US dollars are widely used in Cambodia with local currency Riel. Take US dollars with you when traveling there, small notes, you can easily spend them without changing to Riels. The change rate is 1$ = 4000KHR, but if you are used to small amounts like me with Euros, it's easier to use dollars than riels. Or probably you are more math oriented than I and can easily count how much is 17469 riels. About 4.20, right? When you pay with dollars, you can get dollars and riels back so practice calculations with 4000.
Small means one dollar, there are lot of stuff costing a dollar, like a tuktuk ride, some fruits, beer and so on (one day in Angkor Wat is 20$ and three days 40 and with 20$ you can have a dinner with drinks for two).
The currency in Cambodia is the Riel but EVERYBODY deals in US dollars. They take US dollar notes but you get change in Riel. The reason for using US currency is so that if the economy collapses as it did when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and abolished all money, people could still use their money in other countries.
I watched as many travellers were trying the local delacies , but for me I passed on them. I watched the girl handling her many tarantula spiders at a bus stop Siem Reap and this I imagined was the normal procedure as she let them run up and down her arms.She held out her hand to offer me a few spiders...I reclined the offer..There were some very large plates of fried spiders by her side that she had for sale.Some German travellers on the bus I noticed that had purchased a bag of various insects and were eating them..I remember a man saying how good they were and they were just like " popcorn"..Then he started coughing and gagging and apparently had one caught in his throat and it was only after a few fellow travellers saw his predicament and came to his aid..luckily his throat cleared or otherwise he would have been in a really precarious position as we were really in the middle of nowhere..There certainly would have been no ambulance to call !! how far was any hospital..The thoughts really hit me at that moment just how vulnerable we all are travelling..Needless to say after looking at all the various items for sale I settled on a bunch of Bananas and some freshly cut pineapple.
You can never be too careful
Proper temple ettiquette is something tourists often inquire about.
I'm a firm believer that, before entering someone's country, it is the tourists sole responsibility to educate him/herself on the do's and don'ts of that country in order to avoid accidentally offending the host.
Simple research through most guide books as well as "googling" the country usually ensures good results.
Although we found Cambodia incredibly lax as to dress codes compared to other Asian countries, all attempts should be made to follow dress codes when visiting and entering temples or, greeting (especially elders or holy figures such as monks).
For a more complete guide, please see link below.
The Khmer have had a written language since 156 A.D., but it has been modified a bit over the centuries . Their language has 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 14 Sanskrit letters.
Their computer keyboards have 4 letters per key, and they have to use a combination of shift and alt keys to get the right letter.
Most Cambodians have an all-purpose checked scarf called a krama—it does everything. It’s a head cover, a baby sling, a dust mask, baggage carrier, whatever. Men wear it tied differently than women do when it’s a head covering.
It comes in a variety of colors, but almost nobody wears red—that was the color of the Khmer Rouge.
I felt culturally blind here without language! But all greetings were the namasteh pose from yoga and bowing the head.
I also understood that when Cambodians were silent, instead of responding that was good, or OK. (I also earned a negative response)
Khmer Buddhists as well as Khmer Islam and the Cham are modest! I did not wear Islamic dress, I should have. But even beyond that group, it is not a place for lots of skin, although I guess tourists have some leeway.
In Cambodia you will probably find yourself giving money to, or buying things from the small children. As much as they need it the charities in Cambodia recommend you try avoid this as it just encourages parents to keep them on the streets (and so to some extent out of school). After a while I realised it is better to give to the elderly, or disabled people. You can only imagine what they must have gone through bearing in mind the history of the country. And to top it off many are now forced to spend their days begging on the streets. So they deserve all the help they can get.
It seemed to me that this is who cambodians themselves would direct their charity towards. After all there is no form of welfare system or government pension for the elderly in Cambodia. And what struck me most was the humility and gratitude they showed... they will likely not pressurize you to give money.
Khmer classical dance is often referred to as apsara dance and is a dance that dates back from the 7th century.
It's a very slow and fine way of dancing where the dancers wear costumes and you can probaply say that is has some links to classical ballet.
The dance was forbidden during the khmer rouge in the 1970's and almost all dancers were killed by the regime, but they have made a very good comeback in recent years and it looks like this facinating dance is set to survive.
