Thais greet each other with the ‘wai’ (pronounced like the word ‘why’), placing the palms of their hands together as in prayer and raising them to the level of their face whilst bowing slightly. Cambodians and Lao people also do this but they don't bow their heads down. In addition to greeting and saying goodbye, the wai is also always used when either presenting or receiving a gift. The wai is, amongst other things, a mark of respect for position and age. For Thais, different levels of the closed hands can show different degrees of respect.
As a rule, if someone wais you, you should always wai back. However, it is not considered correct to wai children or to wai someone who is thanking you for your patronage. Thais are aware that foreigners don’t use the wai and in situations where you are unsure, a nod and a smile will always pass as an acceptably polite response.
Many people in the capital speak some English, sometimes too enthusiastically as they speak so fast. However you should try to learn the basic words, but no-one expects you to learn much more than Kap-kun-kap (for men) or kap-kun-ka (for women) -Thank you, and also Sa-wa-di-kap / sa-we-di-ka Hello. Also it is very polite to put your hands together in the form of a prayer and bow slightly when greeting someone.
I love the traditional "wai" Thai greeting, accompanied by a very pleasant "sawadee ka" or "sawadee krap". It is the most comforting greeting of any culture I've ever visited. It is warm, friendly and welcoming -- so much so that it is very easy to drop into it yourself. Compare it to the traditional western greeting -- the handshake. The handshake can be brutish and coarse, often a gesture of manly intimidation rather than a true greeting. That's just as you would expect, given that it originated as a way to show that you had no weapon in your right hand. In contrast, the "wai' is almost heavenly, and even feminine, no matter whether it comes from a man or a woman (or someone who might be a little both as happens every so often in Bangkok). I lovethe "wai"
Lately while out and about I have noticed farangs wai-ing left, right and centre, and usually it's painfully misplaced.
In *general* as a tourist it isn't necessary to wai anyone and it's especially not appropriate to wai the waiter at the hotel restaurant who is just greeting you politely as a service industry thing or the cashier at Gourmet Market Place. They will wai you, but they just are greeting you as a respected customer.
I think unless you know exactly how to do it - as in how high to wai the recipient and if you do it first or last, based on their 'status' compared to yours - you should just smile sincerely and nod/quick head duck, which is impossible to get wrong. If someone is a friend or colleague or has helped you out and it feels right, then that is when to do it. When in doubt, smile and head duck - this can be applied to lots of different social situations and is good to get in the habit of doing.
I am assuming "other geographic region" to mean in Thailand.
In Thailand it is the same all over. It is a respectful greeting, or a way of saying sorry, or goodbye. Normally hands, together as in prayer, chest level just under the chin. The higher one goes the more respect you show for that person that is being greeted, such as elders or a high ranking monk or priest.
Hope that helped!
Every single Thai you meet will do the WAI to say thank you, in restaurants, hotels, shops... They really like it when you do it too, so it's a good thing to learn how to say "thank you" in Thai and do as the romans...
For men: Kop Kun Krap
For women: Kop Kun Kaa
As you know we do 'Wai' by put both of your hands on your chest and bend your head a little bit to hands.
'Wai' is for
3) Good Bye
5) Praying to the Buddha
But!!! Do you know ? We don't 'Wai' to everyone. Thai people pay respect to someone who is older as senior and we respect them as boss in a service business. So, please don't 'Wai' to anyone who is younger than you. Younger people won't feel comfortable to get your 'Wai' first. But if they do to you, you'll have to accept them back by do it the same after that.
Don't have to 'Wai' everyone who you don't know. For example; if you buy something in the shop, you don't have to 'Wai' the owner because you're the customer unless they invite you to stay over or join food with them. 'Wai' must be feeling or meaning to that person.
But whether you do right or wrong, Thai people are still happy to see you do that because we like what you try to do as our custom.
How to greet your local friends
Do it the way you wanna do. Depends how close you guys are. And depends how 'conservative' your friend is. To me (personally) I'm used to western style of greetings. Kissing on the cheeks is acceptable if you know each other well enough AND if you know that your friend is open-minded and quite a 'modern' Thai. Otherwise just shaking hands.
Even cheek-kissing. Do it just to greet your friends is OK. But romantic kiss between couples (yes, even only on the cheeks) is a NO.
What about greeting non-friends?
Don't "Wai" everyone. (See what is "Wai" here) Do that to the people they're older than you only AND they must be someone you're supposed to show respect (for example, visiting your friends' parents) But to the monks it doesn't matter how old they are. You can always "Wai" them (we do) before and after a chat (if you visit temple and have chance to talk to the monks)
To people in general (one those you're not familiar with, just a nodding or slightly bow your head is enough.
