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Alright I've been told so many different things on how to order, specifically fast food and for some reason I have never gotten a straight answer.

The popular ones is to say ____をください or _____ お願いします. But when I was in Japan I never heard either of those, just the food item and how many they wanted, so I am confused.

How to actually order fast food?

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Here are examples of what most people (including myself, a native speaker) actually say:

  • チーズバーガー、1つ。 One cheese burger.
  • ウーロン茶、L。 Oolong tea, L.
  • 以上で。 That's it.
  • Suica/クレジットカードで。 With Suica (electronic money)/credit card.

I usually do not even say ありがとう(ございます), so your observation in Japan was correct. That said, if you feel you took more time than usual as a foreigner, it might be better to say at least "Thanks".

There is nothing wrong if you used ください and お願いします, but they are not required at all in reality.

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    いや~んこっちスイカないわ~イコカやわ~ww東京と違うなんて田舎臭くてやだー – Chocolate Mar 13 '18 at 3:52
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    I have always found it awkward to be a customer in Japan. I personally (as someone from another country and culture) feel it proper to acknowledge the service they offer me, and be as polite as I can in return, with ありがとう(ございます) and ください etc. wherever possible. It seems (from your answer and my own experiences) that the norm is somewhere between that and outright ignoring all customer service personnel, but I have no idea where exactly, and I don't want to actually be rude. So I will continue to overdo it a bit for now. – Arthur Mar 13 '18 at 11:25
  • @Arthur I understand. That's exactly what I do when I travel abroad :) – naruto Mar 13 '18 at 12:59
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    @Chocolate 田舎くさいと思うの?イコカは京都や大坂でも普通に使わているようだし、東京人にペンギンさん、あれ可愛いじゃん、ほしいとか言われたことあるからちょっぴり優越感を持ってたw – rjh Mar 13 '18 at 18:06
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    @Arthur as an introvert I like Japan's detached (but genial, smiling) customer service. Germany gets the detached part right but they wear a scowl on their face; UK is a mixed bag but they often try to chat with you. Besides, it costs nothing to say thank you :) – rjh Mar 13 '18 at 18:09
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But when I was in Japan I never heard either of those, just the food item and how many they wanted...so I am confused.

Your observation is correct.

We only say the (food) item and how many we want not only at a fast-food restaurant but also at various shops or stores, even at a ticket office like:

  • 【マクドナルドで】 A:「いらっしゃいませ! こんにちは! 店内{てんない}でお召{め}し上{あ}がりですか?」 B:「いえ、持ち帰りで」 A:「はい。ご注文{ちゅうもん}どうぞ」 B:「チーズバーガー1つ、コーラ小{しょう}1つ」
  • 【八百屋{やおや}で】 A:「何{なに}にしましょう?」 B:「キュウリ2本{ほん}とトマト3つ、それに大根{だいこん}1本{ぽん}」
  • 【飲{の}み屋{や}で】 B:「ビール大{だい}3、小{しょう}2、それにチューハイ2つ」
  • 【映画館{えいがかん}で】 B:「大人{おとな}2枚{まい}、子供{こども}3枚{まい}」
  • @Chocolate: 誤り訂正ありがとうございます。 – mackygoo Mar 13 '18 at 11:48
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As @Towa_Shina has answered, there are various ways to order. People are generally not very polite to customer service people and some even treat them poorly. The reason that people haven't been able to answer you is because the manner in which people order (interact with staff) is an individual choice. Some people actually feel awkward and uncomfortable using polite language in these situations. There is even disagreement about whether it is okay to be thank convenience store clerks. As shocking as it is to Western sensibilities just barking out your order is acceptable.

So long as your order is understood, you are free to choose your level of politeness/directness.

ビッグマック二つとペプシ二つください。

ビッグマック二つとペプシ二つお願いします。

ビッグマック二つとペプシ二つ。

ビッグマック:二{に}、ペプシ:二{に}。

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    The Japan Today article doesn't link to a source, but I managed to dig it up in case anyone's interested: コンビニで店員に対し「ありがとうございます」 お客が会計後にお礼をするのは常識なのか? – muru Mar 13 '18 at 5:39
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    @muru: お礼を言う人、本当に少ないですね。この度は平均的な日本人の行動として、ぶっきらぼうな事実を回答しましたが、実際は、挨拶する、お礼を言うのが当たり前でしょう。良い情報ありがとうございます。 – mackygoo Mar 13 '18 at 10:39
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    「コンビニ店員なんて自販機と変わらないよ。余程いい接客じゃなけりゃ礼なんて言わなくていい」なんて、本気で思ってる日本人はいるのだろうか。 – rjh Mar 13 '18 at 18:14
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It's so simple. It's just the difference between "2 Big Macs, please" and "I'd like Triple Cheese Burger with soda".

"xxxをください" = "Please give me xxx" (Maybe sounds weird in English, but it's ok in Japanese)

"xxxをお願いします" = "xxx, please"

"xxxを"/"xxxで"/"xxx" = "xxx" (Just itself, not so polite/formal, but everyone does anyway)

After you tell what you want to have, the salesperson might ask you "ご注文{ちゅうもん}は以上{いじょう}でしょうか?" (Have you ordered all?). You say "はい" (Yes).

That's all.

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