Lao Culture - Greetings (2023)


Primary Author

Chara Scroope,
  • The standard greeting in Laos is ‘Sabaideebor’, which means 'How are you?' or 'Are you well?'. This is usually accompanied by the ‘nop’(see below).
  • If someone greets another by saying ‘Sabaideebor’,the receiver will usually reply with ‘Sabaidee’ (‘It goes well’).
  • Informally, Lao may greet each other with ‘Kin khow leo bor?’ (Have you eaten?) or ‘Pai sai maa’ (Where are you coming from?). The latter is not a literal enquiry about someone’s destination but rather is used in the same way one asks ‘how has your day been?’ or ‘what have you done today?’
  • In an informal setting, Lao may shake hands with those of the same gender or lightly touch each other on the arm. Usually it is men who shake hands.
  • To address someone of a high status, one adds ‘thaan’ to the person’s name. For example, Thaan Persuth.
  • Where applicable, Lao usually use professional or official titles to address teachers, doctors, police officers and so on.
  • When a person has no specific title, a Lao may address their counterpart with particular titles depending on the relative age and gender. For example, someone may address an older man as ‘aii’ (‘older brother’).
  • Between friends and those of the same age, people usually address each other by their first name or by nicknames.

The Nop

In Laos, greetings are usually accompanied by the gesture known as a ‘nop’, which is the placing of two hands together in a prayer position at chest level. A nop indicates the level of respect for another person and is an acknowledgement of seniority. A nop may also be used as an expression of thanks or regard. Sometimes the nop is accompanied with a slight bow. Here are some tips on how to correctly perform a nop.

(Video) Basic Lao Greetings conversation

  • The depth of the bow and the level of the hands represents the level of respect given to someone.
  • For example, when addressing a person who has higher social standing (such as monks), the hands are held just below the nose.
  • When addressing someone of equal age or social status, the hands are usually positioned at the level of the mouth.
  • When greeting someone who is younger or of lower social status, the hands are typically held at the chin.
  • The person who is younger or of lower social status is expected to bow first.
  • The hands are never held above the level of the nose.
  • One’s hands should not touch their body when greeting.
(Video) Top 5 Things You Should NEVER Do in Laos

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(Video) Learn Lao language Greetings Ep.1

(Video) Where to position hands when greeting in the Lao culture


What are the basic greetings in Lao? ›

  • The standard greeting in Laos is 'Sabaideebor', which means 'How are you?' ...
  • If someone greets another by saying 'Sabaideebor', the receiver will usually reply with 'Sabaidee' ('It goes well').
  • Informally, Lao may greet each other with 'Kin khow leo bor?

What does Sok Dee mean? ›

Good luck – sok dee.

What does Satu mean in Lao? ›

Satu. Put simply, satu is the Buddhist equivalent of “Amen”.

What does Khop Chai mean? ›

“Khop Jai” or “Khop Chai” means “thank you.” Want to get fancy? Both “Khop jai lai lai” and “Khop jai deu” mean thank you very much.

What are traditional greetings? ›

A handshake is universally accepted as a greeting, both formally and informally. An exchange of “hello” or “hi” is usually enough as a casual greeting among peers. Other cultures kiss each other on the cheek, once, twice or thrice together with a handshake or a brief hug.

What does Sai Bai Dee Mai mean? ›

2. SABAI DEE MAI? This is a phrase that is used to ask “How are you?” In casual situations, it can be a greeting similar to “What's up?” The response is easy.

How do you respond to Sabai Dee Mai? ›

3. Sabai dee mai (How are you?) If you want to ask someone how they're doing, just say “Sabai dee mai ka/ krup?” If someone asks you, you can respond by saying “Sabai dee ka/ krup,” which means “I'm fine, thank you.”

What is the meaning of Dai Ma? ›

always, permanently, continually synonym ▲ Synonym: sikuzote.

What does Kin Lao mean? ›

This can be answered with any affirmative, kin lao – or, I have, is a great response.

What does Ma Der mean in Lao? ›

(ma-derr) is a Laotian phrase that basically means “come eat! or “come thru!” It's an open invitation to our dinner table. Chef Jeff's favorite memories include gatherings with family, friends and a feast of Lao food.

What does Phet mean in Lao? ›

In Lao, “boua” means lotus and “phet” is diamond.

What does Khop Jai Lai Lai mean? ›

Both “Khop jai lai lai” and “Khop jai deu” mean thank you very much.

What does Khop khun Na Ka mean? ›

3 – Thank You in Thai: Khop Khun kha/khap

The Thai word for thank you is khop khun.

