When one starts out learning Japanese, they're always taught to use the phrase “さようなら” to mean “goodbye.” However, it's now known that it's not that commonly used as people regard it as a kind of “final” goodbye, similar to the phrase Adieu.

And informally, “じゃあ、また” or “またね” are the most common phrases used.

But when one meets a stranger in the streets, for example, how would they say “goodbye” to them?

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    Your question is clear, but I think in the end you should be more clear. What does "meet a stranger in the streets" mean? Can you describe the situation better? What kind of interaction goes on, for how long? Is the stranger about your age, older, younger? Etc. – Tommy Nov 2 '18 at 1:44
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    When one meets a stranger in the streets, how would they say “goodbye” to them?-- It would depend on what conversation they had.. – Chocolate Nov 2 '18 at 1:46
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    Anyone who's ever watched a TV series set in a school knows that kids almost always say “さようなら” to their teachers, even though they know they will see them again the next day. And they are certainly not strangers. “じゃあ"、"また” or “またね” are reserved for friends and acquaintances. For a stranger in the stranger in the streets, a simple “じゃ, 失礼します" should suffice, or even just "では" or "じゃ" and a head-nod usually signals an end to a conversation that would lead to a parting - wouldn't that be the equivalent of a "goodbye"? It is on the phone. – squidlydeux Nov 2 '18 at 5:09

When one meets a stranger in the streets, how would they say “goodbye” to them?

I can't think of a situation where you'd say goodbye to a total stranger you've just met... and what phrase you'd say when parting with them would depend on what conversation you've just had... for example:

A: すいません、この近くに郵便局はありますか。
B: 郵便局なら、そこをまっすぐ行って、右にあります。
A: ああ、そうですか。ありがとうございます。
B: いえいえ。

A (駅の階段などで): 重そうですね。持ちましょうか。
B: あ、すいません、ありがとうございます。
A: いえいえ。
B: ありがとうございました、助かりました。
A: いえいえ。お気をつけて。

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  • あ、同時に回答してたか。。(笑) – Tommy Nov 2 '18 at 2:03
  • あ、ほんまやw We're basically saying the same thing... ^^ – Chocolate Nov 2 '18 at 2:14

If there's a chance of meeting them again, では、また is another option. では is a formal version of じゃあ.

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I think the other answers are ok but I just wanted to expand a little to try to give you a different point of view.

when one meets a stranger in the streets, for example, how would they say “goodbye” to them?

As I said in a comment, this is not very clear. It could depend a lot on how the interaction goes on, what do you say, how old is the stranger compared to you etc.

However, what I want to say is: Don't assume you MUST say "goodbye" just because your native language/culture has taught you that it is the right thing to do.

A very important thing when learning a new language is to "get out" the mentality where you automatically port everything from your own culture.

Just as often "literal translation" does not work, the same is true for cultural habits.

Therefore, to go back to your question, don't think you necessarily have to say "goodbye", whether it is さようなら、では、じゃあ、またね, etc. Depending on the conversation, it might be perfectly fine to just say nothing.

For example, the stranger asks you for an indication (how to go somewhere or find some place). Then, the conversation might just end with him thanking you, and you saying, いいえ or どういたしまして or whatever, and you both walk away. And that's perfectly fine.

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  • You don't have to stop acting out your own culture. It's perfectly fine for a foreigner to act a little different. Just as long as it's to be corteous, imo. You can say sayōnara and even get a smile, even if all you did was ask the time or ask something simple in a coffee shop. No need to be all purist about it. So I think this answer doesn't answer the question. – drumfire Sep 5 '19 at 1:23
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    @drumfire in fact, here I’m just adding on top of the other answers. I’m not saying “you don’t have to”, I’m saying that depending on the situation there is nothing wrong in saying nothing. Which clearly and objectively answers the question. I don’t think I’m being purist about anything. On the other hand, I feel that saying “it’s perfectly fine for a foreigner to act a little different “ is just an opinion. One with which I agree actually, but an opinion nonetheless. – Tommy Sep 5 '19 at 1:33

さようなら would be perfectly appropriate for that situation, since it is likely you will never see them again.

Another possibility is お元気で when you think you won't see someone for some time. It's a little more formal, and it is often used with people you already know and have some kind of relationship with. But I think it could be used with someone you don't know well too, depending on what the nature of the (brief) relationship was.

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