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Salutation and greeting

Salutation and greeting

Salutation in Thailand is one of the critical issues. Traditionally, Thai people have a rather long name. For this purpose, in most cases every Thai has a nickname. You can use this in combination with a khun as a salutation for any Thai person without hesitation. Should you ever have business contact with a Thai, simply offer him the khun including your first name.

So don't be surprised if you are addressed directly by your first name. It is common for Thais to address themselves in this way, usually prefixed with the "Khun" (Mr., Mrs.).


In Thailand, however, there are other forms of address. Depending on which salutation you choose, express the social relationship with the person you are speaking to. We have listed the most important forms of address below:

  • Müng - a very strong insult when used as a salutation. Thais only use them among very close friends.
  • Gä - is only used in family circles. Outside, this form of address can be very offensive.
  • Eng - another familiar form of address with no offensive background.
  • Nu - in most cases illustrates a large age difference between women.
  • Nong - can be used when the interlocutor is younger than you.
  • Pi - the counterpart to Nong. It is used when you are a few years younger than the person you are speaking to.
  • Baa - form of address for very old women who are, however, not known.
  • Yai - salutation for the grandmother.
  • Lung - the counterpart to Baa. A form of address used for older men.
  • Dtaa - the salutation for the grandfather.
  • Khun - Generally polite form of address that can always be used.
  • Than - salutation for higher authorities such as monks

Despite the many different variants, the best form of address is still khun. You won't go wrong with this on your next visit to Thailand. The Thai people generally appreciate a well-intentioned, polite greeting.


The most traditional and Thai way of greeting is the wai. The greeting in the western sense of shaking hands is also increasingly popular in Asia, but no other greeting expresses more respect than the wai. At first glance, the wai is reminiscent of the Namaste used by Hindus in India. Basically, the Wai is subject to more precise rules when performing than the Namaste.


The wai is bowing to the other person with your hands together. But the wai is subject to certain rules. Basically, the wai is carried out first by the younger or the socially inferior person. The recipient then returns the wai. A few tricks must be observed when performing this. On the one hand, the arms are close to the body. The palms of the hands are close together and touch the body in the area of ​​the rib cage. The raising and lowering of the hands is done in a fluid and slow motion. The abrupt termination of the wai can be perceived as an insult. In general, the higher the hands are held when wai, the greater the respect and courtesy shown. So when you greet a stranger, your hands are at chest height. Should a farang - foreigner with a white skin color - come across the unexpected chance to greet a member of the Thai royal family or even the king, the wai takes place over the head.


If you greet a person sitting down, it is common to tilt your head or bend your upper body slightly forward. Whether standing, sitting, walking or lying down, the Wai can be carried out in any position. Coupled with a nice smile, you can hardly go wrong as a foreigner. Thais are toward farangs, for the most part indulgent and alone pleased with the well-meaning attempt. By the way, monks do not reciprocate the wai even to the king.