they provide proper answers to my electronic questions (on iPhone and Amazon devices respectively). They always seem to respond politely as well, unlike the bus drivers who are sometimes quite busy with driving.

  3. Noam said,

    November 10, 2021 @ 8:38 pm

    I found that saying thank you to bus drivers was universally expected in England, as this Reddit post implies

  4. Trogluddite said,

    November 11, 2021 @ 9:18 am

    Certainly, here in the formerly heavily industrialised parts of Northern England it is customary to always thank the driver where possible. It is often alleged that this is less common the closer one gets to London. Albeit such accusations reflect Britain's ages-old 'North/South divide' stereotypes, they do tally with personal experience: Upon moving to Yorkshire I was tickled at first to note that even the most sullen, potty-mouthed, feet-on-the-seats, tinny-music-blaring, anti-social kinds of bus passenger still would not fail to brightly thank the driver upon alighting, which I wasn't at all used to from my former Midlands home.

    It also appears that buses are the only place where this politeness is so universal; retail workers, for example, don't seem to enjoy the same degree of common courtesy. The most obvious explanation, of course, is that becoming an habitual motorist may be detrimental to one's consideration for other people!

  5. Victor Mair said,

    November 11, 2021 @ 12:19 pm

    Come to think of it, I usually say "good morning / afternoon / evening" when I board the trolley (that is, if I'm not too flustered with my mask, payment card, backpack, and various and sundry other things I'm carrying), and the driver will reply in kind.

  6. B.Ma said,

    November 14, 2021 @ 4:32 am

    In much of the UK except for London, buses only have one door at the front, so it feels rude not to say something as you disembark past the driver. Also in much of the UK except for London, you need to tell the driver where you're going so you can get the right ticket, meaning that you have to greet them anyway.

    In London people don't say anything when disembarking because they don't see the driver and the driver wouldn't hear them anyway. They may say something if it's a more local service that they always catch at the same time, with a familiar driver.

    When I lived in Vancouver for a while, everyone would shout "thank you" when disembarking from the back doors, usually facing the front so the driver could see them in their mirrors. It was so ingrained that they would even mutter it to the door when a bus was so crowded that there was no chance of the driver seeing or hearing them.

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