Lifestyle in Cambodia
Updated 2015-10-13 12:18

If you are about to settle in the Kingdom of Cambodia, you are probably wondering about its inhabitants' lifestyles. Here is an overview.

Long ago, Cambodia was almost destroyed by war. However, the country has been attempting to rebuild itself over the years while preserving its historical and cultural heritage which reflects on its population's lifestyle. In fact, Cambodia is a developing country nowadays, thus attracting expatriates worldwide. But if you wish to relocate there, it is best to inquire on the Cambodian lifestyle so as to determine whether you can adapt to living there.

Family traditions

The Cambodian society relies on two main pillars: family and traditions. Unlike European and American countries which are very modern and where family members are quite scattered, you are likely to find many generations living under the same roof in Cambodia. Indeed, Cambodians have managed to preserve these traditions over centuries, whereby the elderly are considered as the guarantors of the family unity.

Besides the family, hierarchy is also very present in all spheres of the Cambodian society and of everyday life, whether religion, school, work, etc. In a simple way, Cambodians are related to each other in some sort or ranks which you will better understand if you know the Khmer language. These traditions, in fact, have been derived from the war period where social ranks were defined by the term 'comrade'.


Most Cambodians are likely to get together and spend a lot of money during the important festivals. Moreover, you will probably be surprised to see the usually poor families receive hundreds of guests at a wedding or a Buddhist holiday for instance.

A single salary for a big family

In most cases, a single family member will financially take care of all the family's responsibilities. Where several family members are working, their wages are pooled for household expenses.


Cambodians pay much respect to nature. In fact, they are grateful to nature for having a roof over their head and food to eat. In rural regions particularly, 80% of the population still survives on the cultivation of crops and fish migrations. Moreover, many land and water spirits are honored through festivals.

Things to remember

According to Khmer culture, the soul dwells in the head. Therefore, avoid touching a Cambodian's head and turning your feet towards him, especially if you are sitting cross-legged.

Always join your hands together to salute Cambodians. This gesture is called Sampeah.

Avoid staring at people while talking to them, especially when it comes to the elderly.

If you are used to come to the point during any argument with a Cambodian, avoid hurting local sensibilities. Take care of amortizing the effects, especially if you don't share the same opinion.

Cambodians are generally not very concerned about punctuality. If you are used to reach an appointment at least five minutes in advance, you should expect them to be late.

Avoid expressing your moods in public, like most Cambodians do. Paradoxically, in groups, they like to laugh and talk loudly. You can seize this opportunity to do the same.

In case of conflict, you might usually try to do everything to solve the situation before moving on. Cambodians, on the other hand, will do anything to avoid conflicts.

In your home country, you may be used to have a single large meal per day. But in Cambodia, you are likely to have at least three large meals a day.

In general, children are totally free in Cambodia to choose their lifestyle. Parents and grandparents will rarely intervene.

Useful links: ' Everyday life in Cambodia Forum - Expatriates blogs in Cambodia
Every Culture ' Cambodia

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