Thailand: Public Behaviour – Part 2

2015-06-12

The wai

To Wai or Not to Wai

If you are visiting a company with Thai colleagues they will wai [the traditional Thai greeting] the host of the meeting who will return the wai. As a foreigner be prepared to either wai or shake hands, especially if you are dealing with someone who is working at an international company or has travelled abroad before. The best way to deal with this is to follow the lead of the host–the large majority will shake your hand after waiing the Thais in the room. It is very rare to both wai and then shake hands with the same person.

If your host does wai you then you should definitely wai that person in return.

To wai, bring your palms together and your elbows in to your waist, and then raise your palms to be at the same height as your chin. It is also good to bow your head slightly at the same time, and when waiing older people, to remember to lower your head more than usual.

Do not wai children, waiters, taxi drivers, maids, or other service staff.

Don’t panic if senior staff do not wai in return, as it is unusual for older people to wai younger people in return. The most common response would be a simple nod of acknowledgement.

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