January is National Thank You Month, the perfect way to start the year by acknowledging the gifts, efforts, and kindnesses you’ve received from people in your life. Sometimes, however, simply saying “thank you” isn’t enough to fully express your gratitude.
To inspire creative ways to show your appreciation, here’s a list of gracious synonyms, gestures, and tokens that people used to show thanks throughout history and that are common today in different cultures around the world.
Synonyms for Thank You
“Thank you” in English is derived from the word “think.” It originally meant that you would think about or remember what the person did for you. The origin of the word makes uttering a rote “thanks” seem less than adequate in almost any situation, except maybe when someone holds a door open.
Using other words besides “thank you,” like “I appreciate this,” “I’m grateful,” or “I value what you’ve done for me” can make in-person, verbal thanks much more sincere.
Thank You Notes
For large gifts, grand gestures, or effort above or beyond what you’d normally expect, more than a verbal thank you is usually appropriate. Many people rely on the longstanding tradition of writing thank you notes to convey their gratitude in these situations.
Thank you notes have their roots in friendship and good luck notes that the ancient Chinese and Egyptians wrote on papyrus. Europeans began the practice of exchanging “social notes,” the foundation for today’s custom of sending cards, in the 1400s. Although this type of thanks is common — and expected in our culture — don’t let sending thank you notes become a chore.
Tokens of Appreciation
Perfectly Personalized Thanks
The last thing you’d want to do when setting out to thank people is to wind up insulting them. If you want to give a gift as a thank you, make sure it will be well-received. Just like thank you notes, gifts should be personalized to avoid your expression of thanks falling flat.
Take things like food allergies and personal convictions into account. And as much as possible, observe cultural conventions; for example, if you want to thank someone from Russia or Hungary with a bouquet of flowers, make sure they aren’t yellow, which are considered bad luck.
If the gift you received made you smile, you may want to return the favor in a creative way. A video of a child thanking her grandparents for a birthday gift could warm hearts and become a family treasure. You can consider showing your thanks with a gift of time, like catching up with a friend or relative over coffee.
If thanks are due to a work colleague, you may choose to acknowledge them publicly, maybe with an award or announcement at a meeting or with a toast at a company function. Doing something special will help to convey how special you consider their gift.