Thai Greetings

All about Thai Greetings Fun Earth Science Facts for Kids - Thai Person Offering a Wai
All about Thai Greetings Fun Earth Science Facts for Kids - Thai Person Offering a Wai

Thai greetings are an important part of Thai culture and society. They reflect the values of respect, politeness, and hierarchy. The traditional Thai greeting is called the “wai,” which involves placing the palms together in a prayer-like gesture and bowing slightly. It is important to understand and follow the proper etiquette when greeting someone in Thailand to show respect and avoid cultural misunderstandings.

Thai greetings Facts For Kids

  • “Sawasdee” is a common greeting.
  • Wai is a traditional salute.
  • Palms together, bowing the head.
  • Higher hands, deeper respect.
  • Age/status influence greetings.
  • Address with “Khun” for politeness.
  • No touch, especially the head.
  • Smile, a significant element.
  • Younger greets older first.
  • “Khap/Kha” added for politeness.

Thai Culture

In Thai society, the importance of greetings in social exchanges is emphasized, epitomized by the prevalent use of the ‘wai’ gesture and the phrases ‘Sawadee krap’ or ‘Sawadee ka’. The ‘wai’ involves pressing your hands together at chest level and slightly bowing your head, with the hand position and depth of the bow adjusted according to the status of the individual being greeted.

As a demonstration of respect, you would position your hands higher and bow deeper when greeting elders or individuals of higher social rank. Children in Thailand are taught this etiquette from an early age.

Furthermore, the phrases ‘Sawadee krap’ and ‘Sawadee ka’, used by males and females respectively, are common verbal greetings translating to ‘hello’. These practices underscore the value placed on respect and politeness within Thai culture.

Thai Language

The Thai language emphasizes the importance of greetings in social interactions, represented by the ‘Wai,’ a gesture comprising a slight bow with the palms pressed together, similar to prayer. The common greeting phrase is ‘Sawasdee,’ supplemented with ‘Krung’ for men and ‘Ka’ for women, translating to ‘Hello’ in English.

Fascinatingly, the Thai language exhibits respect and politeness towards elders, superiors, and strangers by employing different versions of the word ‘you.’ Thai children learn these cultural norms and manners associated with greetings from an early age, underlining their significance in Thai society.

Thai Customs

The ‘wai’ is a unique form of greeting inherent to Thai culture, involving a slight bow with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like manner. The gesture’s nuances, such as the height of the held hands and how low the head bows, reflect the age and social status of the greeted individual, symbolizing respect.

Often accompanied by the word ‘Sawasdee’, translating to hello, the ‘wai’ is a central part of Thai customs, exchanged not only among Thais but also with visitors. Children are educated about this greeting as it is an integral aspect of Thai etiquette, embodying the country’s emphasis on respect and politeness.

Thai Etiquette

In Thailand, the ‘wai’ is a customary greeting that signifies respect and politeness. This gesture, which involves the joining of palms at chest level and a slight bow of the head, is frequently employed to convey greetings, gratitude, and apologies.

The degree of respect accorded is denoted by the elevation of the hands and depth of the bow – a higher hand position and lower bow correspond to greater respect. Adherence to Thai etiquette necessitates reciprocating a wai, with the expectation that children or younger individuals will typically initiate this gesture as a mark of respect towards their elders.

Traditional Thai Greetings

The ‘wai’ is a fundamental aspect of traditional Thai greetings, and it’s a gesture where the person places their hands together at chest level or higher while bowing slightly. The elevation of the hands and the depth of the bow is a reflection of the degree of respect being conveyed, with higher hands and a deeper bow indicating more respect.

The ‘wai’ is a multi-faceted gesture, serving not only as a way to say ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye,’ but also as a means to express gratitude, apologize, or show respect towards elders or individuals of a higher social status. Children in Thailand are taught to use the ‘wai’ from a very early age, underscoring its significance in their cultural and traditional practices.

Thai Social Norms

In Thailand, the act of greeting is not only a social norm but also an integral part of their culture, often deviating from Western practices. The ‘wai,’ a common Thai greeting, involves positioning the hands together in a prayer-like manner and executing a slight bow.

The elevation of the hands and the depth of the bow are dictated by the age or status of the individual being greeted, signifying not just acknowledgment but also respect and courtesy. Neglecting to reciprocate a ‘wai’ is deemed discourteous.

Additionally, Thais customarily use ‘Khun’ preceding the first name of the person they are addressing, irrespective of their gender, instead of using honorifics like Mr., Mrs., and Miss. It’s worth noting that showing deference towards elders is a crucial aspect of Thai society, indicative of a person’s well-mannered upbringing.

Thai Communication

The traditional Thai greeting, known as the ‘wai,’ is a prayer-like gesture that involves hands placed together and a slight head bow. This is not merely a sign of respect; it also represents politeness and gratitude, fundamental aspects of Thai communication.

