Social Life in Cambodia
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.