>Why Wai?

>The other night Aon, Ya and I were talking about how confusing it can be to speak two languages. I mentioned to them that sometimes they speak English without realizing it and they pointed out to me that sometimes I speak Thai without realizing it. It is a strange thing when you brain starts thinking in two languages and you no longer automatically differentiate between the two. At this point I told them a story that occurred last Sunday at church and they could not stop laughing at me. Before I tell you the story though, I have to teach you a bit about the “wai.”

The wai occurs when you put your two hand together in front of your chest like the photo below.
The wai occurs when greeting someone, saying goodbye or thank you and to show respect. Thais don’t shake hands or kiss on the cheek or any of the other western traditions, we wai. And there are many different forms of it, depending on the amount of respect you want to show. Overall, it is an important part of life and is done repeatedly every day.

Even Ronald McDonald does it.

It is such a normal part of life that the wai along with the head bow comes just as easily as smiling. Lately I’ve been having trouble speaking all in English or all in Thai. And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes I think I’m speaking in English but it is coming out in Thai. This confusion is now spreading to my wais…

On Sunday I walked into church and on my way to sit down, I passed a Thai friend and a few steps later, I passed an American friend. Passing the Thai friend, I waved and said “hello.” Passing the American friend, I did the wai and said “sa wat dee ka.” I stood there for a moment in confusion then continued on to my chair with both friends laughing at me as I went. Of course, Aon and Ya thought this was hilarious when I shared it with them and they laughed for quite a while.
I’m still just shaking my head and wondering if the confusion ever ends… 🙂


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