Home made rice wine is a big passion in Cambodia and there is a good chance that you will be offerd some.
It looks pretty unhygenic very often and not like something you wanna drink, but i have tried it and didn't get sick and i was able to drink it without looking too funny i think.
Give it a go.
When in Rome do as the romans.
The camdodians love to eat spiders and crickets for lunch and you will see them selling by the side of the road and on the markets around Camdodia.
I have tried both and find that they have little taste, but the cambodians are one big smile when you mention these funny animals, so i guess they are very tasty once you get used to the taste.
It was a shock to us learning that the skull of the poor victims who were tortured till death where collected and presently desplayed in a pretty large glass tall container in the center of a religious or historic congregation. See photos attached.
Be aware of cultural norms for show of respect and disrespect. Never shake your foot at anything, never disrespect the King or government, ask if you're not sure if pictures are allowed of certain government buildings and be kind and courteous. Cambodian people are very kind and inviting, enjoy it
volunteer > the culture
Like all people, Cambodians have their own norms of behaviour, style of conversations, and manners of interaction. Understanding certain cultural mentalities will make the transition toward working with the Khmer much easier. Below is a list of cultural do’s and don’ts. Lists such as this are far from definitive, and behaviours change depending on the circumstances; however it can be used as a general behavioural framework for your time in Cambodia.
THE TOP 10:
Confrontation is not well accepted by Khmers. They are more likely to avoid problematic people and situations, than try to change them. The root lies in a tendency to maintain the superficial harmony of things. It is better to walk away than to create conflict which might result in losing one’s temper. Placing a Khmer in a confrontational situation, placing blame, or being judgmental will result in the loss of respect or future avoidance.
Beckon others with the hand, palm downwards, fingers straight and waving rapidly. Don’t clap, point, snap fingers, or hiss. Beckoning with the palm up is thought of as aggressive, and done when fighting. Beckoning with one finger is sexually suggestive.
Criticism. Avoid it; however, if absolutely unavoidable balance it with praise or be indirect. This follows closely with keeping one's temper. It is more virtuous to patiently assist the person by guiding them, than criticising their work as wrong.
Discretion is admired as a sign of maturity; if you must do naughty things, do them in private.
Feet must be kept to yourself. Not on the desk and certainly not pointed at anybody. If someone is lying/ sitting and eating on the floor, do not step over them or their food. Walk around them.
Relax, take it easy, especially at the beginning of your stay. Take time to look, listen, learn ...then speak.
Satu is a greeting in which the palms are placed together while performing either a bow or a lowering of the head. Always satu monks, elderly people and social superiors. Do NOT satu servants, labourers, or anyone younger than yourself. The lower the head, the more respect shown. The person who is socially inferior (a younger person, an employee, etc.) initiates the satu. Whatever the satu received, reply with a lesser one. It is safe to satu your socially equals, colleagues, other workers, and others encountered in a professional setting. Be certain to initiate the satu for elders and monks. Do not be startled if a monk does not return the satu, they share social status with the king and Buddha.
Shoes come off at the door of all homes and at the main door of temple buildings.
Tempers must be kept. If you must lose it, lose it in private. Losing your temper is the easiest way to lose the respect and trust of the Khmers.
Touching between sexes is frowned upon. Even in the work place, don’t place your hand on a person’s shoulder or head to make your point. If you are a woman and possess some coordination it is much better to sit side-saddle when taking a motorcyle. However, don’t be shocked by touching between same sex individuals. Men holding hands, putting arms around each other in public does not carry the same connotations as in the west.
WHILE AT THE HOSPITAL:
Questions: Khmers will usually say "yes" to any question asked of them, even if they do not understand you. They are very accommodating, but this can back-fire. When working with some Khmers, the question “do you understand?” is inevitably going to be yes, but if you have any doubt that some and/or all of your request was not understood have them write it down or repeat back your message.
Group Instruction: Do not become confrontational when working with a group of Khmers. Singling out an individual for reprimand will only serve to lose their trust. It is much better to patiently take them aside and demonstrate how to do things correctly. Avoid correcting someone in front of their peers.
