Translation:Thanks for your hard work!
Is "Thanks for the hard work" really the closest translation? I think 辛苦了 is probably the hardest phrase that Chinese people use on an everyday basis to translate into English. I feel like it's still missing something, because it's not always used as a "thank you" more like an acknowledgment that someone has done something tiring
This is the commonly used statement in Chinese communities. Even though there is no 謝謝 (thank you) literally written in the statement, 辛苦你了/幸苦你了 refers to someone who has done the favor or hard work for you.
However, it can also be used in situations, where you can say that to show someone some empathy for their struggles/trouble in life.
辛 = labour or difficulty 苦 = toil or trouble
The ancient, original meaning of the word 辛 is the sharp blade of a sickle used to cut through crops. The word 辛 resembles the shape of the blade. Cutting is a painful activity, so with the development of language, the word has acquired meanings including "spicy", "labour and hardship".
As for 苦, the original meaning is a kind of ancient (古) grass (艹) that is bitter. Then it became the adjective meaning "bitter" specifically, and gradually acquired the meaning of toil and suffering as a noun.
You can see why the two words go together well to represent hardship and suffering. That is why when people say 辛苦你了, it does not translate to thank you. It means "thanks for doing the hard work for me/ enduring the suffering" in different situations, so it can get very emotional.
E.g. A colleague helps run some errands on the streets, so you say 辛苦你了 with light thank-you emotion and also a feeling of gratitude.
A single mother who had worked 4 jobs to raise many children finally can retire as their children have jobs now. The biggest brother say 辛苦你了，媽媽 with a much more emotional, deep feeling of gratefulness
Good explanation! I have to say this is more sympathetic, and means so much more than a simple thank you (not that there is anything wrong with or inferior about it).
More or less, it's closed but still not totally same. Better than "good job".
In Japanese, they have same concept, but in European language, no.
If I were to be strict, I think even "Good work" is not acceptable, because the reason for saying this sentence is to show our gratefulness towards the "hardship" of the work, instead of praising the "goodness" of the work. "Good job" or "Good work" should be 做得好！