Although there is no need for learning Laos prior to your Laos Tours, it is highly recommended to know several common words or phrases. A friendly greeting will make an excellent impression on locals if you speak to them in their native language. Laotians traditionally greet others by pressing their palms together in a sort of prayer gesture known as nop. For men greeting men, this is usually done with both hands pressed together in prayer in front of your body and accompanied by a slight bow or nod. For women greeting women or men greeting women, this is usually done with both hands pressed together in the prayer position just below the chin and accompanied by a slight bow. If you attempt a nop, remember that it’s basically reserved for social greetings; don’t greet a hotel or restaurant employee this way.

Laos Children of Ban Ya Nang say hello, Laos Tours

Laos Children of Ban Ya Nang show their greeting

How do You Greet Someone in Laos?

A nop can be used as a sign of respect for objects as well as people. This is often done when passing sacred places such as temples or something else of religious significance. When encountering a statue of The Buddha or a monk one is supposed to drop to one’s knees and nop from that position (with men sitting on their heels and women with their legs to one side), accompanied by a deep bowl so that one’s head almost touches the floor. When the head almost touches the floor one should place the palms of one’s hands on the floor (right hand first) and then straighten the body into the sitting nop position.

hello in laos

The person who is socially inferior or younger should be the first to nop, but it is considered polite for the older/socially superior person to respond quickly. The higher the hands are held and the lower the bow, the greater the degree of respect. When addressing a social equal, the hands are usually held at the level of the mouth; when addressing a person of higher social standing (this includes monks, regardless of age), the hands are usually held in front of the nose; and when addressing a younger/socially inferior person, they are usually held at the chin.

How to Say Hello in Lao

The general greeting in Laos is “sabai di” (“Hello”), invariably said with a smile. The list below would provide you with useful phrases while traveling to Laos.

  • Hello: sabai di
  • Thank You: khawp jai
  • How Are You?: sabai-di baw?
  • Good Night: naitonkangkhun thidi
  • Good Evening: sa bai di ton aelng
  • Good Afternoon: sa bai di ton suaai
  • Good Morning: sa bai di ton sao
  • Please: kaluna
  • Sorry: khooaphai
  • Goodbye: Sôhk dii der
  • I Love You: khony hak chao
  • Excuse Me: kho othd