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Is it polite to bow in Thailand?

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What is the Wai?

The Wai is a traditional Thai gesture used for greeting one another. It originated in the 12th century as a sign of peace, showing that one was not holding a weapon. Today, it is a symbol of respect and an integral part of Thai culture.

How to Perform the Wai

Wai Etiquette for Foreigners

As a foreigner in Thailand, it is not expected to master the nuances of the Wai. However, making an effort is always appreciated. If unsure how to respond to a Wai, a simple return gesture with a smile and nod will suffice.

Wai in Shops and Restaurants

While not required, you can reciprocate a Wai from service staff with a return gesture or a smile.

Handling Full Hands

If your hands are full and you cannot perform the Wai, a nod and slight bow or curtsy will be polite. Remember, making an effort is what matters most in Thai culture.

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