To people in Thailand, manners and showing respect are very important. In Thai culture, older people, parents, teachers and bosses are given the most respect. One of the ways Thai people show respect is by offering a wai, or greeting. Here are the steps for 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.
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.
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
- Respect: good opinion, honor or admiration
- Culture: particular habits, beliefs, values , arts and customs that characterize a society’s or people’s way of life
- Etiquette: customary behavior observed in social or official life
- Weapon: An instrument or tool used attack or defense
- 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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