Complete guide to do traditional Thai greeting “Wai” properly.

Learn how to greet, apologize and even bid someone goodbye with proper etiquette.

If you are visiting Thailand for the first time, you might be intrigued to see people greeting you or each other by folding their hands. It does look similar to Indian Namaste, but it is not so. Wai comes with its own set of rules and etiquettes. Interestingly, “Wai” is done with the phrase “Sawasdee” and this phrase was commonly used in the year 1943! So, let’s have a look at some of the things we must keep in mind while doing “Wai”.

What is the “Wai”?

The Thai “Wai” is more or less pronounced as the English word “Why”. It is the traditional way of greeting people in Thailand.  But you cannot go and do “Wai” in front of everyone and anyone. The best thing for a foreigner or a tourist will be to answer with “Wai” if someone greets you with one. As there are a lot of rules and etiquettes that comes with “Wai”, so try not to be the first person to perform “Wai”. Wai is followed by a verbal greeting which is Sawasdee which loosely translates to hello. Men and Women have a different way of saying Sawasdee. Men say sahwah dee Khrap (please note that it should be short and crisp in pronunciation), whereas women say sahwah dee Khaa (the sound should be a bit drawn out).

 When should we “Wai”?

Wai is not just the Thai way of greeting each other; it is also a way of apologizing, thanking others and even saying goodbye in Thailand. Many Thai even perform “Wai” while they pass through temples, shrines and even in front of King’s portrait. People generally “Wai” Buddhist monks, and they don’t return it because they are high up in the social hierarchy so, they are not expected to return the “Wai”.

How to “Wai”?

You must hold your hand in a way that all your fingers and palm are touching each other like how you do in “Namaste”. Now, bring the folded hand to your chest and bow your head. Your head must bow in a way that your index finger touches your nose. Remember not to bow with your body but with your neck. Traditionally, men and women “Wai” is a bit different way. Women bend their knees too, whereas men just bend their heads slightly.

Lastly, always put on your brightest and biggest smile while greeting someone with a “Wai”.

Priyadarshini Kaul

Priyadarshini Kaul Mishra has two Master’s Degrees in English Literature and History. She is actively following her passion for the language by being a content creator since many years now. Besides this, Priyadarshini is a true bookworm at heart and tries to be an avid reader despite being a full-time mother now. She is also a professionally certified baker and puts on the oven mitts every now and then.
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