, a wai
is the usual greeting
for social and business occasions, used upon meeting or running into someone as a gesture of mutual respect
. A more formal version of this greeting, used to address Very Important Person
s is called the khrap
. Where a Thai
to one's boss or parents, a khrap
is reserved intensely respected people, such as monk
s, the King
, an image of the Buddha
, your corporation's president, etc. Also, prayer is always opened by with the khrap
. Unlike a wai
, in which both participants eventually make the gesture, the motions of a khrap
are done only by the person who is paying respect.
Before you kneel to perform a khrap, make sure your body is aligned so your feet won't be pointing directly at anybody, as this is considered rude. Once you're kneeling, hold your hands together in a praying position and bring their fingertips up to your forehead. Then, as one smooth motion, bend at your waist to the ground, and as the edges of your hands would touch the ground, fold them out flat. Done right, your hands should be flat on the ground, palms down, and your forehead should rest lightly on the knuckles of your fingers. This movement -- which should ideally be well practiced and fluid -- is repeated three times as a symbol of the Triple Gem of Buddhism.
It bears mention that the word khrap can be appended to spoken sentences to put them in a polite context. The all-purpose Thai phrase for hello, good morning, good night, good bye, and so forth is sawaddi khrap. Phrases for thank you and no thank you are both usually suffixed with khrap to show that the speaker has not been offended in any way. For best pronunciation, the r in khrap should be trilled slightly, though young people can get away with not pronouncing the r at all, so the syllable is khap. I've also been informed that in Bangkok (and thus probably in many other cities and areas) the khap pronunciation is universal. Note that khrap is the male pronunciation of the politeness suffix, a female should say kha in the same places. For a more lucid and in-depth explanation of Thai pronunciation, see Thailand is not pronounced Thighland.