25 Feb 2015 | From Film of Thailand
The Thai greeting referred to as the wai consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. The higher the hands are held in relation to the face and the lower the bow, the more respect or reverence the giver of the wai is showing. The wai is traditionally observed upon entering formally a house. After the visit is over, the visitor asks for permission to leave and repeats the salutation made upon entering. The wai is also common as a way to express gratitude or to apologise.
The word often spoken with the wai as a greeting or farewell is sawatdi (sometimes romanized as sawasdee or sawatdee). The word sawatdi is usually followed by kha when spoken by a female and by khrap when spoken by a male person. Waiing remains to this day an extremely important part of social behavior among Thais, who are very sensitive to their self-perceived standing in society. Foreign tourists and other visitors unaccustomed to the intricacies of Thai language and culture should not wai someone younger than them except in return for their wai. However, one should always return a wai that is offered as a sign of respect. Corporate wais, such as those performed by convenience store cashiers, can generally be 'returned' with a smile or a nod.