A leading international academic and research nursing institution.

Cultural Customs

Cultural Customs

Social Gestures

The Wai-

Traditionally, Thai people greet each other not with a handshake but with a prayer-like palms-together gesture known as a Wai. The hands are placed together and raised upwards towards the face while the head is lowered with a slight bow. The distinction between the various forms of the wai pay reference to the belief that the head is the most sacred point on the body, and the height to which the hands are held depends on the status of the people involved and this placement of the Wai indicates the level of respect the gesture conveys.

     -A wai with the fingertips at the forehead is reserved for monks and royalty.
     -A wai with the fingertips at nose-level is reserved for older people and people of social status and authority.
     -A wai with the fingertips at chin-level or chest-level is most common form of wai and is used with people of the same age or status.

The Smile

Thailand has been long considered the “Land of Smiles.” You will quickly discover that this is true. In Thailand, a smile is a natural part of life and also serves several social functions. Thais smile to:
     - show amusement
     - excuse
     - thank
     - side-step (conflict avoidance)
     - show embarrassment

“Phi” & “Nong”

Thai society takes a keen interest in the relations between people. This applies in particular to the relationships within the family, but the idea of “family” is extended beyond one’s own blood relatives to include others one comes into contact with. This is why people who are actually not related can address each other as “phi” (elder brother/sister) or “nong” (younger brother/sister), depending on their age.


Back to top