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understanding traditional Cambodian and Thai greetings

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Did you know that Cambodia and Thailand share the same greeting gestures? Called sampeah in Khmer and wai in Thai, the gesture is used to great, welcome, thank or apologise to others and formally done by joining both palms together in front of the body and then bowing. It is usually initiated by a younger or lower ranked person and has five different levels to show the respect to another person.

 

Presenting Sampeah is a sign of respect and politeness and it is considered impolite not to return Sampeah. Here are the five versions of this gesture.

 

  • First Sampeah: When Cambodians greet their friends who have the same age, they place both palms together at the chest level.
  • Second Sampeah: When Cambodians greet their bosses, older persons or higher ranking people, they place both palms together at the mouth level.
  • Third Sampeah: When Cambodians greet their parents, grandparents or teachers, they place both palms together at the nose level.
  • Fourth Sampeah: When Cambodians greet the king or monks, they place both palms together at the eyebrow level.
  • Fifth Sampeah: When Cambodians pray to God or sacred statues, they place both palms together at the forehead level.

 

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