A guide to Thai culture: How to Wai

Are you new to this land of the smiles and want to learn how the local normally greet each other on the street or even on the social function? Then this article will help you to understand and learn how to do it like a Thai.

How do Thai greet each other?

Thailand has a beautiful culture and tradition that have an essence in giving respect to the elders. To be able to blend in seamlessly, you need to know that there are some levels of seniority in Thai society and that they greet each other based on that matter using Wai as a mean of greeting or to say hi.

What is a Wai?

Wai is an action where the performer will put the hands together and rest them in front of the chest. Locals perform Wai to greet those who have more senior level than them.

If you already know the Thai way of saying hi is “Sawadee”, you probably know that Wai comes in a package with the word Sawadee. In short, you will normally say Sawadee while performing Wai.

How to Wai?

Like we mentioned before, to Wai is to put your hands together and rest them in front of your chest – that’s a ready pose. After that bend your head a bit with the two hands remain the same while saying Sawadee.

Don’t over do it bending your elbows far from your body. Keep the arms relaxed and close to the body for a more natural Wai.

When to Wai?

Thai people perform Wai when they want to greet someone older or respectable. So, basically, you will have to Wai when you want to say hi and when you want to say bye.

If someone Wai you first, you should return the Wai without bending your head.

Who to Wai?

One thing you should know is that you don’t perform Wai to anyone you just met on the street. As mentioned before, you only perform Wai to someone who is older than you or respectable such as a teacher, a policeman, a politician and so on.

Some tips

  • Do not Wai to any kids. You only do that when they Wai you first, which in you return you Wai without bending the head.
  • Do not Wai those who have lower social status than you. For example, don’t Wai your junior staff under your supervision or you don’t Wai your maid.

The same, but on an image

We have prepared this image so you can learn everything you need to know about Wai very easily.

How to Wai

Now you should master the skill of greeting like a Thai. As you can see, it is not difficult at all.



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