More Local traditions and culture in Cambodia

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Cambodia

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Khmer classical dance.

    by cachaseiro Written Jan 30, 2009

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    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.

    Khmer classical dance.
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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Have some home made rice wine.

    by cachaseiro Written Jan 30, 2009

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    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.

    Home made rice wine.
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  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Have a spider or a cricket for lunch.

    by cachaseiro Written Jan 28, 2009

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    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.

    Cambodian woman selling fried crickets. danish tourist eating a spider. cambodian guy checking out the spiders.
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  • listenandlearn's Profile Photo

    Handy Customs we learned while visiting

    by listenandlearn Written Dec 9, 2008

    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.

    Thousands of Skull of Victims who were tortured. Thousands of Skull of Victims who were tortured. Place Of Great History for People Tortured. Place Of Great History for People Tortured. Honorable and Loved King!
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  • Snipernurse's Profile Photo

    Be respectful

    by Snipernurse Written Jun 13, 2008

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    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

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  • cochinjew's Profile Photo

    hints for volunteers to Cambodia

    by cochinjew Updated May 2, 2008

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    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

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  • aisafatima's Profile Photo

    FIGHT AGAINST CHILDREN SEXUAL SLAVERY

    by aisafatima Updated Aug 24, 2007

    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!

    Sign with information about the organization
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  • codyukie's Profile Photo

    Te Ou-kun

    by codyukie Written Sep 7, 2006

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    There are many children trying to sell you the souvenirs at entrances of all temples. Some could be quite persistant but they are harmless, merely making a living. If you have no intention to buy, please turn them down politely. We learned to turn them down in Khmer language:

    "Te Ou-kun" meaning "No, thank you"

    It did help by bringing along some small gifts i.e. stationeries, candies, etc. These will bring them joy :)

    Children waiting for their gifts

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  • turnip2000's Profile Photo

    keep cool

    by turnip2000 Written Aug 22, 2006

    Don't show anger if possible. Most Khmer will bend over backward for you, but things can naturally be frustrating at times and losing your temper will only make you and the Khmer person more uncomfortable.

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  • mad4travel's Profile Photo

    Swimming at Sihanoukeville

    by mad4travel Written May 24, 2006

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    Not really a local customes, but one of the locals taking a dip

    This was taken early one morning when the sea was so calm it was like glass. A cambodian family were all swimming in the sea. I caught this boy with the backgroundof the cambodian fishing boat. One of my favourites.

    Swimming at Sihanoukewille

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  • iwys's Profile Photo

    Every day of the week

    by iwys Written Apr 15, 2006

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    In traditional Cambodian culture a lady should wear a different colour skirt every day of the week. Monday is Yellow, Tuesday is Violet, Wednesday is Yellowish-green, Thursday is Green, Friday is Blue, Saturday is Blackish-red and Sunday is Red.

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  • Pierangelo's Profile Photo

    Every night one girl for the king

    by Pierangelo Written Dec 23, 2005

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    Each night the king of Angkor had to sleep with a girl, choosen between hundreds of nude girl on the royal pool. This was due to fulfil the wishes of the nine-headed serpent in form of women. Probably this legend of the serpent was created by the king himself to fulfil his own whishes of unbridled sex (also to control queen jealousy).

    Related to:
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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Angkor Wat remains a religious shrine even now...

    by atufft Written Sep 4, 2005

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    The Khmer heritage is most evident in the work at Angkor Wat, in a way even more meaningful than the Egyptian pride of their antiquities. The temples are still used as sacred places where incense is burned and prayers made. It's important to keep this in mind as you climb around the stone monuments.

    Prayers at Angkor Wat
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  • Homanded's Profile Photo

    Do not TEACH children to beg

    by Homanded Written Jul 23, 2005

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    In Cambodia (as in many parts of Asia) children who are found begging are often the products of Lazy adults who make a living by sending out a "cute" child or, presistent gentle eyed child to beg for your dollars. In exchange, children are given some food or, place to shelter.
    If you're providing the child with enough money, that child learns that by begging for money he/she stands to make a better living in a poor economically challenged country than by going to school and learning a trade.
    We suggest taking the time to carry school supplies such as pens/pencils/notebooks or paper which you can offer instead. Ocassionally, we would also buy a pancake or such to divide for the children that would beg outside the restaurants.
    Always smile and you will always get a hug, bow or thank you in return.
    The only exception was if the begging child/adult showed obvious signs of land mine casualty or, debilitating disease. You will see blind musicians, one arm/legged victims and or scarred people begging. Those we would donate money to. Have compassion above all else. These people are trying to survive in a manner they think best.

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  • Homanded's Profile Photo

    Begging in Cambodia - Don't be Annoyed!

    by Homanded Written Jul 23, 2005

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    The other thing that was brought quickly into perpective about Cambodia was that, more so than any other place in Asia, we found beggars more aggressive here....
    Before you pass judgement, read up on it's history, the fact that it's a war ravaged country and that there are alot of war casualties from land mines, leprosy, etc. in it's midsts.
    I will address the begging issue further in my Warnings section but we stuck to the following rule of thumb: If they were obvious casualties of land mines or, suffering from an incapacitating illness/malody, we would readily give them money. Otherwise, when eating at a restaurant we would buy the children food or, a large banana pancake with fruit wihch they would promptly devour.
    Also, we carried school supplies (such as pens/pencils and candy/gum which we offered to others. Also, you can purchase cheap toys, paper, rulers....anything school related to encourage the children to attend school rather than devote themselves to a life of charity. We found this simple act of kindness rewarding and, we always received a bow, a thanks and a very big smile from each and every child we helped. Too often I observed westerners "annoyed" by the children mobbing them when, if they had taken the time to dig into their backpacks and offered candy or a pen, they would've been treated to a warm grateful smile or, on ocassion, even hand made "gifts" from children who truly are less fortunate than many of our own "spoiled" kids. If you're traveling with children of your own, this is a good way to teach appreciation for what they have at home.

    Boy missing arm appriciative of our Gum
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Cambodia Local Customs

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