What is better than a warm greeting from a friend? It is great to hear them say hello after a long day at work. Wouldn’t it be even better if strangers also gave you a kind greeting? That is why it is so important to learn to greet people before you leave for your travels.
Learning to say ‘hello’ in Thai or any language is just as important as learning to say ‘thank you’, as you will be saying it to everyone you meet. Here are a few words and phrases that you can use to make the best first impression and bring a smile to peoples faces.
So let’s start with a basic ‘hello’. This is what you would use everyday when meeting people:
The word for ‘hello’ is sa wat dii.
Males: sa wat dii krap (สวัสดี ครับ)
Females: sa wat dii ka (สวัสดี ค่ะ)
As you can see, things are a bit different from English. As we learnt before when we looked at the Thai language, there are polite words that apply based on the gender of the speaker. Other than that, it should be quite easy to remember. It can be used in place of good morning, good afternoon and good evening too. Were you worried that Thai would be difficult?
This basic form of hello is pretty much universal. In most situations, whether talking to a shop keeper, friends or family, it would be seen as appropriate. This makes it a good go-to if you have any worries.
Ok, so how exactly do you say hi in Thai? That is a bit more casual and less of a mouth full, after all. Well, you may be surprised but the idea of shortening the word is actually done in Thai too. While there is no exact match for hi, this is probably the closest to its meaning.
The equivalent for ‘hi’ in Thai is wat dii (หวัดดี)
Again, you can add the polite words to the end. That would make this almost as polite as the word for hello, but just slightly less formal.
Now is probably a good time to introduce the wai (ไหว้). When people ask how to say hello in Thai, they should also consider the non-verbal ways.
The wai is the action of putting your hands together and lifting them up to your face, most commonly when saying hello and goodbye. It is derived from the same background as the Hindu namaste greeting.
You are not expected to do this all the time. You wouldn’t wai to your friends who you see often, for example. If someone does it to you, then that is probably the time to do it. You can use the wai in place of saying hello or goodbye as well. If you are in a situation where it is inappropriate to talk or otherwise make noise, a wai would be a polite way to greet others in Thailand.
Think of it as an alternative to waving to your friends, but a bit more formal, conservative, and respectful. Of course, there are other ways you can greet people, depending on your relationship and how close you are with them.
Now is probably a good time to introduce the wai. The wai is the action of putting your hands together and lifting them up to your face, most commonly when saying hello and goodbye. You are not expected to do this all the time. If someone does it to you then that is probably the time to do it.
Of course, there are other ways you can greet people, depending on your relationship and how close you are with them.
If you are getting tired of saying ‘Sa wat dee’ to everyone, you can try mixing it up a little with these alternatives.
Sa bai dii reu (สบายดีหรือ)
While this means ‘how are you?’ which usually comes after the hello, you can just start things off by asking this.
Pen yang ngai bang (เป็นยังไงบ้าง)
This is a much more informal greeting - closer to ‘what’s up?’ - that should only be used between friends. You would sound really cool saying it though.
Some of these greetings are best used in certain situations, so make sure you remember the best times and places to use them. When in doubt, you are probably best to stick with the regular hello, especially if you think you might cause offence, However, I’m sure whoever you are talking to will be shocked that you are able to greet them beyond the basic ‘hello’.
While a simple hello is timeless and can be used whenever, there are some greetings that can be used at specific times of day. You know what I mean, things like ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ and ‘good night’.
Essentially, you are taking the word foe hello in Thai and adding ‘tohn’ (ตอน ), which means ‘at’ followed by the word for the time of day. If you look back at telling the time in Thai, you should recognize some of the words here. You may also remember that Thai people are a bit more strict when they use these words. Let’s start from the beginning of the day:
Sa wat dii tohn chao (สวัสดีตอนเช้า)
To say good morning in Thai, you take the word for hello and add ‘dtorn chao’ (ตอนเช้า). The word ‘chao’ (เช้า) means morning.
Sa wat dii tohn bai (สวัสดีตอนบ่าย)
This is the word for good afternoon in Thai. The word ‘bai’ (โมง) here means, as you may have guessed, afternoon.
Sa wat dii tohn yen (สวัสดีตอนเย็น)
This means good evening in Thai, where the word ‘yen’ (ย็น) means late afternoon/evening.
You should know however that there are formal varieties of these words, though it is quite rare for Thai people to actually use these phrases in place of hello. They are usually reserved for use in official capacities like on the news rather than in everyday speech.
What do you say when you answer the phone?
Now this is an interesting question. When using messaging apps or on the phone, people often use different greetings. Well, what I have found is that when picking up the phone, many people actually use the word hello in Thai but with an accent.
Ha lor (ฮัลโหล)
This would be used when answering a phone call when more in a non-working environment. If using a phone at work, they would use the more polite/professional sound ‘sa wat dee’.
When messaging with friends, they also tend to use some of the English varieties of hello.
Hey (เฮ้ )
The word for hey in Thai is quite common for messages as it is short. It’s the same reason we use it in English.
Unfortunately, with every ‘hello’ there is a ‘goodbye’. These are just as important as greetings as it lets them know that you are going. If you were worried that it would be a complicated phrase that you would need to remember, then good news. To say ‘goodbye’, you use the same words as ‘hello’.
Goodbye in Thai is ‘sa wat dii’
I am sure you are happy to hear that you don’t need to worry about mixing the words up. There are other ways to say goodbye too. Again, these are dependent on the situation you are in.
Laew phob gan mai na (แล้วพบกันใหม่นะ)
This one is a bit of a mouth full. It translates more like ‘see you again’ and so is more light hearted.
Laa gon (ลาก่อน)
This one is best used when you will not see the person for a long time, if ever again. It is quite a sad thing to have to say.
So, there are the many ways to greet people and say goodbye in the Thai Language. It shouldn’t be too difficult to learn and get used to. You will be saying them a lot, after all, as Thai people are very kind. Just make sure you remember those polite words and you should be fine.
To fully prepare yourself for your travels or work abroad, you can use the Ling Thai app. Try it today to push yourself and practice the language. You should feel more confident to use you new found Thai skills.