It’s always bedtime somewhere. And, save for a few exceptions, it's always appropriate to bid goodnight to those about to turn in. Proper pronunciations can be a little particular, but the general sentiment remains the same. Here, then, are 12 ways to wish people well at the end of the day.
Spanish — Buenas noches
It’s hard for an English speaker to say Hasta La Vista (see you later) without flashing to Terminator 2. Or, for that matter, Hasta Manana (see you tomorrow) without getting Abba stuck in your head. Stick with Buenas noches (good night) for adults and, on sentimental occasions, say que duermes con los angelitos (sleep with the little angels) when around children.
Swahili — Usiku mwema
With Swahili spoken by over 50 million people in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, it is the most widely spoken African language in the world. Usiku mwema is goodnight in Swahili and Lala Salama means “sleep well” or, sometimes, “hope for tomorrow”.
French — Bonne nuit
There’s a bustling late night culture in France, with Parisian cafes and clubs open deep into the dark. The language reflects the nightlife options. If you are leaving someone for the evening and you’re confident they are going to sleep, you can wish them bonne nuit (good night). But if they are continuing to drink champagne, instead say bonsoir (good evening) Or, more casually, Ciao or Salut can suffice.
Portuguese — Boa noite
Goodnight in Portuguese, the sixth most popular language in the world, is boa noite. (For a pronunciation key and a deeply funky beat, check out the song “Boa Noite” by the Brazilian DJ team Tropkillaz.) When someone in a group says boa noite, get ready for an onslaught of handshakes and hugs; custom calls for individualized goodbyes, no matter the size of the group.
Russian — Spokoynoy nochi
When Russians are done with a day of drinking vodka and admiring/fearing Putin, they say Spokoynoy nochi (good night) or parse it down to spokoynoy or spoki. Priyatnykh snov and sladkikh snov both mean sweet dreams, with sladkikh snov reserved for those to whom you are closer.
German — Gute nacht
Forget everything the Von Trapps told you about saying good night Auf Deutsch. Auf Wiedersehen is considered stiff and overly formal. According to American ex-pats living in Austria and Germany, Gute Nacht (good night), schlaf gut (sleep well) and Schlaf schön (sleep tight) are the more appropriate choices.
Hindi — Shubh ratri
For the world’s 260 million Hindi speakers, good night is shubh ratri. However, there are two compelling reasons never to say it. One, as a non-native Hindi speaker, you will need to run tongue calisthenics to pronounce its trilling “R” sound. Two: Hindi speakers rarely use the phrase. And according to Hindi language teacher Manak Kabra, Achha chalte hain, meaning see you later, is far more common.
Italian — Buona notte
When in Rome (or Venice or Milan), you have your choice of how to say goodbye. Buono sera (good evening) can be used as both a greeting and a parting phrase, but it’s more popularly used as a greeting. Buona notte (good night) is only used as a farewell.
Chinese — Wǎn'ān
Parting for the evening is sweet yet efficient in Chinese. Standard Chinese folds the meanings of two English evening farewells, good night and sleep well, into one word, Wǎn'ān, which literally translates to “peace at night.”
Japanese — Oyasuminasai
The Japanese word for goodbye, Sayonara, is one of the most fun and famous ways to say goodbye, especially when you add the word “suckers” and peel out on a motorcycle. It’s not your only option for bidding farewell in Japanese, however, as you can also say oyasuminasai (goodnight) or mata ashita (see you tomorrow). If you’re leaving the office, you can tell your boss shitsurei shimasu, which roughly translates to “excuse my rudeness for leaving.”
Hebrew — Lilah tov
Lilah tov is good night in Hebrew, with "lilah" meaning night and "tov" meaning good. Depending on family and religious observance there is a blessing before bed, like the common Mazal tov (good luck) or chalamot paz (sweet dreams).
Persian, Bengali, Urdu, Sindhi — Khuda hafiz
Variations on the Persian phrase Khuda Hafiz (may God be your protector) are used in several languages to say goodnight, but cultural forces are nudging it towards obsolescence. It’s mainly spoken by Muslims and indicates a generational divide. While older Muslims say Khuda Hafiz, younger ones are increasingly saying Allah Hafiz, which specifies Allah as the God, instead.