The “Wai”, the gesture of respect in Thai way

The “Wai” , the gesture of respect in Thai way.

Wai 2


When you first landed in to Thailand, the first gesture you could see from all the Thai people is the two hands together on the chest and saying the greeting word “Sawaddee” to welcome you into our country, Thailand , the land of smile. All people in Thailand are always using this gesture for greeting. However the “wai” has more meaning than you think.  The way Thai do has different level of doing the “Wai” for different occasion. This kind of gesture has pass from generation to generation as the way to keep our Thai tradition as well.

The level of doing the “Wai” has used in different situation. Let’s see how it works:-

  • If you are younger than someone, your palms are  usually on your upper chest and bow you head down  a bit to show your respect to the person. Your index fingers are touching your nose.
  • If you are the same ages , your palms are usually on your upper chest and smile on your face. Your index fingers mostly around your chin.
  • If you are older than someone, your palm are usually on your chest only to accept them and in return way.
  • If you are showing respect to the monks , your palms are usually up on your face and your  thumbs are touching between the space of your eyebrow.
  • The last gesture mostly uses in the spacial occasion in the important ceremony for the King and  Royal the  family which your palms would raise up high above your head to show the highly respect.

The “Wai” is not only for greeting way in Thailand however it is also the way you could show your gratitude and your condolence and apologize. With the same position you could add the word to show how you feel at that moment as well.

  • If you want to greet someone, you could do the “Wai” and say ” Sawaddee Ka” ( if you are a lady) or Sawaddee Krup” ( if you are a man).
  • If you want to say thank you and show your gratitude to someone , you could do the “Wai” and say ” Khob Khoon” or ” Khob Khun”. You could say “ka” or “krup “to make the sentence more polite as well as the word ” Please” in English.
  • If you want to show your condolence or apologize, with the same gesture , you could say ” Khor Thod” or ” Sia Jai ” and add the word “ka” or”krup” at the end of the sentence to make it more polite.

The “Wai” is only one action but very meaningful in different situation in Thai culture. As you travelling in Thailand, it is very lovely way to do to the Thai. Then you could see their smiles on their faces to admire that you are learning and practicing the Thai way





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