Wherever you are and wherever you go, you are always a guest when it comes to international travel. In case you come from the Western world and plan to visit Cambodia, there will be quite a lot of dos and don’ts you need to remember. To make the matter worse, the world wide web offers tons of information, but not all of them are trustworthy. That’s why you should resolve to put your trust on local tour agents like us.

Today, Travel Sense Asia will give you the accurate etiquettes of the Cambodian. Take a pen and paper and note down the following things to perfect your Cambodian expedition.

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Cambodian Salutation And Farewell

The Cambodian greeting is called “som pas”. It resembles the worshipping gestures in Buddhism. If you have been to Buddhist countries like Thailand, you may come across “som pas” in form of “wai”.

To make “som pas”, put your palms together at your chest height and lightly bow your head. When you see others do “som pas” to you, respond by doing “som pas” to them. It is really impolite not to respond to a greeting.

When meeting, Cambodian people say “suostei” (hello) while bowing and putting their hands together. The same gesture is made when parting, when they will say “leahaey” (goodbye).

There are several variations of “som pas”, depending on the relationship, rank and age between people. If you want to show respect to the opposite person, you will bend lower and put your hands in a higher position. For foreigners, Cambodians also use handshakes, however, women in this country still use the traditional way of greeting guests.

Table Manners Of The Cambodian

Dining etiquettes at the Cambodian table is quite formal. If you are not sure about what should or should not be done at the table, the easiest way is to follow the people nearby. When invited to attend any meal, wait until you are seated to avoid breaking the rules of order.

Usually, the oldest is the one who has a seat at the table first. Likewise, the elderly is the person who will start eating first. During the meals, the Cambodian don’t have the habit of talking about business. It should be a chance to share your hobbies, interests.

The dining utensils in a Cambodian meal are forks and spoons. The proper way to serve yourself is to skew your food with the fork, place it on a spoon, then bring it to your mouth to enjoy. Chopsticks can be used when having soups. Solid foods like meat or vegetables will be picked with chopsticks, then put to the spoon and feed your mouth.

As you can see, the Cambodian don’t use forks and chopsticks directly. This is due to the fact that most of the food are shared. So they don’t want to see you put a fork in your mouth and pick a slice of meat after that.

Besides, do not stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl. It is a sign of bad luck, which resembles the incense sticks burned in honor of the dead.

Temple Etiquettes In Cambodia

Buddhist followers accounts for more than 95% of the population. Therefore, it is important to understand the general Buddhist etiquettes to avoid disrespecting the local religion as well as its sacred places.

The monks are highly respected in Cambodia. Whenever you see them, don’t forget to do “som pas” as a hint of admiration.

There are a few don’ts to be noted here:

  • Never touch a monk if you are a woman
  • Do not stand when talking to a seated monk. Always sit down before starting your conversation.
  • Monks cannot eat after noon, so don’t offer them food or eat around them in the afternoon.
  • When addressing a monk, you should use the word “Venerable” followed by his first name.
  • When offering food to a monk, do not taste it beforehand.

When you visit sacred temples, remove your shoes at the entrance. The Buddha image is considered Holy Spirit, so do not touch it or stand on the altar. Dress in an appropriate way with your shoulders and knees fully covered.

Respect To The Royal Family

Similar to Thailand, Cambodians are especially devoted to the Royal Family. Therefore, if you travel to Cambodia, you should avoid teasing, laughing rudely in The Royal Palace or any properties owned by the Royal Family.

Cambodian tourists are not allowed to take photos at the palace and temples without permission. If you violate, you will certainly be fined depending on the level.

Courtesy When Visiting A Cambodian Home

Before entering the people’s houses, you should remove your slippers and arrange them neatly at the doorstep. The same tradition can be seen in other Asian countries like Vietnam, Korea or Japan

If you’re invited to dine with a Cambodian family, observe and follow their eating habits to create sympathy and avoid rude behavior. If possible, bring fruits as a gift to show your appreciation for this meal.

Cambodians only exchange presents with each other on the traditional New Year (Chaul Chnam). Avoid giving knives in any occasion. You should use both hands when giving and receiving presents. Also, the Cambodian don’t have the custom of opening the gifts right after receiving them. This is totally different from the Western tradition.

Appropriate Public Behaviors In Cambodia

We are accustomed to rubbing the heads of children as an intimate gesture, but in Cambodia, this is considered vulgar. The head of the body is the highest position, so it is the most respected. Only parents can be allowed to rub a baby’s head.

Besides the head, the legs are also sensitive and worth your attention. As for the customs of your country, your feet are lowkey parts. You should never use them to point at others, especially the royal family and the monks. Or else, you will be in big trouble.

When traveling to Cambodia, wherever you are, just as a public place, you must not wear offensive clothes, show excessive affection or make fun of girls. Pay close attention and be careful in any case for your Cambodia tour to go smoothly.

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