English: Though English is the language in the hospital, remember that there are different types of English begin spoken: American, British, Australian, Dutch, Japanese, etc. They may have difficulty understanding your English. Please speak slowly and concisely. If the person does not understand, try re-phrasing your sentence, replacing the larger words with simpler terms.
Aptitude: Do not appraise someone’s professional skills by their English skills. Be sure to observe their work as well as asking them questions. As people get to know you, they will feel comfortable speaking with you and asking questions.
Friendship: Cambodian’s like to have a close relationship. They express it when they like you. Do not be cold, or they may be offended.
Patience: Patience is a virtue that will carry you a long way. "Take time to cultivate and water your garden."
Teaching: Speak in simple terms. Using pictures is very helpful. Also, continually maintain eye contact so you can know when someone does not understand you. Ask them to explain what they have just learned, to be sure that they understand. It takes time and patience to supervise people's progress.
SOME MORE YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER:
Affection between the sexes should not be displayed in public. No holding hands or kissing.
Boasting is disliked. Do not compare your country and people with Cambodia and the Khmers.
Buddha images should be kept in a high place and treated with great respect. It is against the law to take or send them out of the country except under very special circumstances.
Dress your status. Women do not wear shorts or revealing clothing. Shorts are worn by children and tourists. While working, it is expected that one wears long pants or long skirts. At the hospital, doctors have blue uniforms and nurses have green ones.
Eating habits are flexible. Most people eat with a spoon and use a fork or chopsticks to load it. During ceremonies always eat after the monks. Inviting to eat is an everyday greeting, the normal reply is ‘eaten already’.
Flatter whenever possible, the Khmers love it.
Fun is the essential ingredient of anything worth doing. Enjoy sharing laughter as much as possible.
Generosity is the sign of an important person; don’t be stingy.
Gifts are to be opened in private.
Hair and Heads should not be touched. If you do so by accident, excuse yourself. Also, be careful not to pass things over another person’s head. In general, the head is considered most sacred and the feet most base.
Legs should not be crossed when sitting in the presence of monks or old persons. Sit with the legs underneath the body or to the side.
Lower the body a little when passing in front of, or between people.
Monks are the most important people in the country and must be treated with respect at all times. Touching of a monk or his robes by a woman is strictly taboo.
Names: Use a person’s first name, not the family name. Adults introduced for the first time or in a professional setting should be addressed as lok (male) or lok s’ray (female) unless a title is used. Informally, Bong (brother/sister) followed by the persons name can be used.
Pass objects with the right hand. Pass with two hands (Right hand holding the object, and left hand gently touching the object) if extra respect is required. When accepting these object, accept them with both hands. Women never pass directly to monks.
Paying is done after eating/drinking, not before; the inviter pays. If no clear invitation, the superior pays. 'Going Dutch' is very rare with the Khmer.
Pointing with fingers is acceptable for objects and animals, but not for people.
Speak gently and try not to raise your voice.
Smile and people will like you. A smile can be used to excuse small inconveniences, to thank for small services and to return the satu of children and servants.
Thank you, like 'please,' is expressed verbally much less frequently in Khmer; a smile is often enough.
Throwing any object is bad manners.
from Angkor Childrens Hospital web site
If you visit Cambodia don't make mistakes like this for them and for you. Until 30 years in prison. Also the web www.afesip.org is useful. I liked to see in Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap people with the simbol of Chidsafe. This text is taken from the Web http://www.childsafe-cambodia.org/. Please visit it and read such a great project:
Cambodia is attracting an ever-increasing number of tourists. The majority come for the beauty of the country, but some aim to abuse Cambodia's hospitality.
In recent years, Cambodia has become known as a destination for sexual tourism.
Concurrently, the country has also witnessed an increasing number of cases of sexual abuse of children by foreign and local pedophiles.
The Cambodian Government, international bodies, Non Governmental Organizations and the population have responded very strongly to fight this situation, and together have found increasing success see ( Arrested offenders in Cambodia).
Every day, all over Cambodia, more and more moto taxi and taxi drivers, guesthouses, restaurants and bar owners are collaborating with our ChildSafe network in all tourist areas, including Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap (Angkor) to refuse to condone sex with children.
This website will give you background information about the situation in Cambodia and the laws protecting children as well as all travel tips you need to be a “Child Safe” tourist. Most importantly, be sure to travel eyes wide open!
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