What does Khob khun Na Krap mean? ›

The Thai 'thank you' is actually made up of three words: The word “Thank you” is khop (low tone) khun (normal tone), followed by the polite word: Female: ขอบคุณค่ะ – kɔ̀ɔp-kun-kâ Male: ขอบคุณครับ – kɔ̀ɔp-kun-kráp.

What are the 3 greetings? ›

Good Morning / Good Afternoon / Good Evening

The greetings change depending on the time of the day. For example, “Good morning” is generally used from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. whereas “Good afternoon” time is from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. “Good evening” is often used after 6 p.m. or when the sun goes down.

What are the five greetings? ›

Now that you've learned how to greet someone informally, let's check out some of the most common formal greetings in English.
  • Hello! In formal greetings examples, hello is preferred to “hi” or “hey.”
  • Hi there. ...
  • Good morning. ...
  • Good afternoon. ...
  • Good evening. ...
  • It's nice to meet you. ...
  • It's a pleasure to meet you.

What are the four greetings? ›


The general greetings of “good morning”, “good afternoon”, vs “good evening” vary per the time on day. For example, “good morning” is used from 5:00 am to 12:00 pm, while “good afternoon” is used from 12:00 pm up until 6:00 pm, and “good evening” time is used after the sun goes down.

How to be polite in Laos? ›

Don't pat people on the head, even if it is meant as a gesture of affection. The traditional greeting is called the "nop" or "wai," and if you can master it you will be considered very polite. You don't do it to waitresses or children. It is a sign of respect for your equals and social superiors.

How do you show respect in Laos? ›

Respect is shown by bowing and bringing the praying hands up to the bottom of the nose. For social leaders, such as an important community elder or a statesman, the praying hands should touch the eyebrows. Finally, for the head monks in the temple, the hands should be brought up to the top of the forehead.

How do you say sorry in Laos? ›

Ling will not only help you say sorry in Lao, but we also have 50 other units that cover everything from basic words and phrases to spaceship vocabulary!
How To Say Sorry In Lao + Some Other Related Phrases.
EnglishLaoLao Script
Sorrykho othdຂໍ​ໂທດ
Excuse mekhaw tootຂໍໂທດ
2 more rows
May 24, 2022

What does Mai Pai Nai mean? ›

One example is the Thai phrase 'pai nai' which is a form of greeting used in everyday speech between Thai people. Saying 'pai nai' when you see someone you know on the street is just a social pleasantry along the lines of saying, 'how are you?,' 'how's it going? ' or 'what are you up to? '.

What does Sui Mak Mak mean? ›

You're very pretty. Khun suay mak mak. You're cute.

What does Jai Dee Mak mean? ›

If someone is kind to you and you want to let her/him know, in Thai you can simply say Khun Jai Dee Mak which means you are very kind.

How do you respond to Mai pen Rai? ›

A reply to thankfulness

Possible translations for "mai pen rai" can be: 'you are welcome', 'not at all', 'that's alright'.

What is the best response to sawadee Ka? ›

If the person is working, the answer might be a short “Chai ka/khrub” with a slight frown to indicate mild discontent. Or, if they have a day off (Wan yuut”), they might smile (“Yim”) and say; “Wanee mai tam ngan khrup/ka”.

What does Kai Dai mean? ›

Translation: Kai Dai = God Brother (but not widely used nowadays because of the slang translation. the actual person would want to be known as 'Kai Sai Lo' = God Little Brother) Slang Translation: can be used loosely as 'homely' says above but also it is the person (of male gender identity) who has been raped.

What does Gao Lao mean? ›

Alternate names. They are also known as Lao Gao (Thai: ลาวเกา) or just plain Ga referencing the creaky, crow-like way of speaking peculiar to their dialect of Lao. Gao literally means scratchy, another attribute of the way Lao Ga speakers come across. Naturally, these terms are offensive.

What does koi mean in lao? ›

Koi (Lao: ກ້ອຍ; Thai: ก้อย, Thai pronunciation: [kɔ̂j]) is a "salad" dish of the Lao people living in modern-day Laos and Isan, Thailand, consisting of raw meat denatured by acidity, usually from lime juice.

What does Savanh mean in Lao? ›

They decided to call it Savanh Thai Kitchen as they wanted to incorporate “Savanh", from Phounsavan name as it means “Heavenly” in Thai/Lao.

What does Nang mean in Lao? ›

Lao people generally address others by titles and honorifics in formal/professional settings or when meeting someone for the first time. Titles are used with given names rather than with family names. People use the titles 'Thao' or 'Nai' for men (Mr.) and 'Nang' or 'Sao' for women (Mrs./Miss.)

What do you call a girl from Laos? ›

A common mistake is to call people from Laos 'Lao'. The correct term for people that live in Laos is 'Laotian'. The term 'indigenous peoples' is not used by the Laotian government. Instead, they refer to non-Lao people as 'ethnic minorities'.

