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Thai Wai Gesture Recognized as National Identity: A Cultural Triumph

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A teacher, a student, and the student’s guardian exchange wai greetings at Banbangkapi School in January. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

In a move set to underscore cultural pride and uniqueness, the cabinet has agreed to elevate the traditional “wai” gesture as a national identity for greetings and expressions of respect. Deputy government spokesman Karom Phonphonklang shared the news, highlighting that although the roots of the “wai” trace back to Hindu and Buddhist traditions from India, the Thais have given their own distinctive twist to this beautiful gesture.

To perform a “wai,” practitioners ensure their palms are straight with all fingers aligned closely together. The palms are then pressed together, drawing both hands up towards the chin, nose, the middle of the eyebrows, or chest, accompanied by a slight bow of the head. This act serves as a versatile greeting and symbol of respect towards juniors, seniors, peers, and esteemed monks, making it more than just a gesture—it’s a communication art form.

Karom elaborated, “The Thai wai is a deeply ingrained social and traditional expression that has seamlessly integrated into the Thai way of life over the ages.” He emphasized the gesture’s profound significance, noting, “It reflects the inherent goodness and genuine feelings of the person who performs it.”


  1. Samantha June 11, 2024

    It’s wonderful that Thailand is preserving this beautiful tradition. The wai gesture is such an elegant way to show respect.

    • Mike84 June 11, 2024

      But don’t you think elevating a gesture to a national identity is a bit excessive? It’s just a way to say hello.

      • Samantha June 11, 2024

        It’s more than a hello, Mike. It’s about the cultural significance and the values it represents.

      • Sarah L June 11, 2024

        I agree with Samantha. The wai is packed with cultural meaning and historical context. It’s more than just a handshake.

  2. Anant Singh June 11, 2024

    This announcement is a very positive move for Thailand. National symbols are vital for cultural identity.

  3. grower134 June 11, 2024

    Honestly, who cares? It’s just a gesture. People overthink these things.

    • Chris P. June 11, 2024

      Not everyone has to get it, grower134. Cultural gestures like the wai encapsulate centuries of tradition.

    • Patricia S June 11, 2024

      Exactly, Chris. We should respect cultural symbols even if we don’t fully understand them.

  4. Thip K June 11, 2024

    As a Thai, I’m very proud of this decision! The wai is a big part of our daily lives.

    • Jonathan June 11, 2024

      That’s amazing, Thip. I visited Thailand once and the wai made me feel very welcomed.

      • Thip K June 11, 2024

        Glad to hear that, Jonathan! It’s a gesture we cherish and perform with sincerity.

  5. Lee Davidson June 11, 2024

    It’s great to see countries taking pride in their unique traditions. The wai signifies respect and humility.

  6. Lucas B. June 11, 2024

    Does it mean tourists need to do the wai too? What if we do it wrong?

    • Pimchai June 11, 2024

      As a Thai, we appreciate the effort! Don’t worry about getting it perfect; the intention is what matters.

      • Lucas B. June 11, 2024

        Thanks, Pimchai. That takes the pressure off. I’ll give it a try next time I’m there.

  7. Dr. McAllister June 11, 2024

    This is a solid step towards preserving intangible cultural heritage. Language and gestures like the wai should be encouraged worldwide.

  8. Ravi June 11, 2024

    The wai is rooted in ancient traditions. It’s fascinating to see how cultures adapt traditions over time.

  9. Monica L June 11, 2024

    I read about the wai in a book about Thai customs. It’s amazing how much cultural significance a single gesture can hold.

    • historybuff21 June 11, 2024

      That’s true, Monica. Gestures like the wai often tell a story of the people and their values.

  10. Tom Hanks47 June 11, 2024

    It’s kind of hypocritical, don’t you think? Governments talk about tradition but focus on economic modernization.

    • Jimbo June 11, 2024

      I don’t think it’s hypocrisy. It’s possible to embrace tradition while still advancing economically.

    • Cynthia June 11, 2024

      Good point, Jimbo. Tradition and modernity can coexist and even complement each other.

  11. Emily T June 11, 2024

    Could this move lead to other countries reconsidering their own traditional gestures?

    • Markus June 11, 2024

      Possibly. It’s a reminder to cherish and preserve one’s own cultural heritage.

  12. Cam June 11, 2024

    The wai as a national symbol is a nice touch, but what practical effects will it have?

    • Asha June 11, 2024

      It boosts cultural pride and promotes Thailand on the international stage. It’s more about the message.

  13. Peter June 11, 2024

    Will this change how the wai is used in everyday life or is it just symbolic?

  14. Leng S June 11, 2024

    It’s beautiful how a small gesture can represent so much history and respect. Proud to see Thailand honor it this way.

  15. Stacy Barnes June 11, 2024

    I wish more countries took similar steps to honor their traditions. The world needs more of this cultural appreciation.

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