Recently I was in Japan and stayed at a certain hotel for a few days. I was surprised to see the level of customer service that I received. There were many cultural differences that surprised me, but the one thing I wasn't sure how to react was to all the お帰りなさいませ I received when I got back to the hotel.

I was born in Japan, but living in America for the majority of my life, I'm used to replying when someone says something to me. My mom told me that it's very uncommon for people to reply in such situations but I could not stop my habits. I thought about what would be a good thing to say since ただいま would be strange, as the hotel is not my home. So I came up with お疲れ様です。 as my reply.

Does that sound strange and if so are there better phrases I could've used in that situation? Or should I have just kept my mouth shut and said nothing at all?

  • 2
    ただいま doesn't sound strange to me. But I'd probably just do a nod/half-bow.
    – istrasci
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


You do not need to say anything nor are you even expected to in that kind of situation. Many, if not all, Japanese indeed do not. I myself usually just nod or bow lightly at the clerk without a word or nod while saying どうも without enunciating it.

Saying ただいま sounds strange to me unless you reside in the hotel and you know the clerk very well. お疲れ様です may be said by some if not by me, and I cannot actively recommend that you say it. Again, you can say it with no problem if you already know the clerk personally.

In a ryokan, however, a whole different set of customs are followed, in that a far greater amount of conversation takes place between the staff and guests than in a hotel. I will not get into that here, though.

  • I’m a bit confused by one conjunction in your answer: “お疲れ様です may be said by some if not by me, and I cannot actively recommend that you say it.” The first half of this seems to suggest that it’s an okay thing to say (“if not by me” actually strengthens the statement) so I would expect a different second half, or a “but” instead of “and”. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 17:01

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