The Cambodian culture can be generally described as conservative and traditional. Even so, there is a cultural change forming in the bigger cities where life is different and western influences are wide spread. Nowadays the majority of Khmer are Theravada Buddhist and this religion has a marked effect on their etiquette, customs and culture. Most travellers are impressed by the warmth and kindness of the local people. But not all tourists have the chance to discover this friendliness, caused by cultural barriers and their unknown misbehavior. To avoid these complications it is important to know a few Dos and Don’ts for Cambodia.
Nevertheless Cambodians understand that visitors come from another culture and will be indulgent about minor cultural faux pas. They will just appreciate every effort to understand their traditions and society and award these endeavors with a positive difference in the interaction.
Some rules to be observed
- The traditional greeting, it is a little bow with the hands clasped together like in prayer.
- Remove your shoes before entering a temple or someone’s house.
- Try to make some indirect eye contact from time to time. Staring can be interpreted as impolite.
- Ask for permission before taking photographs of people or monks.
- Keep business cards ready, and present them with both hands. Accept business cards with both hands.
- A big no-go is to touch anyone on top of the head, because the head is holy.
- It is impolite to point your feet at anyone included a Buddha statue.
- In temples men should wear long pants and women tops covering their shoulders.
- Avoid handing anything with your left hand.
- To pass things politely, touch your left hand to your right elbow and pass the object with your right hand.
- Don’t begin eating if you are a guest at a dinner and the host has yet to take a bite.
- Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.