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Money Matters

November 25, 2000|NORINE DRESSER | Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail: norined@earthlink.net

While on shore leave in Thailand, two U.S. sailors took a moped tour of Bangkok. As they stopped at a street corner, they saw some paper money on the ground and stepped on it to keep it from blowing away. Two uniformed Thai policemen at the same intersection arrested them. According to the U.S. officer who arranged for the sailors' release, the sailors had to apologize to the police.

What did it mean?

The men were unaware that the bill displayed a photo of the king of Thailand, whom the Thais consider sacred. To step on his image is therefore despicable and a crime.

Tourists today receive helpful information to avoid such problems. Two Americans, just returned from Thailand, had been forewarned about the people's deep respect for the royal family. Their guide advised that they must never speak about them in a negative or humorous way. Aware that the king appears on each currency note and coin, the American tourists refrained from stepping upon or defacing the money. In addition, when they purchased goods, they placed the money carefully on the counter.

They observed other rules of respect. Each night at 6 p.m. they stood at attention while listening to the Thai national anthem. While visiting temples, they walked around praying Thais instead of in front of them and never sat with their legs crossed or with their feet pointing at the Buddha image.

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