When you are in Thailand, do you do the ‘wai’?

When travelling to Thailand, you would be welcomed by a friendly “Wai” greeting – one traditional Thai cultural communication. Unlike other countries in Southeast Asia region, Thailand impresses tourists by this most special greeting style.

The Thai people greet each other with a gesture called a “Wai” whenever they meet or leave someone. The “Wai stemmed from India that was adopted then by Buddhists and now has become the standard gesture of the followers of Buddhism throughout the world. This greeting style consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. The higher the hands are put and the lower the bow is, the more respect or reverence is showed to the receiver of “wai”. Predominantly Buddhist, Thais are known to perform the “Wai” more neatly and gracefully than most of others. Read more: Travel to Thailand

Thais’ gesture of greeting
Thais’ gesture of greeting

Generally, the youngers “wai” the olders or “wai” someone highly respected but there is a little bit difference between male and female. While men bow slightly, raise the hands and bend the head until the forefingers touch the part of the face between the eyebrows; so do women but they need to bend the knees contemporarily.

The gesture of paying respect to a senior
The gesture of paying respect to a senior

However, when meeting someone who is equal in age or social status, instead of touching the part of the face between eyebrows, males touch the tip of the nose. Females also raise the hands to the same position; nevertheless, they can chose to bend the knees or just bend the head like men. Sometimes, to “wai” the one who is younger might make that person feels uneasy. Moreover, it is advised not to “wai” a stranger. You should make sure that the person you meet is one who deserves your respect.

The gesture of greeting someone who is equal in age or social status
The gesture of greeting someone who is equal in age or social status

The “Wai” should look elegant if the doer performs gently and respectably. And when “waied”, the receiver is supposed to return the “Wai” to the giver. A “Wai” in return is polite, no matter who the other side may be.  But, it is not your fault when you fail to wai if you are a foreigner, tourist or one who has no idea about this custom.

Wai is Thai traditional way of greeting which represents manner and friendliness. Now, let’s trip to Thailand and “wai” to this beautiful country.

The Indochina Voyages team.

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