Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The wai to go in Thailand

You don't last long in a new country unless you can adapt to the environment, in that respect it is quite challenging for anyone who has lived most of their life in their home country.

Thailand is a unique country in many ways, which make adapting here a little tricky.

Even McDonalds has had to adapt its brand to Thailand. Here is Ronald McDonald greeting his customers with a Thai wai, the greeting used in everyday life.

No handshakes or kisses in public in Thailand, the wai is used to greet and also when parting from company. It is show of respect made by pressing your palms together near your chest and bowing.

I still find good old Ronnie's wai very amusing but it is significant as it typifies the lengths businesses must go to in order to acclimatize and succeed in the Thai market. The main factor to adjust to is the language but the culture, such as the wai, is important too. These are the very same factors which farangs (foreigners) come to terms with too.

More on the wai here at 1st Stop Chiang Mai website.


Peter said...

Yes, what you say is true. The problem with the Thai Wai as far as visitors are concerned is that they do not understand the full significance of the Wai. Many times I have seen Foreigners wai taxi drivers and waitresses and the like which just causes embarrased laughter. To the visitor, a wai is just like a handshake but to the Thai it is an expression of the perceived class status between 2 individuals.
This is something that the Foreigner can never really get to grips with.

Jon said...

Hi Peter,

Absolutely spot on with your assessment. The issue here is understanding Thai culture. They cut out the meaningless pleasantries of the English language. When you are in polite in Thai it has to fit the occasion and really mean it.