Cambodia culture | Cruise Mekong River

Cambodia culture

Cambodia culture

The bulk of the population of Cambodia- close to around 90-95%- are ethnic Khmers, although there are minorities consisting of hill tribes, ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese. A large percentage of the population is rural, and makes a subsistence living through agriculture. Whatever urban population there is, is concentrated in two main areas: the capital city of Phnom Penh and the province of Battambang.

Most Cambodians, especially in rural areas, are not very used to Westerners- and in many places you might even face open hostility. One-way of making sure you don’t step on any toes is to be polite, and to keep in mind the social norms and conventions which usually govern interactions between Cambodians. Always remember to keep your cool- as in much of this part of the world, losing your temper, no matter how great the provocation, is considered a sign of boorishness. Many Cambodians are touchy about privacy, so always take care not to appear intrusive; it also helps to ask before taking any photographs.

The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, which is also the language used by most people- including those who are not ethnic Khmers. Khmer, as a language, has its roots in the ancient Indian languages of Pali and Sanskrit. Over the years, thanks to Cambodia’s increasing interaction with other countries- and especially with its former colonial masters – Khmer has come to include a number of foreign words. These are mainly words borrowed from Chinese, French and English, and are usually those related to technology, business, commerce, and (of all things!) food. Other than Khmer, Vietnamese, hill tribe languages, other native dialects, French and English are also used in the country.

Cambodian_Buddhist_Praying_Monk

Cambodian_Buddhist_Praying_Monk

Customs in Cambodia
Part of their culture and religion is based on rank. Interpersonal communication is adjusted depending on the rank you occupy in relation to another person. When visiting Cambodia, you may find that Cambodians may ask you quite personal questions: this is not to be a sticky-beak, but to establish your rank and the appropriate way to communicate with you.

Unlike western culture, where individual rights and freedoms are held dear, in Cambodia culture the group’s needs come before the individual’s needs.

Like many other Asian nations, the concept of “face” is also important to Cambodians and visitors should be aware of this and their actions to avoid anyone losing face in any situation. In Cambodian custom, face is generally lost when people are criticized or embarrassed publicly and face can be given by giving compliments
Greeting Each Other
In Cambodia culture the traditional greeting is a little bow with the hands clasped together like in prayer: your bow will be deeper for a more highly respected person.

Some Cambodians have taken to the western practice of shaking hands, but the bow remains the more usual greeting. People are usually addressed with the honorific title “lok” for men and “lok srey” for women followed by the first name, or both first and last name.

Some western travelers may be somewhat shocked to see same sex friends hugging each other, walking down the street hand in hand or arm in arm. These are considered non-sexual displays of friendship and are quite acceptable.

Public displays of affection between romantic couples however, are not culturally appropriate in Cambodia and will probably be considered offensive.

In western culture, we tend to judge someone that will not meet our eyes as shifty. In Cambodia culture, indirect eye contact is a form of respect and direct eye contact is usually only made with social equals.

Read more: Mekong Off the beaten Path with extension to Cambodia 12 days

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