Kreng Jai is a Thai verb that literally means “awe of heart”. It is a phrase fundamental to the way Thai society operates.
Looked at individually, the words translate as, Kreng, to fear something or be afraid to act; and jai, something of the heart or mind.
The concept of kreng jai is one of being considerate and respectful. It shows ones reluctance to disturb, impose, or offend.
It is a way of living that seeks to cause the least hassle for other people: to not ask for unnecessary favors or to make people feel obliged to help you.
Examples of Kreng Jai
If you ask your wife to knock next door and ask the neighbor to spare some sugar, she might well be reluctant and say, “Mai ka, kreng jai!”
She is implying that she doesn’t want to impose herself on the neighbor and ask a favor, which may put the neighbor in a position of obligation. She would prefer to go without, or to drive to…