What does Mae mean in Lao? ›

At age 53, Mae (translate into "Mother" in Lao language) Phaivan has become an influential voice in her community and a key driver for nutritional behaviour change in rural Southern Laos.

What is the use of lao in Chinese? ›

Such terms often indicate closeness and endearment. For example, someone may refer to friends around the same age or younger than themselves as 'Xiao' (small), e.g. Xiao WANG. A person from an older generation may be called 'Lao' (old) – e.g. Lao WANG.

What does Mai AO mean Thai? ›

Mai ao literally means I (omitted) don't (mai) want (ao). This way is very polite and will be appreciated by Thai people.

What does Lai Lai mean in Chinese? ›

Lai (simplified Chinese: 赖; traditional Chinese: 賴; pinyin: Lài) is a common Chinese surname that is pronounced similarly in both Mandarin and Hakka dialects. The meaning of the character used in the Lai (賴) surname is "depend on; trust in; rely on".

What language is Jai Lai? ›

From Spanish, from Basque jai (“festival”) + alai (“merry”), coined by 19th century writer Serafín Baroja in order to replace the non-native name pilota. However, although jai alai is composed of Basque words, it is not the name actually used in Basque.

What does khun Cheu Arai mean? ›

คุณชื่ออะไร (khun cheu ah-rai) – What is your name?

What does Pum Rak khun mean? ›

How to say “I love you” in Thai. The phrase 'I love you' when spoken by a male to a female is 'phom rak khun'. Spoken by a female to a male it is 'chan rak khun'. However, when speaking about love, these terms are quite formal or traditional and aren't always used.

What is Chob khun? ›

For example, maybe if love is a bit too strong a word, you can say something a bit more subtle. I like you: Pom/Chan chob khun (ผม/ดิฉันชอบคุณ) There may be times when you are apart, and you want to let them know that you miss them. You can use this phrase: I miss you: Pom/Chan kid thueng khun (ผม/ดิฉันคิดถึงคุณ)

What does Sawadee Krup mean? ›

'สวัสดี คะ/ครับ' - 'Sawadee Ka/Krub' 🙏 is our greeting which basically means hello.

What are the verbal and non verbal greetings of Laos? ›

Lao people always keep smile during greetings. The standard Lao greeting is "Saibaideebor" means "how are you?" and the often response is "sabaidee". For men greeting men, this is usually done with both hands pressed together in a prayer in front of your body and accompanied with a slight bow or nod.

How do you say thank you in Laos? ›

Lao Script

The most common way to say thank you in Lao is khob chai (ຂອບ​ໃຈ). However if you want to add politeness or formality, you must say khob chai including nop while putting your two hands together near the chest level.

What does Lai Lai mean in Lao? ›

Thank you. Kop chai. very much, a lot. Lai lai. Thank you very much.

What does sabaidee mean? ›

สบายดี (sabaidee) can be literally translated as 'well comfortable'. The phrase is used to answer the question 'สบายดีไหม' (How are you?) in Thai. If you feel good, then you reply 'sabaidee khrap' (สบายดีครับ) for males or 'sabaidee ka' (สบายดีค่ะ) for females.

What does koi mean in Laos? ›

Koi (Lao: ກ້ອຍ; Thai: ก้อย, Thai pronunciation: [kɔ̂j]) is a "salad" dish of the Lao people living in modern-day Laos and Isan, Thailand, consisting of raw meat denatured by acidity, usually from lime juice.

What Isan example of verbal greeting? ›

In English, some common verbal greetings are: "Hello", "hi", and "hey" — General verbal greetings. The latter two are less formal.

What does Sai Bai Dee mean in Laos? ›

And yes, the how are you in Thai is the greeting in Laos. And that is 'Sabai Dee'. This is an equivalent of Hello and works any time of the day.

How do you say no problem in Laos? ›

Lao: Bo panang.

Do you tip in Laos? ›

Tipping is not expected in Laos but a little spare change left at the end of a meal or taxi journey will be highly appreciated and will probably make a big difference to the worker's daily wage. 10% at the end of a meal and rounding up a taxi fare is a generous way of showing your thanks for good service.

What does Sopha mean in Lao? ›

Compare Soffa Laotian: ornamental name based on Lao sopha 'beautiful'; or perhaps from the personal name Sopha based on the same word. Source: Dictionary of American Family Names 2nd edition, 2022.

What does Mader mean in Lao? ›

Ma Der! (ma-derr) is a Laotian phrase that basically means “come eat! or “come thru!” It's an open invitation to our dinner table. Chef Jeff's favorite memories include gatherings with family, friends and a feast of Lao food.


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