When you visit Siem Reap, you will soon experience that this is one of the coolest places you’ve ever visited. People are easy going, traffic is not all too bad, you can literately eat anything at any time and there are like a million things to do and a zillion places to go.
In need for fast food?
Fun fact: Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world without a MacDonald’s. So if you’re dying for fast food, forget about MacDonald’s. There is and never has been a MacDonald’s in Cambodia. There is, however, a Burger King in Siem Reap. If you rather find a a Starbucks or Domino’s Pizza, you’re lucky. Both are represented in Siem Reap.
It is not permitted to stop at the pedestrian crossing, but
While in many countries NOT stopping for a pedestrian crossing will be rewarded with a fine, one of the few Cambodian traffic rules forbids stopping at a pedestrian crossing. However: there is a traffic law that give right of way to pedestrians at all time, no matter if there is or isn’t a pedestrian crossing. So basically, the locals WILL avoid you, but WON’T come to a full stop.
Eating with your hands?
No, unlike some other Asian countries, Cambodian use chopsticks or cutlery. Touching food with your hands is only allowed in outdoor situations where you’re drinking beer while eating small food items, like chicken, insects or snakes. If you do need to use your hands, use the right hand, since the left hand is considered impure
The fork has a different function in Cambodia than it has in many western cultures. Sticking a fork in your mouth is considered inappropriate, Instead the fork is used to shove the food onto the spoon. If you follow this practice you won’t get in trouble with the next common practice: using shared food.
In peoples homes, food is often served in bowls and everyone takes some food from the bows and puts it on his or her plate. Don’t use the spoon, but use the fork, since the fork doesn’t touch your mouth.
Formal and informal greeting
There are two way’s to greet someone: the informal way is just to say ‘Susadei’, which means ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. The second, more formal way is ‘Chom Reap Sore’, which means ‘Hello’. Normally you would follow the first greeting with a ‘How are you’ and in Khmer the same phrase is used to ask ‘How are you’ as well as to answer the question: soksabay (soks-a-bye)
Accept a compliment with grace
Showing humility is a respected thing in Cambodia. It’s good practice to deflect a compliment or give someone else credit (teachers, parents, friends, co-workers). When offered a gift, it’s not uncommon to refuse it first and then accept it with both hands.
The head is considered sacred
Touching someones head is not common in Buddhist countries and considered very rude. If you do, you probably won’t get any feedback, but that doesn’t mean the person is not offended by your action.
There is not really a ‘weekend’
Shops are open 7 days a week many until 8 or 9 pm. Although offices, schools, government offices close on Saturday and Sunday, most Cambodians work 6 or 7 days a week. If they are not self employed they will have 4, 5 or 6 off-days a month and these are mostly not fixed days.
Don’t point with your feet
When sitting or lying never point to someone with your feet. Also don’t point your feet to anything sacred, like a Buddha statue.
Making sounds while eating
Unlike people from many western countries, Cambodians have no problem when you eat with your mouth open, talk while eating or make other kinds of sounds. If you’re finished and find some food between your teeth, it is however decent to cover your mouth when using a tooth pick.
Keep your hands to yourself
Touching someone else is a delicate thing in Cambodia. Men don’t touch ladies and ladies don’t touch men, unless they have special relation. Ladies never touch a monk and vice versa. Showing publicly your affection to someone is not common. Locals in Siem Reap are used to westerners holding hands or even kissing in public, but that doesn’t mean they approve such behavior. Keep in mind that when posing for a photo, holding someone or putting your arm around a person, may not be the proper thing to do.
Oh, and if you happen to see a girl slapping a guy in the face, it doesn’t always mean there is a conflict.
Giving to underprivileged is mandatory
Buddhist have an obligation to help those in need and people who are in a difficult situation. If you are in the company of locals you will experience that they will give to those in need, even if they don’t have much to give.
Foreigners who take photo’s of locals should keep some things in mind. You may experience that locals will not always smile when you take their photo. If you are taking a photo together with someone older than you, it’s very rude to put an arm around his or her shoulder. Just stand next to the person. Touching people from the opposite sex is definitely a no-go and when taking group photo’s the oldest people in the group should be the center of the photo.
Cambodians love to celebrate
If there is any reason for a party, Cambodians will take it with both hands. Partying always means drinking together, eating together and play very loud music. events are not always limited to night time. Refusing an invitation to a wedding is rude and you won’t score goodwill point when rejecting invitations to small (sudden) parties or a visit to someones home.
Eating with chopsticks
If you decide to eat with chopsticks, keep in mind that when you are not holding them in your hand, they should never be placed vertically inside the bowl. Just like in many Asian culture incense sticks are burned when someone dies and vertically positioned chopsticks show a similar view.. Always keep the chopsticks horizontally on the rice or soup bowl
Shouting and anger will get you instant degradation
Just like in many Asian countries, shouting and showing your anger is seen as a sign of weakness. If you find yourself in a conflict keeping your cool is the best way to a quick and smooth solution. In western countries is quit innocent to point your finger while having an argument, in Cambodian culture is straight out rude.
Find consensus when there’s a problem
Cambodians are very capable of managing their own problems without interference from the police. If you find yourself in a conflict with a local, got a small accident or problem, the best and expected way to deal with it, is to find consensus and solve the problem as quickly as possible.
A direct ‘NO may be considered rude
Loosing face is a thing within the Cambodian culture. When a delicate questions is asked,especially when people are in the company of others, a direct ‘no’ may embarrass the person who asked the question.If you feel you’re in a situation whee someone may loose face, try giving a lengthy and explanatory answer, instead of a direct ‘no’.