I noticed a complete difference in the way that the Thai locals interact with you when you attempt to speak their language. Plus speaking to, and understanding, locals is incredibly rewarding, they are always surprised to hear a foreigner speaking Thai and will always compliment you.
In the Thai language there is a special word used by men and women that is used at the end of each sentence or phrase as a polite ending. These are “Ka” for women, and “Krup” for men. Women and men would add these words to any sentence or phrase at the end. For example with the Thai greeting: used for both Hello and Goodbye, which is Sawadee (Suh-wa-dee) – a man would actually say: “Sawadee krup” and a woman would say: “Sawadee ka” to anyone that they wanted to greet.
I have listed a few helpful words/phrases in Thai.
Hello – Sawadee-Ka
Thank you – Kop-kun Ka
Yes – Chai
No – Mai chai (sounds like maithai)
Cheers – Chuck-dee Ka
How much? – Tow-rai?
How are you? – Sabai-dee mai?
I’m fine, thanks – Sabai-dee ka
No problem/no worries/never mind/it’s cool/you’re welcome – Mai pen rai
I understand – Kao chai
I don’t understand – Mai kao chai
What is your name? – Koon choo a-rai?
Toilet / bathroom – Hawng-nam
I’m sorry – Koh-thod ka
In Thailand the traditional greeting used when people meet is called the “Wai”. The wai is a show of respect, indicated by pressing your palms together near your chest and bowing slightly. The normal wai is with your hands pressed together at about chest level, presenting a slight bow with your body. The wai to a superior or elder is with the tips of your fingers at nose level, still bowing your body. To convey the most respect and gratitude, such as to a Monk or Buddha image, you will wai with your fingertips at forehead level and present a deeper and longer bow.
The wai is a unique, graceful action practiced throughout Thailand . It plays a very important part in showing respect and is central to Thai etiquette. When being wai-ed to, you would be considered impolite if you didn’t return or at least acknowledge the wai. At the very least, you can nod and smile. It can be difficult to determine when you should wai or when someone should wai you. If someone is older than you, then you should wai them unless they are someone whom you employ, such as a housekeeper. Additionally, you should never wai to anyone who you are paying for service, such as waiters, tailors, vendors, shopkeepers or taxi drivers.