Episode 14:Who pays the bill in Thai dining?

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In episode 14 : We talk about who pays the bill in Thai culture! Join us for this round table discussion on ordering food and getting the attention you want at a restaurant.


Listen to Mia talk about this episode IN THAI below the cartoon image.


Download MP3 to listen offline here

by  Lani

Who pays the bill? The guy does, of course. Actually, in Thai culture, it’s the oldest person at the table.  Lame-o.  (That’s like a bowl of spaghettiOs but more lame.)

So if it’s the oldest egg at the table, it’s probably going to be me! My how the tables have turned! I actually like it when the waitress hands the bill to the man! “Going dutch” (splitting the bill 50/50) is for women who aren’t comfortable receiving gifts, compliments and lavish attention! Not me. No, no, no.

Thailand, we need to have a talk!

The reasoning behind this is the older person is more established and has had the time to accumulate wealth and status. And for Thais who are old enough to care for our parents, they are expected to pick up the family tab as well. Egats.

The older person could feel uncomfortable or เสียหน้า/ sĭa nâa if the younger one is trying to pay.

It also happens to men when dating Thai girls, often the man is expected to pay and the girl won’t even batter an eyelid when the bill comes.

This is not always the case but does happen.

But this is not as fatal as I make it out to be. It’s just Thai culture. And this is always good to know when you are in such a social setting or situation. Fighting over the bill is perfectly acceptable but after a few rounds (of Muay Thai boxing), it’s best to let it go.

Even though Mia has put all the vocabulary and language from the podcast following this post, we should review by saying, whenever you want to get the wait staff’s attention you should say น้อง/ nóng or พี่ /pêe ka or kráp.  Nóng is for the waiter/waitress that is younger than you and pêe for the staff that is older than you.

Using สั่งอาหาร sàng aa hăan when you want to also get the attention of the wait staff, as a way of saying, “I’m ready to order now.”

ขอ/ kŏr is the polite way of ordering and เอา/ ao is more casual and what you are most likely to hear and use in street side restaurants and food stands. To be honest, I use เอา ao and not ขอ/ kŏr but I will try to use ขอ/ kŏr more often.

It’s not that I don’t want to be polite, it’s just I heard from my brother that my mom thinks I speak “ Shakespearean Thai” so I’ve made an effort to sound less formal. Will I ever get it right!???

กินให้อร่อย / Gin hâi a-ròi!/ Enjoy eating :)



Listen to episode14 in Thai version here and download transcripts here

Thai lesson of Episode 14

1.น้อง/ nóng /you (used when talking to someone younger)

2. พี่/ pêe/you (used when talking to someone older)

 3. ขอโทษkŏr tôht/ sorry ! ; excuse me !

4. สั่งอาหาร/  sàng aa hăan/ (I’d like to) order food

-สั่ง/ sàng/ [to] order ; command ; direct

-อาหาร/ aa hăan/ food

5.รับอะไรดี/ráp a-rai dee/what would you like?

-รับ/ ráp/ [to] receive ; get ; accept

-อะไร/ a-rai/ what

-ดี/ dee/ [to be] good ; nice

5.เอาอะไรดี/ao  a-rai dee/what do you want(to order)?

-เอา/ ao/ [to] want ; desire

6.ขอ/kŏr/+….(what you want) /may I have…..

-ขอ/ kŏr/ [to] ask for ; request for ; ask

example :ขอเบียร์/kŏr beer/ may I have a beer

7.เอา/ao/ +….(what you want)/(I’ll)have…..

-เอา/ ao/ [to] want ; desire

example :เอาเบียร์/ao beer/ (I’ll) have a beer


QUIZ: What is the boy in green saying?



116 thoughts on “Episode 14:Who pays the bill in Thai dining?

  1. These podcasts just keep getting better and better! There is something for everyone here. I really appreciated the Thai version and along with the transcript, the learners’ notes on how to use it. On first run through I got about 50% I would have got more than that but I have a bad habit of trying to understand every single word. That means that if a word comes up that I don’t get, I turn my attention to digging in my memory to try to find it and so miss the next few. I know I could pause the playback, but don’t think that will help me in the long term. So I shall be listening repeatedly to this over the next couple of days or so. The fact that the recording is a few minutes long also helps us get more of a feel for the rhythms of speech. In a lesson which consists of talking about a topic and questions and answers, there is more concentration on detail, this adds a different dimension. Great stuff and thanks for the work that went into it. The content of the whole episode is not such good news for me, being an old man, it means that I will always have to pick up the bill :-( You don’t really want anything with that boiled rice do you? Oh OK a glass of water then…

    • @Keith: I got similar comments from people who have an younger Thai friends. I’m sure your younger friends will treat you next occasion or return the appreciation some other ways.

  2. I agree – these podcasts are VERY helpful and I always look forward to them. I will listen to them several times. I have an older friend who lives in Korat. When I visit him I will tell him that HE must pay for me! :)

  3. Let me add my thanks for these podcasts. I especially appreciate hearing Thai in a female voice, and with transcripts, too.

    • Gaelee, Your welcome! I would like to “thank YOU” to leave the comment. I’m glad to hear when my work has benefited Thai language learners.

  4. Will you please explain about the use of the word เนี่ย ? I haven’t been able to find it in any dictionary, online or otherwise. Thanks.

  5. I think particles are one of the most difficult aspects of Thai. Apart from the everyday ones like krap and ka, there are so many and often the differences in meaning are very subtle. I am very cautious about attempting to use them

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  16. I was with a Thai-girl that I’m dating and another female friend (Japanese) went for dinner and when it comes to the bill I was casual and split the bill three ways and paid mine first. The Japanese girl followed and pay second and the Thai-girl quietly whispered to me that she didn’t bring any money. So I helped her with her bill.

    There was this awkward silence on the way back home. I can clearly see she was “disappointed” somehow. But I thought I just helped her out with her bill. She also didn’t mention anything about paying me back the bill after I dropped her off.

    Now that I’ve read your article, maybe she won’t event contact me anymore after this? haha.

    I don’t mind paying for it had I known this is Thai culture (and that they will pay me back in some other way). To make the matter worse, this happened at a Thai restaurant ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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