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Thai Wai: Forming a Respectful Connection in Thai Corporate Culture



In Asian corporate culture, it's quite frequent to demonstrate one's respect through greetings. Perhaps the most famous such greeting is India's namaste, although in this article the focus will be on another country: Thailand. There, the people use their own greeting, known as wai.


The wai is a graceful gesture performed by pressing the palms of the hands together at chest level, accompanied by a slight bow. It's a deeplysymbolic gesture, speaking volumes about Thailand's cultural ethos. In Thai society, the wai is an embodiment of the values of hierarchy, gratitude, and harmony. It's frequently employed as a greeting but also to express gratitude or to apologize.

Within the context of Thai corporate culture, the wai serves as a bridge between individuals and organizations. It symbolizes a shared commitment to uphold respect, both towards colleagues and superiors. In the corridors of office complexes and boardrooms alike, the wai fosters an environment of mutual understanding and cohesion.

At its core, the wai signifies humility and gratitude. By performing the gesture, employees acknowledge the guidance and opportunities provided by their superiors. This acknowledgment fosters a sense of unity, where every individual's contribution is recognized as part of a collective effort towards a shared goal. In this way, the wai is not just a mere action, but a conduit for gratitude to flow through the veins of the organization.

Moreover, the wai reinforces the concept of harmony within Thai corporate culture. It underscores the importance of smooth interactions and relationships, highlighting the importance of respecting the hierarchy within the workplace and the corporate ladder. In fact, the depth of the bow conveys a difference in age, rank or social standing. From negotiating deals to collaborating on projects, the wai creates an atmosphere of cooperation, facilitating effective communication and understanding.

In an era marked by global connectivity, Thai corporations have embraced the wai  not only as a symbol of cultural identity but also of respect. Beyond Thailand, the wai stands as a testament to the country's commitment to fostering respectful partnerships on the international stage. By introducing foreign partners and clients to the wai, Thai corporations extend an olive branch, showing their goodwill.

In conclusion, the Thai wai is more than a gesture. It's a cornerstone of Thai corporate culture and etiquette. It embodies the values of hierarchy, gratitude, and harmony, promoting an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration.


By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC

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