In the Japanese language, there's a magic phrase that softens requests, expresses gratitude, opens doors and makes everybody feel good. The phrase is よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu).
The simplest, quickest and easiest way to understand yoroshiku onegaishimasu, and the less formal dozo yoroshiku is that it means both please and thank you. It's used to make a request and also to thank the person, either before or after they do it for you. Yoroshiku is the casual version that’s used among friends.
For example, when I drop my kids off at day care, I say to the teachers, 'yoroshiku onegaishimasu.' It's like saying: 'Please take care of my kids, thanks so much for watching them, sorry about all the diapers, crying, spills, barfing and other things they're going to do to make your life difficult today.'
Yoroshiku onegaishimasu is also often used as a substitute for hajimemashite when first meeting someone. What it basically means is, 'Please treat me kindly.' Yoroshiku is actually a form of the word yoroshii (よろしい), a more polite form of ii (良い), which means 'good,' 'okay,' 'fine,' or 'well.'
When to use yoroshiku onegaishimasu
The reason I call it a magic word is that it has a softening effect when you ask someone to do something for you. When the boss tells his employees that they're all going to have to buckle down and spend the night at the office working, he'll end it with, 'yoroshiku!' Like other polite phrases in Japanese, it's not about the literal meaning, but a phrase used in certain social situations.
Sometimes, it's an ultra-polite way of saying, 'It's up to you.' If you're with a group of friends trying to decide where to eat and you tell them that you know this part of town pretty well, they might say, 'Yoroshiku.' This means that you've just taken on the responsibility of finding the restaurant.
Yoroshiku also means something like, 'Thank you for understanding.' If you work at an English school and you overhear someone canceling a lesson, they'll probably end it with yoroshiku onegaishimasu. This is a package deal—it means 'sorry' and 'thanks for being cool about it.' It also means, 'I'm indebted to you.'
If you're walking out of a shop where you didn't find anything worth buying and the shop clerk says, 'yoroshiku dozo,' don't worry. They're not requesting that you come back in and buy something. This form, which is more polite than yoroshiku onegaishimasu, means something like, 'please come back again if you want to.'
It's also a way of giving someone your regards. If you tell someone, 'お母ちゃんによろしくね,' (おかあちゃんによろしくね) this means something like, 'Tell your mom I said hi.'
Finally, yoroshiku is used to say effectively, 'It's a done deal.' If you're making a plan to meet a friend and you've got the details down, you'll end the conversation with 'yoroshiku,' which means something like, 'Okay then, see ya there.'
Completely confused yet? Here's how you learn to use this phrase: when somebody says it to you, say the same thing back. Over time, you'll start to get a feel for when it's used and it'll become second nature. Generally speaking—it’s hard to go wrong with this magic little phrase!
Do you have any examples of when to use yoroshiku onegaishimasu? Let me know in the comments!
Cover photo by Morten Legarth