If you do not know yet, Thai people are one of the friendliest people you’ll ever encounter, so if you’re traveling to Thailand, you would definitely enjoy the warm hospitality from the locals.
We have covered a lot of things culture-wise in this blog, such as how to appropriately dress if you’re planning to visit temples, what not to do in Thailand, how to bow, and what to know before your visit.
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about Thailand, its culture, and its people, you’re probably wondering how to return their kindness with a simple hello. We’ll cover the basic but widely used Thai greeting in this post and how to say hello in Thai as well as how to respond to their greetings.
Thai Greeting: How to Say Hello in Thai
A lot of foreigners get so nervous when it comes to communication in Thailand as, from hindsight, it looks like an alien language due to their use of a different script. However, don’t fret, you can easily kindly say hello to the locals with just simple and easy to pronounce Thai greetings!
Sawasdee, pronounced sah-wah-dee followed by a gender-specific ending (-Kha or khrap) to make it more polite is the basic Thai greeting you can use to say hello at any time of the day! Sawasdee is also used to say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. So, regardless of the time of the day, you can greet anyone with it!
Greeting endings: -Kha or -Khrap
If you want to be polite, you can add the following ending after your Thai greeting, sawadee:
- -kha – pronounced as kaa with a prolonged ‘a’ for a female ending
- -khrap – pronounced quite similar to the English word “cup” but with a little emphasis on the ‘c’ and a sharp finish on the ‘p’. It should sound more like “c-hap” or, as many say, like crap but without the ‘r.’
So, when you want to say hello politely, you’ll say it like these:
- Sawasdee kha (sah-wah-dee-kaa) – for the ladies
- Sawasdee khap (sah-wah-dee-kap) – for the gents
Wai or Thai bow
Wai, as we discussed in detail in this post, is the famous Thai respectful bow that usually accompanies your Thai greeting “Sawasdee”. In a nutshell, you should bow, nod your head, or put your hands in a prayer position placed in front of your chest (placement depends on who you’re greeting) and say Sawasdee -kha or -khrap all at the same time.
Here are the basic bow or wai to accompany your sawasdee:
- Slight bow with hands in prayer position in front of your chest is usually for anyone who is older than you or anyone you want to give respect. You don’t give a wai to anyone younger than you, a slight nod is acceptable.
- Slight bow with hands in a prayer position and the tips of your thumb touches your chin are given to anyone with a higher position than you or anyone older you want to give more respect than just a simple hello.
- Slight bow with hands in a prayer position and the tips of your thumb touches the tip of your nose is often given to Monks. They don’t have to return your greeting or your wai.
- Bow with hands in a prayer position and placed as high as your forehead is often given to the King and the Royal Family.
How are you?
If you want to take your Thai greeting beyond hello or Sawasdee, you can move forward by asking a local how they are. In essence, the most basic way to ask someone how they are in Thai is Sabai dee mai, pronounced sah-bye-dee-may, followed by the gender endings -Kha or -khrap.
If you ask someone Sabai dee mai, you’re not exactly asking them how are they doing, but rather, are they either relaxed, good, happy, or not feeling well.
How to respond
If someone asked you Sabai dee mai, you could respond with the following:
- Sabai dee (say-bye-dee) – good, is doing well
- Sabai sabai (sah-bye-sah-bye) – relaxed
- Or Mai sabai (mai-sah-bye) – not good, not feeling well