Sometimes when traveling abroad, things get lost in translation.
In Thailand, things went awry when a foreign man, who thought he'd do the right thing and give up his seat on a train for two women, was slapped by a monk who thought he was getting dissed.
Cellphone video making Internet rounds shows a man dressed in a pink polo shirt and board shorts, later identified as “Jeff”, getting slapped across the face and being berated by a Thai man dressed in orange Buddhist monk robes.
According to the Bangkok Post, on Dec 7., Jeff, who is a teacher living in Thailand, was riding the train and offered to give his bench seat up to two women travelers so they could sit together. Jeff then took a seat next to the sleeping monk-- other sources claim the monk was awake and immediately became irate when Jeff sat down. After the monk got upset, Jeff reportedly tried to diffuse the situation.
Jeff allegedly said “fine” in Thai, but the Buddhist monk misunderstood and thought he was saying —“fai,” an insult meaning buffalo in Thai.
"I don't understand you. What are you talking about," the monk reportedly said in Thai.
The monk allegedly slapped Jeff multiple times before the camera started rolling, and again after the camera was turned on.
A few moments later, a policeman—seen coming into the shot—arrived to remove to the monk from the train car. The train was traveling from Bangkok to Phitsanulok in northern Thailand.
Thailand is a Buddhist country and monks are considered special citizens. Etiquette dictates that monks are not to be touched by male or females --and many travel guides warn against trying to shake hands with them or hugging them for a photo op.
In fact, there's special seating on public transportation and in waiting areas that are reserved for monks.
It's unclear if Jeff stepped over the etiquette line, but he says he wants to put the incident behind him and harbors no ill will.
"I love Thailand very much. Many people supported me over the Internet. I appreciate it. Everything is ok," the English teacher told the local media.
"To me sabai, sabi,” he said, sabai meaning fine. “Thailand is Thailand, I love living in Thailand.”