• Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Japan!

    Japan: Traditional foods. Go Now!

    Japan
    Japan has a rich culture that is visible today in the country's dress, architecture, language, food (pictured), and lifestyle. Begin Your Journey!

  • Bahrain!

    Bahrain: Desert. Go Now!

    Bahrain
    This tiny country has overcome the desert and has found a way to thrive, like this tree on al Jazair Beach. Explore Bahrain!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

  • Laos!

    Laos: Karst peak. Go Now!

    Laos
    The simplicity and natural beauty of the countryside make Laos a hidden gem in Southeast Asia overlooked by most travelers. Begin Your Journey!

Social Life in Cambodia

Behavior

The Cambodians are somewhat conservative in most aspects of their lives partially due to their Buddhist faith, which preaches modesty. The people are also somewhat isolated so are not well aware of outside customs and traditions, meaning what you may consider normal, may be interpreted as offensive by the Cambodians. Fortunately, curiosity often trumps offence in the country and the people are rarely outgoing enough to question your poor behaviors.

The Cambodian people are proud and insulting them or putting a person down in anyway can be very offensive as the person will feel "shamed." In much the same way, they will rarely give you critical advice or insult you in fear of "shaming" you. This is especially true in business. Turning down a business offer in the wrong way may, unknowingly, be an insult and could force your contact to feel so shamed that he will actually quit his job; if all hope is lost on a deal, allow your local counterpart to gracefully exit the situation so he can save "face." However, the opposite is also becoming more common and if you do (intentionally or unintentionally) insult another, that person may defend his honor by insulting you and will pursue a shouting match. Fortunately, this is more common among locals arguing over driving etiquette.

Additionally, avoid sensitive conversation topics, such as politics, finances, religion, and business unless initiated by your local counterpart. Also try to avoid being loud, rude, showing off wealth, or getting noticeably drunk in public.

Dress

The traditional clothing in Cambodia is called the sampot or a sarong, which is the most basic type of sampot. This long cloth is tied to itself to create a loop, then is delicately wrapped around one's body. There are numerous versions of the sampot and these differences indicated both the region a person was from as well as social class. In addition the the sampot, shirts were also traditionally worn in Cambodia. Again the styles and designs of the shirts are vast and have vastly changed over time.

Today the Cambodians have made the shift to western clothing and most of the population dresses in this way. In some towns and villages there are people who still dress in more traditional clothing, but this is rare. Most of these clothes are styles particular to the region and most people prefer pants and long-sleeved shirts with sandals.

Despite the local dress, there are few dress restrictions in Cambodia. Although few locals wear shorts, there is no discourtesy involved in wearing them as this is a cultural phenomenon, not a religious rule. Of course if you are visiting temples or other sights of particular religious importance (including many temples in Angkor) you may be expected to cover up with long pants and shoulders should be covered at a minimum. Additionally, sunbathing naked or women sunbathing topless is rarely permitted; check with locals before doing so.

This page was last updated: November, 2013