Showing affection in public
Hugging is always OK here (at least, in Bangkok) I mean a 'friendly' hug though not to romantic couples hug which you know that is not appropriate to do that in public. (behind the scene, everything goes, but keep that for your private)
Too smoochy couples are always annoying for us (yeah..fussy country) We understand that some are here for their honeymoon. But it doesn't mean we like to see people showing their affection in public especially kissing (mouth-to-mouth) is a big NO..don't do that. Please.
Holding hands? -- that's OK
Sometimes I wonder why we're so serious about this stuff. While a few blocks away there're many sexy shows out there but on the free TV even 'drinking and smoking' scenes are censored. Don't ask me why. I don't really understand that myself.
The "Wai" is when you grasp two hands together and bring them towards your chin with your head bent slightly forward. This action is used in greetings and farewells, very graceful to see and used as often as a show of respect and acknowledgement rather than as a handshake in the west.
There are quite a number of hidden “codes” involved with the wai, and it can all seem rather complicated when a local gives you the full ins and outs.
So look; DO NOT PANIC !!! As a visitor, Thai’s won’t be expecting you to get it all A1 and correct first time out. As with nearly all cultures, the fact that you are showing consideration, respect and enjoying yourself is more than enough. Getting a wai right is icing on the cake.
The person who usually gives the first wai is the one showing the respect to the other person. And the person giving the first wai will have their hands closer to their temples / nose than the person responding with their wai. (Watch out for Thais greeting each other in hotel lobbies and at airports and you'll see how it's done, and how graceful it can be. Particular cute when young kids greet their grandma.)
As a guest you will tend to get the respect shown to you. So, it is best to wait for someone else to wai you first (unless you’re meeting the Prime Minister for a few quiet beers…).
When the restaurant / hotel / shop / tailor staff do wai you, the easiest and most polite thing to do is to lob back a smile, and give a wai at the level shown by Ronald in the picture.
You’ve seen Paradorn "wai" at Wimbledon (to all four sides to show his respect). We’ve seen David Beckham "wai" at the National Stadium. There are now posters of Mr B doing his in the hut used but the security guards at our office. If you get it full on you never know, your "wai pic" might end up in the tailors... next to Kenny Rogers. Michelin Man does a good "wai" too.
Oooops, only one point, best NOT to return a Wai to a young child. Drop them a big smile instead
This is a real minefield!
The "Wai" is the Thai greeting where the hands are pressed together prayer-like and raised to chest/nose/forehead level. You will almost certainly be "wai'd" at one time or another, for example in hotels (well, the better ones!) and restaurants.
I have found from experience, advice from Thai friends etc, that a non-Thai is probably best advised generally NOT to attempt to return a "wai", but to smile and nod respectfully in return.
The "wai" is really a fiendishly complex thing, invested with fine cultural nuiances. Who wais first, if the wai is returned, the way the hands are moved together, the point the hands are brought up to (chest, face etc.) are all important.
Generally, Thai people will understand a foreigner not wai-ing. Probably better to opt out rather than risk the inevitable inappropriate or clusy wai!
The Bhuddist greeting, put your hands together as if in prayer, raise to face and bow head. It becomes automatic after a day.
It is disrespectful to pray to Bhudda with your feet pointing to wards him.
Do not expect to buy statues of Bhudda as a tourist item. They are highly respected and revered, not as a souvenir.
How to Wai: The Thai greeting is known as Wai. It involves pressing one's palms together & lifted towards the chin. Generally, the inferior party initiates the wai & holds the greeting higher & longer. The superior will then return it accordingly. The general concensus is one should not wai waiters, waitresses, street vendors & children.
A Bow with two hands together which you will put your hands infront of your chin! And say" Sawasdee!" Its a sign of respect in Thailand and people here always used that in their everyday lives!
Most of the people are very smiling, friendly, specially when you have babies with you. They're very close to babies and I think they love babies!
Most of the people can communicate with the medium of instruction which is English but if they can't say it properly, they can only understand you. In Thailand, everybodies heads are sacred so be aware not to touch their heads! Be respectful in terms of their King as they have a strong respect in it.
Try to avoid those tuk-tuks, taxi driver's in the night time as many of them will charge you hardly. If possible, ride with their BTS Sky Train.
I bowed for everything... before meals, before entering temples, when greeting people and when meeting people.
Thais greet each other with a 'wai' a prayer like, palms together gesture, not a handshake. Generally a younger person wais an elder, who then returns it.