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Cambodians are called Khmer. Their language, culture, and appearance reflect many centuries of influence from India, China, Malaysia, and Europe. Cambodia was once the heart of a great empire that stretched over much of Southeast Asia. In the late 1800s, the French colonized (invaded and occupied) Cambodia. In 1953, Cambodia gained independence from the French.
When Cambodians meet, they greet each other with the sampeah. Joining their palms together, their fingers pointing up or slightly tilted toward the other person, they bring their hands up to their chest or forehead. The higher the status of the person they are greeting, the higher their hands go. They may also bow their head as they greet with the sampeah, Khmer people are pleasant, helpful and warm friendly people but hardworking.
When greetings each other formally ,Cambodians say " Chum Riap Sure " ,which means " How do you do ?'' and when saying these works they will put their hands together like a prayers up to their face and then bow their heads gently toward each other . If they knew each other well , then the greeting is less formal and they just say '' Sok Sabay Tae'' ,which means '' How are you ?''and they will not greet with their hands . A lot of Cambodians are now changing over to the western ways with a hand shake especially in Siem Reap , so most Cambodians do not offense if your offer hand, however , do not offer your hand to a lady unless she offers her hand to you first .You also can wave or say the words '' Sure Sdei '' which means '' Hello '' to the people that you meet or pass by . Greetings tend to vary based on age and social status, not sex whether you are meeting a man or woman for the first time ,you should .with hands held together , as in prayer, slightly bow your head and show your smile .
Most Cambodians are Theravada Buddhist. Theravada Buddhism is one of the two main Buddhist sects and is practiced also in Thailand and Laos. Khmer Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation—that is, they believe that today’s actions will affect their lives in the future, either in this or future lives. The Buddhist religion allows Cambodians a way to gain merit so they may be reborn to a better life. They gain merit by good acts and religious deeds that include acting properly, celebrating holy days, and taking food to the monks at the temple.
Most Cambodians also believe in spirits who must be fed, made happy, and informed of family events. Thus, every wedding includes a ceremony to notify family spirits that a new member is joining the family.
Many visitors to Cambodia are left puzzled by the presence of spirit houses. These small shrines are seen throughout the country , and look like tiny temple mounted on pillars. They are used by both Buddhist and animist minorities in order to show respect to the recent departed .Buddhist believe that leaving offerings at the spirit houses wish luck in the next life for the recently deceased , who are awaiting reincarnation in t5he underworld .In doing so, they also believe that they are giving themselves good luck .As such, it is not uncommon to see spirit houses at businesses and homes throughout Southeast Asia
The ethnic minority followers of animism in the more remote parts of Cambodia also believe in the use of spirit houses .However, the spirit houses play a much more significant role in their lives .According to animist traditions, the recently departed must exist as spirit in the forest until they are reincarnated .They take great care in not offending the spirit , as they believe that unfortunate events such as disease are caused by angered spirit . Thus they leave offerings at the spirit houses in hopes of remedying illness , often in lieu of seeking medical treatment .
Many Cambodians continue to wear traditional clothing. Women wear a sampot and men a sarong. Both are wraparound cotton or silk skirts that fall to the knee. Khmer women wear a white blouse or shirt with the sampot. Men go bare-chested or wear a light-colored shirt. The quintessential Cambodian piece of clothing is a krama, a long slender scarf. Most commonly worn around the neck, the krama is also worn as a head turban or scarf, a skirt, blouse, purse, or baby sling.
Many Cambodians today prefer to wear Western trousers and shirts, particularly in urban areas. Children go barefoot, while their parents wear rubber thongs or sandals.
What you should know :
Taking off your shoes when entering a home is considered polite and respectful .
Advice for Travelers DOs and DON’Ts in Cambodia
People in Cambodia are well-known for their hospitality and warmth. Out of respect, visitors to the Kingdom should take care to observe local customs and practices. You may find it useful to familiarize yourself with the following common dos and don'ts before embarking on your trip to Cambodia.
DOs in Cambodia
DON'Ts in Cambodia
The Top Ten Unwritten Rules :
1- Don't touch heads : Seen as the highest and holiest part of the body , to touch someone's head, specially that of someone older than you is extremely rude , and an act of disrespect .
2- Bend Before Your Elders : When an elder is seated , and you have to walk past them it is customary to bow your head and stoop slightly as you cross their path as a sign of respect.
3- Use Both Hands : Unlike is some country where the left hand is unused , here it is polite to use both hands when passing something over , and accepting something , it shows your full willingness to give and gratefulness to receive .
4- An Extended Family : When addressing those older than you it is impolite to use first names.Those older must be called "..." Aunty or "...."
Uncle , as it shows a welcoming of the family .
5- Don't Step Over : If in the theater or a crowded corridor ,even in train or coach ,it is extremely inappropriate to try and step over people .
Allowances will be made to allow you room to get through,so be patient,and don't attempt to climb over anyone's laps.
6- Don't Give a Little Whistle : The shape of the face , and the brazen confidence exuded when whistling is consider rude throughout Cambodia , Women in particular must never whistle in public , or sing out loud when not in a karaoke bar.
7- No Straddling : Although exceptions are made for tourist ,it is not customary for a woman to sit astride a motorbike , and so where it is possible one should always sit sidesaddle.
8- Don't Cross Your Arms : Not meant in the traditional sense, crossing your arm over someone else's at a table when reaching for food is impolite .it is better to simply wait,and then ask for it to be passed ,or reach out when you are alone in doing so .
9- The Pecking Order : The roads in Phnom Penh or elsewhere are nothing if not alarming .The only rule that seems to sick is "Size does matter " .The bigger vehicle always gets right of way and motors are bottom on the pecking order.
10- No Going Dutch : Be aware when inviting local for a meal that the" Host "usually pays for the bill.Although if dinning with western ex-pats some do not stick to this rule.