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สวัสดี (sa`-wad`-dii) is the first word you will hear from Thai people wherever you go. You’ll often also hear it as the last word of a conversation. So, สวัสดี (sa`-wad`-dii) means both Hello and Good-bye.

สวัสดี (sa`-wad`-dii) is usually followed by the particles ค่ะ khaˋ and ครับ khrabˋ for males and females respectively and usually accompanies the ไหว้ (waiˆ), the action of placing palms together in a prayer-like position in front of the chest and bowing the head. According to the tradition, a younger person is supposed to greet and waiˆ an older person first. If ages are equal or close, the rank or position is used to consider who should greet and waiˆ whom.

How low your head goes when you waiˆ also depends on your age, rank, or position. Those who are expected to greet first (the younger people, the people of lower rank) must bow their heads lower, sometimes, until their noses touch the tips of their fingers. Those who are greeted (the elders, those of higher rank) bow their heads just slightly. The rules of greeting and waiˆ-ing appropriately take time to learn. The best way to learn is to observe native speakers. The greetings and the waiˆ are also often accompanied by a smile.