The degree of respect conveyed varies with the height of the hands and depth of the bow – the higher the hands and the lower the bow, the greater the respect demonstrated. This practice extends beyond greetings, also being used to express a range of sentiments such as thanks, farewells, and apologies.

In essence, the ‘wai’ is a key part of Thai culture, reflecting the country’s deep-rooted values of respect, humility, and courtesy.

Thai Hospitality

Thai hospitality is deeply ingrained in the cultural etiquette of the country, prominently reflected in their traditional form of greeting known as the ‘wai’. This gesture, resembling a prayer-like posture with a slight bow, is a symbolic expression of respect and politeness.

The nuances of the ‘wai’ are dictated by the social status or age of the person being greeted, as indicated by the height of the hands and the depth of the bow.

From early childhood, Thai people are taught the ‘wai’, underscoring the cultural importance of respect for elders and others. This practice aptly encapsulates the warm and welcoming nature intrinsic to Thai hospitality.

Thai Traditions

In the Thai culture, the practice of greetings is not only a sign of respect and friendliness but also a foundational part of their traditions. The most prevalent Thai greeting is the ‘wai,’ a non-contact form of salutation contrasting western customs of handshakes or embraces.

The ‘wai’ involves a slight bow with the hands pressed together in a prayer-like gesture, the positioning of which varies based on the recipient’s age or status. It is traditional to first acknowledge the eldest or most senior person present. Furthermore, Thai people often exchange greetings using the phrase ‘Sawasdee,’ supplemented by ‘krub’ for men and ‘kaa’ for women.

This customary form of greeting serves as a testament to Thailand’s emphasis on respect, politeness, and their deep-rooted values.

Thai Phrases

As a crucial part of Thai culture, learning and practicing Thai greetings can be a very enriching activity for children. The ubiquitous Thai greeting, ‘Sawasdee’, is akin to the English ‘Hello’ and can be used at any time of the day, irrespective of whether it’s morning, afternoon, or night. This greeting is usually accompanied by a respectful gesture known as ‘Wai’, which involves a bow with palms pressed together as if praying.

Gender plays a role in the usage of the phrase ‘Sawasdee’, with ‘Sawasdee krub’ being used by male speakers and ‘Sawasdee ka’ by female speakers. By learning these phrases, children can interact with Thai culture in a respectful and profound manner.

All about Thai Greeting Fun Earth Science Facts for Kids - Thai Person Offering a Wai
All about Thai Greetings Fun Earth Science Facts for Kids – Thai Person Offering a Wai
  • Place your palms together, with your fingers up as if you were saying a prayer. The thumbs and tips of the fingers should touch.
  • Bring your hands up so your thumbs lightly touch your body somewhere between the chest and the forehead.
  • To greet someone, you’ll point your fingers towards them, bowing your head and hands at the same time.
Easy Science for Kids All about Thai Greeting - US Navy Officer Giving Wai to an Elder Thai image
Easy Science for Kids All about Thai Greetings – US Navy Officer Giving Wai to an Elder Thai image

The more important a person is, the closer you hold your hands to your head and the lower you bow. When two people are meeting, the less important person gives the wai first. The other person may or may not give a wai back.

Here’s something else to remember if you visit Thailand: the feet and shoes are considered dirty. Always take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home. Don’t rest your feet on pillows, couches or tables. Never step over someone sitting on the floor or step over food.

All about Thai Greeting Fun Geography Facts for Kids - Removing of Shoes Before Entering a Thai's Home image
All about Thai Greetings Fun Geography Facts for Kids – Removing of Shoes Before Entering a Thai’s Home image

Fun Facts about Thai Greetings for Kids

  • When the visit to a home is over the visitor asks permission to leave and repeats the wai before going.
  • A tip for visitors to Thailand who are unfamiliar with wai etiquette is to never start a wai exchange with someone who is younger than they are, but always return a wai offered as a sign of respect
  • Even if your hands are full, if someone offers a wai it is important to attempt to wai back a best as you can
  • The wai started as an ancient greeting use to show that neither person was carrying weapons
  • Similar gestures are used in other countries such as the nop and satu in Cambodia and Laos

Thai Greetings Vocabulary

  1. Respect: good opinion, honor or admiration
  2. Culture: particular habits, beliefs, values , arts and customs that characterize a society’s or people’s way of life
  3. Etiquette: customary behavior observed in social or official life
  4. Weapon: An instrument or tool used attack or defense
  5. Greeting: A conventional phrase and/or movement used to start a conversation or acknowledge a person’s arrival

All About Thai Greetings Video for Kids

Watch this awesome Thai Greeting video for kids.

A video demonstration all about Thai greetings – the different kinds of Wai for different people.

Thai Greetings Q&A

Question: Other than just saying hello or goodbye, are their other times to use a wai?

Answer: Yes. You could use a wai to express gratitude to a person or as a way to offer an apology.


Question: Are you supposed to say anything during or after offering a wai?

Answer: The wai does not require a spoken word, but often people say,”sawasdee”. This was derived from a word that means “well-being”.


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