You know you were in Cambodia when…
You know rice is the main dish in all meals
In the Khmer culture, you ask “nyum bie?” to know whether they want to eat. It literally translates to “Do you want to eat rice?” Like many other Asian cultures, Cambodia’s staple food is white rice. You always start with a steaming bowl of it, to which you add some kind of fresh fish or pork as well as a mixture of green vegetables and some chili peppers in the fish sauce. All of these pieces of the meal are kept separate until you actually start to eat.
Your body no longer craves processed foods, but rather the freshest of ingredients
And, this fact scores! The Cambodian markets offer you all the fresh ingredients in case that you want to cook for yourself, from herbs, vegetables, to all kind of meat. Not to mention the price is super good, only the feeling of wandering around the totally different kind of market is able to raise your heartbeat. If you don’t have time for self-cooking, you will find exotic street foods in any corner of the country, and they are all made with fresh ingredients. In this country, you will learn how to “avoid” the frozen foods.
You use “Sampeah” for greeting
Cambodians greet people and show respect by drawing their hands together at their heart in prayer. You can also show respect to elders by showing this gesture and slightly bowing your head. The highest display of respect is reserved for priests and those of the highest status. You will often see people bend and touch a priest’s feet in order to receive a blessing. You know it’s offensive to forget a greeting and so it becomes a habit, even when your Cambodia trip ends.
You call people by a title instead of their name
Cambodian people are intensely aware of the age difference between you and themselves. One of the first questions you will be asked when meeting someone for the first time is about your birthdate. From that moment on, you’ll be known either as an elder or younger brother or sister. An older brother is called Bong proh, while an older sister is Bong srei. If someone is younger than you, it is acceptable to call them by their first name or add P’ohn in front of proh (boy) or srei (girl).
You expect to hold hands with your close friends as you walk down the street
Cambodians have a very small personal bubble. If you are friends with a Cambodian, they will sit close to you as you talk and often reach out and touch you mid-conversation. You feel completely comfortable holding hands with any of your friends, regardless of their age or sex. This act of physical touch simply shows that the two of you are intimate friends and that you are as close as family.
You smile at everyone you pass and stop to talk to complete strangers
People in Cambodia are very friendly and open. Many people will stop just to talk and get to know you out of curiosity. This friendliness is contagious in the best of ways. You soon come to realize how much you can learn from strangers who you’d never have met if you hadn’t followed this cultural value.
You automatically take your shoes off when entering a building.
In Cambodia, you’ll be asked to take your shoes off when entering homes, schools, temples, or anywhere else that holds a place of esteem in the society. It’s a sign of respect.
You consider everyone in the community to be your family
The Cambodian mentality is very community-based. Holidays are spent with open doors to family and friends in the neighborhood. The Water Festival, celebrated in November, is one of the most joyous Cambodian occasions. You’ll get to know everyone in your community as you spend days drenching each other with water and sharing meals together afterward. If a job needs to be completed, you’ll work together with your neighbors to accomplish it. The Cambodian people come into each other’s houses as if they were all blood-related.