A different “wai” of greeting
Thailand is a country with a high power distance. For example: parents are superior to their children, teachers to their students, and bosses to their subordinates. The power distance is also noticeable in the way they greet each other. The greeting is done with a bow, which is called the wai. This bow is performed differently to people of a different status. For example, someone with a lower status than the other performs the wai first and bows with their hands held higher than the person witha higher status. If the person has a very high status, like a monk or a king, the wai won’t even be returned.
When Thais meet a stranger, they will immediately try to place them within a hierarchy so they know how they should be treated. This is often done by asking what might be seen as very personal questions in other cultures. Status can be determined by appearance, clothing, age, job, social connections, family name, and education.
Family is important
Thailand is also a country that has a high collectivism. Family, for example, is very important in Thailand. They also prefer to be in groups instead of on their own.
Non-verbal communication is also very important in Thailand. Sometimes it can be even more important than verbal communication. This can confuse a lot of tourists, because even though they say yes, their body language can say something completely different.
A smile is more than one emotion
When it comes to Thai, non-verbal communication, there are a couple of things that are good to know
- In Thailand, the head is considered sacred, so it is very disrespectful to pass anything over someone’s head. The feet on the other hand, are seen as the lowest point of your body, and as unclean. So pointing your feet at someone or using your feet to move certain things are very rude.
- A smile can also be used for more than just one emotion. It can be a thank you, an apology, a greeting, or to show embarrassment. Like it was said before, this can confuse a lot of foreigners. Their reassuring smile doesn’t mean that you will get what you want, it can simply be a way of maintaining harmony.