A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. > Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange

Why written thank you notes?

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a:
In my culture, saying thank you is as important as it is in the US. But there is one difference: it seems that in the US it is very important to always send a written thank you note, including from (young) children. When I grew up, grandma/grandpa/anyone would always be thanked for presents; sometimes in person when we met (and it would be sufficient to thank them at the party in question, if there was one + next time Id meet them), sometimes Id call them and sometimes Id meet them before having had an opportunity to call them. And sometimes I'd write a letter (but never just a thank you note; a thank you note only might even have looked like 'I don't want to spend more time on you'). There was never a requirement for a written thank you note, just a thank you, preferably expressed twice (once on receipt, once commenting on the use of it, having had a chance to use it).

Id be interested in hearing peoples views on why you think it is so important with written notes. I guess to me, Id much prefer my godson to call me to thank me for something, so that we can actually have a conversation, rather than getting a perfunctory written thank you note. Thank you notes do not have to be perfunctory of course, but from reading some threads I sometimes get the impression that the pressure is strong on children to write thank you notes immediately (I think I even read somewhere that the child in question would not be allowed to play with the gift until the thank you note was written) that there is a risk that the cards wouldnt receive as much attention as perhaps desirable.

The only times written thank yous are normally prescribed where Im from Id say are at life celebrations/events such as christenings, confirmations, weddings, big birthdays or similar where it is difficult to have time to thank everyone individually (or even open the presents when the giver is present).

(And looking at the bigger picture, Id prefer less resources to be used, so for that reason I think its a good idea to use verbal thank yous instead of using resources and money on a card.)

So what do you think are written thank yous really important where you are from, and why?

Irishkitty:
Interesting... I'm in Ireland and the only occasion that I've received (or given) thank you letters/cards were weddings.

I once received a thank you note from a friend for having them over for dinner. But it's not the norm. A verbal thank you, either in person or by phone, is what is usually done for birthday's and other occasions.

Possibly the only reason that thank you cards are written for wedding gifts are the fact it's possibly the most formal of all events you'll ever participate in. Formal written invitations are rare for other occasions. You might get a cute invite for a kids birthday party but that's about it.

So I think that because it's casual word of mouth or informal invitations the informal thank you's follow.

Thipu1:
In our family, and among people we know well, a warm verbal Thank You when the gift is opened is usually considered enough.

Christmas gifts from family members living on the other side of the country are acknowledged in a holiday phone call but a written Thank You is still also the norm.

Written Thank You notes are also considered proper for funeral flowers, mass cards and donations to charity.

Luci:
I was raised writing thank you notes - I'm a senior citizen. I do understand now that an oral thank you is now acceptable except for weddings, showers, funerals and delivered gifts. I don't like to talk on the phone (oh! to be 15 again!) but do appreciate an email. I taught my children to write notes always, but they usually don't now except for the situations above.

Now, I think it is just another extra nice touch, like using the good China for special dinners and using my nicest towels for company. Not necessary when paper plates and any clean towel is fine, but nice. I wrote notes to all the people who gave me gifts and stayed with my husband when I was in surgery and the hospital personnel who put notes in my folder. I hate to think what they looked like written by a drugged up person.

Central US here.

Lisbeth:
I think that written notes are necessary for the following situations:

1) The thank-you is for a gift that was sent to you as opposed to being given in person.
2) The thank-you is for special assistance that is for something out of the ordinary.
3) The thank-you is for a rite of passage: birth, graduation, confirmation, bar/bat mitzvah, wedding, funeral/condolence.
4) The thank-you is for a shower gift.

In these situations, I think one needs to do a little more to show gratitude than just say "thanks."

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