Thank You Very Much, Syntax Matters!


Learning from Cultural Encounters: "Thank You Very Much, Syntax Matters!"


Location: Scotland

The Scottish representative of a student exchange program had identified and recruited host families for 20 US-American students who were arriving in Glasgow for the summer. He had told them how good the students were and that it would be a fun summer for both the students and them. 

Mid-way through the summer, he called me in the US to say that the students were so rude that many families were uncomfortable continuing to host them and had expressed their displeasure to the representative. A major problem seemed to be that the students would not say "thank you."  I couldn’t understand why this was the case and how this had happened. 

The next week, I went to Scotland and was staying with Scottish representative and his wife. I was upstairs when they called up to see if I wanted tea. I casually called down, "No, not right now." When I finally came downstairs, they were both standing with their arms firmly folded saying that I had been very rude. But, they know me as a very kind person, so my rudeness could be forgiven!   

With further conversation I discovered that in Glasgow, when tea (and other types of service) is offered, the response should always be, "Thank you, no" or "Thank you, yes." Any other response was considered very rude. This is what they had meant when they said that the US students would not say “Thank you.”