Culture question

Part of my consideration about volunteering in Cambodia is that the culture seems more tranquil, contemplative and reflective than in America. Americans seem to be too loud, aggressive, extroverted and often (sadly) rude. I am a polite, introverted, peaceable and reflective person. Is it true that I might feel a little more culturally "at home" in Cambodia than in the Boston, Massachusetts, area?  Thank you!

Dear Mr. Wrwoolly, 
                         Seems to me that every human being is multifaceted. We as a speices are pregnant with possibilities.  Anghor Wat is such a possibility.  So is Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  Cambodia is in the throws of rebirth.  External forces of China, Viet Nam, Japan and the US and Europe are all vying for a piece  of Cambodia.  Looks to me like China and Viet Nam have a stronger foothold in the door at the present time. Russian mafia influence is apparent.  In the midst of this conundrum the survivors of the Khmer Rouge are essentialy devided into the Monarchy, Buddhists Monks,  government, military, wealthy, NGOs, working class, poor,  very poor, wretched and gansters.  If an uneducated Khmer national makes $300 a month thats pretty good and getting by.  Airport licensed taxis make about $50 - $75 a day.  I am told skilled constuction workers can make $10. a day and more depending on skill. Construction companies do well .  Garment workers make $128. a month.  Land speculation and tourism on the rise. 4.5 million tourists last year. There is a lot of under the table activity.
          When Khmers party and have a beer or two they are very loud and the language is not kind to ones ears.  I live adjacent to a beer garden ( a private house that rents out for parties ) about once a week and it gets loud till about 930 or 10 and then quiets down but sometimes there are a few highly inebreated kareoke stragglers that will go on to 11 or so. I solve this problem by subscribing to Spotify  and raise the volume of my Sony dual woofer amps.high enough to drown out the highly obnoxious scrapple coming from next door. I guess that makes me a loud and rude American.
          Now how a young Bostonian male will feel culturally in tune in  the midst of all this I care not to hypothesize. But do come and see.  Look me up and we can share a beer or tea. Wellcome. Sincerely Lawrance

Just my personal observations, but as an introverted Brit, I think it won't quite be what you're expecting. Cambodia can be rather loud, and foreigners often seem to experience what feels like a constant barrage of people trying to sell one thing or another, many of whom have no qualms about invading one's personal space. I'm not sure how it compares to Boston, but coming from the UK where people mostly leave each other alone in public, it was uncomfortable at first.

In some areas there seems to be more of a community spirit, so that neighbours are very interested in each others' lives. This seems to be less applicable in the cities. It's probably similar to most countries, but worth bearing in mind since Cambodia is comparatively small and rural.

Personal relationships are different. In my experience, people are friendly and polite but rarely pushy. However, the culture favours bluntness - for example, people will tell you that you've gained weight, and may venture a guess as to how much, just as casually as an Englishman would remark on the weather.

Cambodia is an emerging and developing country, following years of attrocities and oppression. What you are describing sounds more like aspects of say Japan or even daily life in Singapore, not Cambodia. Of course in the far east there is something called "FACE" which is  a kind of polite attitude behind which people hide, and the norms of behaviour that are expected socially. Understanding Face and what is behind it, is very important to successfully living in this part of the world.

Agree with the comment on not over simplifying things. Read about high context and low context cultures. U.S. culture is low context--what you see is what you get. Khmer culture is higher context but not as high as say Japan. What isn't said means more that what is. I missed all that and was frustrated by all the subtle clues. Be patient, there is no substitute for time.

I am a polite, introverted, peaceable and reflective person.
Yes you'll be a great Monk.

Being a Monk also requires belief......

I just noticed all the posted replies to my question about the culture in Cambodia, and how I might fit in ... or not. THANK YOU SO MUCH!  All your feedback is very helpful, not to mention fascinating! I notice some similarities with the Latino culture, with which I've been involved for the past four years. Perhaps even more interestingly, the comments help me galvanize my perspective on American, or Western, culture. I just finished reading Susan Cain's book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking." In it, she includes a chapter discussing how Asian culture is much more introverted than American culture. She writes about America's "extrovert ideal," suggesting that Americans value and reward extroversion, and consider introversion a personality flaw to "get over." Anyway, I know that discussion of culture necessarily involve generalizations, but every bit of feedback is helpful. Great people here. Excellent feedback. Truly appreciated!

If you want tranquility stay out of big cities no matter what country you are in. I do n't consider PP tranquil but I find streams and mountains very tranquil. Try the countryside in Cambodia or the beach. I love fishing, nature and the beach. One of the places than I really never liked was the N.E. it wasn't my cup of tea, a real rat race. Just my experience for whatever it is worth. Best of luck

Hi!  I reside in Siem Reap which is not a typical Cambodian town.  Lots of NGOs and foreigners.  I came here from Concord, NH.  In my experience Cambodians do tend to be more "laid back" than Americans, but I wouldn't attribute that to being reflective.  I think it's more a matter of having the "Asian mindset" and living in the Tropics.........They don't tend to wear their feelings on their sleeves, so to speak. One of the contributors mentioned how Cambodians can be VERY direct and I had to laugh.  A couple of years ago a Cambodian found out that my ex-wife wasn't traveling with me and ventured, "What's wrong with you?"  Cambodian culture promotes the idea that it isn't polite to say "No."  Instead, they will say "Yes," and then proceed to tell you how they disagree with you.  Business people will probably lie a lot, so you need to be prepared for that.  I am in an intimate loving relationship with a Khmer man and it IS a challenge for BOTH.
You mentioned that you are considering coming here for volunteer work so you're probably not thinking of permanently settling.  I urge you to just come and experience this wonderful place and it's people.  If you're looking for reflective conversations/attitudes, you might try visiting local pagodas where you might be able to find educated, English-speaking and reflective monks. Towns like Battambang, Kampong Cham and Kampot might suit you.
Best of luck and Safe Travels

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