December 26th, 2015


Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu (よろしくお願いします) is one of those common Japanese phrases that's well known for not having an English translation. Literally, it means "Please treat me well", and it's said when you first meet someone with whom you expect to have some kind of future relationship - a work colleague or a classmate, for example - or even when you start a new endeavour with someone whom you already know. The "Please treat me well" has an unspoken rider: "... and I will treat you well in return."

It's really a very simple and natural concept - so simple and natural in fact that across the animal kingdom you can find creatures engaged in equivalent gestures:

dog yoroshiku
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu

chimp yoroshiku
Yoroshiku onegai shimasu

cat not yoroshiku
Fuck you, asshole

The strange thing isn't the existence of the phrase in Japanese, but its absence from English - or British English, at any rate. My friend Tomoko tells her (Japanese) English students to translate it as "I'll do my best in this class!", or similar. It's a welcome and intelligible sentiment - but any native Brit saying that to another Brit would appear over-earnest at best, and more likely suspected of sarcasm.

Maybe it's a generational thing? Young and young-ish Brits today don't want to be thought uptight and stuffy like their grandparents...

british gent
How do you do, good sir?

... but no more do they wish to let it all hang out like their parents...

I feel like we've connected on a deep spiritual level

... while the full-on enthusiasm of some Americans disconcerts them...

Why, howdy! they are reduced to foot-shuffling inarticulacy, scared of putting their heads above the emotional parapet. And indeed that inarticulacy has become a distinct style in its own right. Hugh Grant has built a career on it.

Okay, I know I'm dealing in clichés in this post, but it's still interesting, and perhaps significant, that there seems to be no easy, unironic way to say something equivalent to yoroshiku onegai shimasu in English. Unless you know different?