Etiquette Tips in Cambodia

Customs and etiquette
Customs and etiquette

Here are some tips about etiquette for visitors who are planing to visit Cambodia that can help you avoid some unexpected problems.

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Meet and greet

Learn the Cambodian greeting, the sompiah, and use it when introducing yourself to new friends. When beckoning someone over, always wave towards yourself with the palm down, as palm up with fingers raised can be suggestive, even offensive.

Making a contribution

Making a contribution when visiting a temple
Making a contribution when visiting a temple

Since most temples are maintained from the donations received, remember to make a contribution when visiting a temple. When visiting a Khmer home, a small token of gratitude in the form of a gift is always appreciated.

A woman’s touch

Monks are not supposed to touch or be touched by women. If a woman wants to hand something to a monk, the object should be placed within reach of the monk or on the monk’s ‘receiving cloth’.

It’s on the cards

Exchanging business cards is an important part of even the smallest transaction or business contact in Cambodia. Get some printed before you arrive and hand them out like confetti. Always present them with two hands.

Deadly chopsticks

Tip for using chopsticks
Tip for using chopsticks

Leaving a pair of chopsticks sitting vertically in a rice bowl looks very much like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. This is a powerful sign and is not appreciated anywhere in Asia.

Hats off to them

As a form of respect to the elderly or other esteemed people, such as monks, take off your hat and bow your head politely when addressing them. Never pat or touch an adult on the head – in Asia, the head is considered the most sacred part of the body.