The Wai in Thai Culture: Greeting, Status-Marking and National Identity Functions

Larry Powell (1) , Jonathan Amsbary (2) , Mark Hickson (3)
(1) Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham , United States
(2) Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham , United States
(3) Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham , United States

Abstract

This study examined the role of the Wai from the perspective of people in Thailand. The Wai, the most common greeting used by natives of Thailand, consists of bringing one’s palms together while bowing or dipping one’s head. Data, gathered by having participants write an essay on the role of the Wai in Thailand, were subjected to content analysis. The analysis indicated that the Wai serves at least five functions in Thai society – utilitarian, status, nationalistic, personal enhancement, and religious functions. Subcategories of behaviors range from using the Wai to appease a bully to its use in religious rituals. These results reflect the complex nature of using and interpreting nonverbal behavior in a high context culture. The results also support the already well documented role of the Wai in terms of status.

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Authors

Larry Powell
lpowell@uab.edu (Primary Contact)
Jonathan Amsbary
Mark Hickson
Author Biographies

Larry Powell, Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham

Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at UAB (University of Alabama B Birmingham)

Jonathan Amsbary, Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham

Jonathan Amsbary is an Associate Professor in the same department.

Mark Hickson, Department of Communication Studies , UAB University of Alabama at Birmingham

Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at UAB (University of Alabama B Birmingham)

Powell, L., Amsbary, J., & Hickson, M. (2014). The Wai in Thai Culture: Greeting, Status-Marking and National Identity Functions. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 14(1), 1–07. https://doi.org/10.36923/jicc.v14i1.669

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