Greeting in Thailand vs Greeting in Zambia - How Two Different Cultures Compare

Bangkok, Thailand
Image by Edward Mullins Exchange Lingo

When it comes to visiting different countries it is often a good idea to familiarise yourself with the basics of communicating with the natives of the country you are planning to visit. In such scenarios it becomes beneficial to utilise translation services although learning basic greetings in a foreign language may not necessarily warrant the use of professional translation services. There are many ways in which you can pick up the basic lingo through means such as language translation apps. We have previously highlighted some useful translation apps for travellers including apps such as Google Translate and Trip Lingo which can both help in communicating in foreign languages.

Below we explore two different cultures and languages and how people generally greet each other.


The Thai language is native to over 20 million speakers and is a second language for over 40 million people. Thailand attracts many tourists from all corners of the globe from its rich culture, beautiful beaches and friendly people many travellers often decide to stay or return after visiting Thailand. Backpackers can be seen flocking the streets of Bangkok and the famous Khao San Road located in Bangkok is perfect for affordable hour long massages less than the value of GBP 5.00. With many vibrant bars and plenty of Thai street food to choose from this is a must go place when visiting Bangkok.

So you have chosen to visit Thailand. Now how do you greet people?

In Thailand the way you greet people depends on your gender. Males and females greet differently and learning this will sure impress the locals as it shows you have taken time to appreciate the culture.

When meeting or greeting someone men say “Sawatdee Krap” and women say “Sawatdee-Kah” which both translate from Thai to English as “hello”. The greeting is returned with the other party repeating the same.

Whilst greeting both hands are put together in a prayer like position with the fingers extended to the chest and a slight bow with the head. The higher the hands are placed the more respect is show to the other person. Do remember to never place the tips of the fingers above the eyes as this may be a sign of disrespect.

In Thailand people are often referred to by their first name whether in a formal or informal setting. If your name is John Smith you would be referred to as Mr John. This is not to be taken as an insult or demeaning as in the west we would say Mr Smith.

Although spoken by the majority in the South East region of Asia the Thai language is not the only language spoken there. Other minority languages exist in various regions such as the Lao dialect of Isan and the Malay language most prevalent around the Thai/Malaysian border.


In comparison to Thailand, Zambia the landlocked county located in southern Africa is home to a population of just over 16 million people. Tourists are mainly attracted to Zambia due to the country’s wildlife and natural wonders such as the Zambezi River and Victoria falls. From its beautiful resorts to friendly culture this is one place in Africa which offers beautiful safari holidays for all to enjoy.

In Zambia the most common spoken languages are Bemba and Nyanja with both languages spoken by over 60% of the population. Although English is the official language taught in schools and used in formal settings it is safe to say you will not find it hard to communicate coming from an English background. However if you would like to impress the locals by learning some basics here is how to greet in Bemba and Nyanja.

Bemba – “Muli-Shani” meaning how are you. You would respond with “Wino-Shani” (pronounced we’no-shaani) which means I’m fine, how are you? The other person would the respond with “Wino” stating they are ok.

Nyanja – “Muli-Bwanji” means how are you? You respond with “Bwino-Bwanji” (pronounced bweeno-bwanji) of which the other party responds with “Bwino” which means they are fine.

In comparison to the Thai language where different sexes use different words to greet one another in Zambian culture greeting is the same regardless of whether you are male or female. A verbal greeting is also conducted with a hand shake by both men and women.

Have you visited any other countries where greetings are different for men or women? Share with us below any greeting tips for a particular country you live in or have visited.

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