..that is the question.
Searching through my mental backlog of blog ideas I remembered this was one of the first I thought to write for Thai-blogs I just never got around to it 😉
The Wai is one of the most famous of symbols that people recognize as being ‘Thailand.’ To do it right is almost an art form and something that many Thais take great care to express properly and sincerely because not only is it ingrained from an early age into Thai culture it also comes from the heart and it is literally a true measure of how much respect to show someone.
From the foreigners perspective if you want to socialize in Thailand so Thai people will a) be somewhat impressed and b) prove not all farangs are uncultured bores only into Thai women (or men if the case may be) and ruining Thai culture with our western ways then take the time to learn some Ways of the Wai. Sounds cool doesn’t it?
At first glance the ‘Wai‘ looks simple and easy however to understand the rules to a proper Wai you soon realize this is no simple slick Thai style ‘handshake’ or even an exotic-cool, ala Vulcan ‘Live Long and Prosper’, salutation. Oh no. But I’ll get on with the rules alittle later, for now I’ll get on with the jokes. 😉
For me making a proper Wai was almost, if not more, nerve wrecking in the beginning learning Thai culture than trying to say maai mai mai mai mai ไม้ใหมไม่ไหม้มยั้ (a Thai tongue twister meaning “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?”) in all the right tones while learning to speak Thai !
To make things more interesting I’ll let you in on a secret. However you might imagine me to be like according to my blog personality in real life I am very much the opposite. Not shy but reserved and quiet most of the time preferring the sidelines and keeping to myself in crowds rather than draw a lot of attention. Hence my ingrained American reluctance to do something publicly that would look odd to any one other than a Thai.
But I do have my moments where you put me in the spotlight especially if I know what I am doing, or blogging about, and I can take center stage no problem! In fact I hope this will be a good skill for pursuing a future teaching career in Thailand when I finally break orbit from Planet America.
If you ever watch a Thai perform the wai it is amazing the skill they have. They can gracefully and respectfully wai carrying anything! Imagine trying to see an American do that with a mobile phone in one hand, Starbucks coffee in the other and always rushing somewhere because we Americans are always late for everything. In the beginning making my first attempts to wai I was doing good just to manage a wai with two bare empty hands but I felt so awkward and self conscious! Yes even with something as simple as pressing your palms together in greeting I would do it so fast my hands made a clapping sound and it looked like I was trying a strange new way to swat mozzies! With practice though eventually I got more smooth and graceful at it and my bathroom mirror, kitchen refrigerator and the mailbox down the street on the corner have never been shown so much respect! 😉