Thailand: First Name or Title?

2015-06-12

Addressing others with respect

If you wish to include a bit of Thai culture into your daily life, the easiest [and safest] way is to use ‘Khun’ as a prefix, instead of Mr and Ms when addressing people. It can be used for both males and females. For example, a 30 year old female, Amporn Duangchit [first name, surname], will simply be Khun Amporn. Every Thai has a nickname, and once you are more familiar with people it is usual for them to encourage you to call them by their nickname instead of their first name. Most Thai nicknames are single syllable words they are given from birth and can be Thai or English words, colours, fruits, or shortenings of their first name. To keep things a little formal, it is still acceptable to call your colleague ‘Khun Chai’ instead of ‘Khun Somchai.’

Also note that Thais will tend to translate Khun David to be Mr. David when dealing with foreigners, rather than Mr. Smith.

Thais typically don’t add a specific title based on the job or qualification. Dr. is really the only exception, in which case it’s Dr. [First name]. Engineers are still Khun [First name].

Useful Thai Phrases

There are several useful Thai phrases that may be used on a regular basis: [note: men finish sentences with ‘khrap,’ while women finish sentences with ‘ka’]

Sawadee khrap / ka Hello / Goodbye

Sabaai dee mai khrap / ka How are you?

Sabaai dee khrap / ka I’m fine, thank you

Ko-toad khrap / ka I’m sorry / excuse me

Mai pen lai khrap / ka It’s ok / it doesn’t matter

Aroi mak khrap / ka It’s delicious!

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