People
The people of Cambodia are mainly Khmer. Only a small percentage of people live in main cities, making most of the population rural farmers and artisans. In general, Cambodians are friendly, warm and hospitable. Don't be surprised if you're welcomed with a little bow with the hands clasped together as if in prayer, the traditional Cambodian greeting. 


Language
Khmer is the main language spoken throughout the country. English, French and Chinese are also commonly spoken.

Religion
The majority of the people in Cambodia are Theravada Buddhists. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers.

Customs
The traditions and customs of the Cambodians are very different from those of Americans. Some general "dos" and "don'ts" may be helpful for your visit:

Do:
-Ask for permission before taking pictures of people, especially monks.
-Dress appropriately with upper arms and legs covered, and remove your shoes when entering a place of worship such as a pagoda or temple
-A respectful way of greeting is to bow the head slightly with hands pressed together as if in prayer
-If you need to use a toothpick at the table, cover your mouth with one hand
-Keep public displays of affection to a minimum

Don't:
-Don't use your feet to point at a person or a statue of Buddha
-Don't touch anyone on the head
-Women should never touch a monk or hand anything to them directly
-Hand something to another person with your left hand
Some other cultural differences you might notice: same sex friends, both men and women, will give each other a hug, and they may walk down the street hand in hand or arm in arm. These are just displays of friendship and quite acceptable. Also, the concept of "saving face" is important to the Cambodians. Don't publically criticize or embarrass anyone, but giving compliments is always appreciated. Indirect eye contact is a form of respect, so don't be offended if someone isn't looking you in the eye.

Cuisine
Cambodian food is simple and fresh, with a pleasing mix of flavors, textures and temperatures. Rice is a staple and it is served with all meals.

Some favorite dishes to look for are: amok trey, a fish fillet covered with shallots, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime, crushed peanuts, coconut milk and egg, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed; ansom chrook, a rice cake filled with pork and mung bean paste; babor, rice porridge served with bean sprouts, green onions, breadsticks or dried fish; kuy teav, a pork and rice noodle soup, popular for breakfast, it is served with lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, scallions, and sometimes pork belly, ground pork, roasted duck, or squid; bok l'hong, a salad of unripe green papaya, peppers and cherry tomatoes, pounded in a mortar and pestle and mixed with a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and/or prahok; chruok svay, unripe mango salad with fish sauce and peppers; lok lak, marinated, cubed beef stir fried and served with red onions, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes; chha kh'nhei, a spicy stir fry with chicken, eel or frog, ginger, black Kampot pepper, garlic, soy and sometimes fresh peppers; and num banh chok, a Cambodian favorite made of rice noodles topped with a fish-based green curry gravy, mint leaves, bean sprouts, banana flowers, cucumbers and other greens.
For dessert, you might want to try: ansom chek, a rice cake wrapped filled with bananas; nom lote, made with rice flour, coconut, milk, water and sugar; or sankya lapov, pumpkin and coconut flan.

Sign up for Special Offerings

Receive the latest news, announcements, special offers, and more on Grand European Travel vacations! Simply fill in the form below and submit to be added to our mailing list.