As a foreigner in Thailand, you’ll find yourself saying constantly “Sawadee khrup/ka (hello)”, which is a good thing because it means you’re living in a friendly place, right?
Before I even hit the end of my street I have at least six “(sa) wadee khrups” to complete on the way to the MRT station:
My neighbour, the housekeeper, security, the apartment block owner, the old lady who collects plastic in the adjacent Soi (road), my “Thai mum” at the fruit stall (“Khun mare (mum) kai (sell) pollomai (fruit)”) and the lady who cuts my hair.
This can easily extend to more if the ice cream man is around, if I pop into the restaurant downstairs or the ladyboy two doors down is stumbling in from the night before.
You might be getting the impression that this is a bit of a chore, but don’t get me wrong because I love my “(Sa) wadee khrups”.
Even though I am under no illusion that I am anything more than “that farang guy” to most locals – except my fruit lady, of course, the polite nature of saying “hello” with a beaming smile to people you see regularly creates a sense of community – and as a foreigner makes me feel part of that community.
People don’t have to say “hello”, but most go out of their way to do so, which is nice.
Sometimes though, you will want to say more than just “hello”, and I guarantee a lot of the Thai people you come into contact with want to say more to you, too – even if just to be nosey and see what you do for work and who your girlfriend is – but then we’re all a bit nosey, aren’t we?
This is a bit of a problem if the only two things you can say are “Sawadee krup/ka” and “Sabai dee mai khrup/ka”? Things get a little repetitive and somewhat boring for the recipient.
So, for those of you who don’t speak much Thai, I’m going to arm you with 10 more Thai language sentences you can integrate easily into passing conversation, increasing your ability to speak Thai and subsequently your interaction with Thai people.
These 10 gems are all common phrases and questions Thais use regularly, and will help casual “hellos” blossom into light friendships.
Be sure to check out the video at the end to help with your pronunciation:
*BTW, as always, it’s polite (necessary) to add “Khrup” (for a man) and “Ka” (for a lady) to the end of these questions/statements.
1. Ben yang ngai bang khrup/ka? – What’s up? / what’s going on?
This is similar to “Saibaidee mai khrup/ka” but less formal and a welcome alternative if you’re kind of bored of the same “how are you” greeting. For many Thais this is the preferred way of asking someone they see on a regular basis “what’s been going on? / what’s happening? / what’s up?”
2. Mai jer gaan nan leuy khrup/ka! – I haven’t see you for a long time!
This is a statement you’ll want to use when you haven’t seen a particular person around in a while. And no doubt they’ll be chuffed that you noticed they’d been gone a while.
3. Gin khao ruu yang khrup/ka? – Have you eaten yet?
Sounds like a funny thing to ask someone after saying “hello”, right? Not at all. In fact, at one time in Thailand this was used as a primary greeting.
You will regularly hear Thais ask friends and people they see daily around the neighbourhood whether or not they have eaten. For Thai people this similar to asking how someone is because it indicates that you care about their welfare.
If the answer is “Gin leow!” (Eaten already), you can follow up with, “Gin arai khrup/ka?” (What did you eat?)
When the person tells you what they ate, you might like to finish the conversation with, “Arroy mai khrup/ka?” (Was it delicious?)
This will get you a guaranteed chuckle and probably make someone’s day – the farang spoke to me and he can speak Thai!!
4. Pai nai maa khrup/ka? – Where have you been?
This question is ideal in passing because you are able to enquire as to where the person is coming back from.
Of course, to ask where the person is going, simply cut out “Maa” and say “Pai nai khrup/ka”. Again this is very commonly used among Thais, so you won’t make yourself look silly in anyway.
When the person in question tells you where they’ve been, you might choose to answer by saying, “Oh, lor”. (Really, okay).
5. Wanee du dee jang leuy khrup/ka! – Today you look very good!
This is quite a flattering statement, so don’t over use it. Use it when a lady has changed her hair or has clearly made an effort to dress nicely.
If you are a woman saying this to a Thai man, perhaps reserve it for when you see a friend wearing a suit rather than the security guard of your apartment, who may get the impression that you want to tickle his pickle!
6. Fon ja dok leow khrup/ka! – It’s going to (it will) rain!
An absolute favourite in the Thai small talk dictionary is commenting on the potential for it to rain or the fact that it has already started.
Although you may recognise the word “Leow” on the end of this sentence as meaning “already”, the “Ja” before “Dok” (rain) means “will”. Literally translated, “rain will fall already”.
So if it looks like rain you can say, “Fon ja dok leow!” As you pass by.
7. Wanee rawn (lawn) jang leuy khrup/ka! – It’s very hot today!
Yes, it’s weather related again, which suits us Brits because all we talk about is weather and tea! “Wanee” (today), “Rawn” (hot, often sounds like it starts with an ‘L’ but in fact it’s and ‘R’ sound.
This is a great in and out statement that won’t provoke much more than a “Rawn…” response, at which point you can slip by and prepare your next encounter.
8. Wanee tam ngan mai khrup/ka? – Are you working today?
It’s always nice when someone takes an interest in what you are doing. So you might use this question when you see a person working n a Saturday or Sunday, or when you see someone outside of their workplace.
If the person is working the answer might be a short “Chai ka/khrub” with a screwed up mouth to indicate mild discontent, or a nice smile “Yim” because they have a day off (“Wan yuut”).
9. Khun nuai mai khrup/ka? – Are you tired?
You might follow up by asking, “(Khun) nuai mai khrup/ka”, meaning “Are you tired?”. This recognition of hard work will no doubt put you in the good books of the person you’re speaking to. You can drop the “Khun” (meaning “you”) if you like; most Thai people will do the same and say “Nuai mai khrub/ka”.
10. Leow jer gaan na khrup/ka! – See you later!
No conversation is complete without saying goodbye. But rather than say “Goodbyeeee” in that familiar Thai adaptation, use “Leow jer gaan khrup/ka” for “See you later”, or “Jer gaan leow leow nee khrup/ka” for “See you soon”.
Here’s the audio for all 10 questions and statements. I will say the English first and then you’ll hear the Thai twice. (Apologies if it’s a bit echoey. I had to record in the bathroom as the maid was banging about outside.