Years ago a scientific lab of humanity conducted a study about how many times a day certain nationalities touched another person.
Italians nearly a hundred.
Spanish approximately fifty.
The French fifteen.
The Germans five and the English never, except in a fight.
The Thais are very particular about touching, especially in public.
The head should never be touched, since it is the most sacred part of the body.
When I first visited my wife's family in the country, we sat down for a long meal. The afternoon feast transformed into an evening drinking contest between the males. I had nothing to prove, especially since the whiskey made out of rice was stronger than White Lightning moonshine, and I was more than willing to finish dead last in the dim-lao> Olympics.
Throughout the night I kept sliding into a sleeping position and my hosts continued to offer me glasses of the foul liquor. At one point my wife's old man smiled at me and ruffled the hair on my head. I knew about the not touching the head thing and thought, "If you're drunk this rule is waived."
I returned the gesture.
The father was older than me. He can do what he wants. Plus he was drunk. He started shouting. I didn't understand Thai then, but his demeanor suggested that he wanted to hit me with something harder than his fist. It took forever to calm him down and I swore to never touch a Thai person's head again.
My wife's brother considered the entire episode amusing and the next day gave his father a motorcycle helmet on which he had written in Thai and English 'DO NOT TOUCH'.
>Her father didn't think this joke was funny, but the helmet hangs on the wall ready for whenever I visit and at least once during the stay someone will place the helmet on the father's head.
He still doesn't think it's funny.