You may see this written as sawasdee, sawatdii or a number of different ways. It’s a greeting that can be used to say hello, good day, good morning, good afternoon and goodbye, so it’s a useful word to learn. Always say sawatdee in conjunction with the polite article, khap or ka (see number 2 below). Females say sawatdee ka and males say sawatdee khap.
Khap and Ka
This is a polite syllable that has no real direct translation in English. Men say khap (sometimes khrap, but in everyday speech it usually becomes khap) and women say ka. If you listen to Thai people speak you will hear it frequently at the end of sentences. Its use denotes manners and respect, so get in the habit of using it if you are learning any Thai even if it’s just for your 2 week holiday or vacation. There is a Thai word for please, but it isn’t used in the same context as it is in English. For example, if you are at a restaurant and you want to say ‘the bill please’ you would say ‘kep tang khap’ (if you are a man) and ‘kep tang ka’ if you are a woman.
Another greeting you will hear a lot is sabai dii. A person may ask you ‘Sabai dii mai?’ (‘How are you/Are you well?’). Khap or ka may be added on to this so you may hear ‘Sabai dii mai khap/ka?’ Respond by saying ‘Sabai dii khap/ka’ (‘I am well thank you/I’m fine thank you’). Of course you can always say ‘mai sabai’ (‘not well’), but then expect the follow up question, ‘thamay mai sabai?’ (‘why aren’t you well?’). If you’re confident that you can convey the fact that you’ve got the hangover from hell or you spent half the night sitting on the toilet after eating that extra spicy green curry, then go ahead. Responding with sabai dii is usually easier.
This is another polite word that precedes a persons name and can also be used when trying to get somebody’s attention. Thai people don’t tend to address people (Thai or foreign) by their surname. Instead they use the first name preceded by the title khun. So if your name is David Smith you will probably be referred to as Khun David or even Mister David. If you return the compliment you will immediately win respect. For instance, the receptionist at your hotel has a name badge which says Noy. If you want to say good morning, use a big smile and say ‘Sawatdee khap/ka khun Noy’.
Thai people love their food. They will also want you to love their food. If you can tell the restaurant owner, the cook or the waitress that the food was delicious – aroy – you are likely to receive a warm welcome the next time you go back. And even if it wasn’t delicious, smile say ‘aroy’ and don’t go back there again! Bending the truth and flattery are common in Thailand so don’t worry too much about the occasional white lie.
The more words you can learn about food the better. Thailand is a nation obsessed with food and any visitor can’t help but notice it. It’s also impossible to ignore the fact that Thais like their food spicy – phet. In fact they like it really spicy – phet mak. As a foreigner you won’t be expected to eat some of the food that Thai people do. Don’t be afraid to ask for something ‘mai phet’ (‘not spicy’) or ‘phet nit nawy’ (‘a little bit spicy’).
Check Bin and Kep Tang
Both may be used when asking to settle your bill at a bar or restaurant. It’s more common to hear check bin in bars and kep tang in restaurants, but both should be understood. Don’t forget your khap or ka at the end of it; ‘check bin khap’ (if you are male) ‘check bin ka’ (if you are female).
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