Why do you wai?

In Thailand, handshakes are not the norm in first acquaintances or greetings.

To greet someone in Thailand, you do it with a wai. This is the polite and culturally acceptable way to say hello and goodbye.

How do you wai you ask?

Place your palms together with fingers pointed up toward heaven. The age and status of the person you’re greeting determines how high you raise your hands for a wai. If it’s a child, you don’t wai them, but you nod your head in acceptance of the wai. If it’s someone your age you wai with palms at chest level. If they are older than you or more important you raise your hands up to your nose.

When you wai, you bow/dip your head so that your nose either touches your fingers or is pointed down to your fingers. Also, you bow your upper body as you say hello, Sawadee kah.

This also applies when saying goodbye.

If you are greeting royalty or a monk the wai is different. I won’t go into that though.

You are now ready to greet someone in Thailand!


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