Dealing with loneliness in Cambodia


Expatriation can be a fun and exciting adventure, but it can also be a bit lonely at times. Please share with us some tips for dealing with loneliness.

What are some potential factors that lead to loneliness when moving to Cambodia?

How do you deal with feelings of loneliness?

Is it easy to expand or create a social network in Cambodia?

Are there any activities or events that encourage social meet ups and networking opportunities?

Thank you for sharing your experience,


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To each his own. For me finding a hobby was the best way. Playing basketball was a way to burn off extra energy and keep my mind from wandering. For the men readers DO NOT try to cure your loneliness with bar girls! It is a temporary fix and will only lead to a great depression and you being broke! Also learn the language it might seem hard but you're in Cambodia afterall. No better way to learn a language than immersion. So get out there and mix it up with the Khmer people and you will enjoy your stay.

It's better to be on your own, than with idiots and  drunks  Buy your self a push bike and iipod and get down the beach with a  coconut. But them days are going fast as the Chinese are buying up all the beaches 20 years ago it was  Paradise. So if you don't want to  lonely  Learn  Chinese. Ha, ha ha

Hi Priscilla.

There is a huge difference between "alone" and "lonely", the latter being more of the kind of self pity and feeling neglected.
Most people that are lonely are just bored, don't know what to do with their time and their life, blame others for that and have a negative view on many things.

I don't know loneliness. I'm being alone [single] since 5 years but have never felt lonely.
I have a hobby in Nature photography and although not active anymore I still got plenty to do in editing older photos, identifying species on those photos, having contact with fellow photographers on several FB groups [birds, insects, reptiles, wildlife], so I spend a lot of time working on the computer.

Then I have chosen to live in an apartment with a gym and swimming pool in the residence, so easy to relax or work out.

I eat out quite a lot, it's a discovery trip for me and I have found the most wonderful places to eat. Although I go alone, I always have nice conversations, like at the Mexican restaurant nearby, with two lovely waitresses. I eat at the bar, so I stay close to the staff and can easily converse.

I venture out in the city, either walking or taking a rickshaw and sit down on one of the many terraces, having a glass of wine and see the world go by.

At night I might some times visit the entertainment area, have fun there and meet lovely girls.

Sometimes I have a girlfriend, but not for live-in. Better to stay in your own environment and meet up than live in and find out after 6 months that it doesn't work.

All together my life is never boring, I have no self pity [why would I?] I'm happy, sometimes more happy than other times, but always happy. I'm healthy, use no medicines and feel fine, so who's complaining? Not me  :D

Joe, very well put seems you have worked life out to a T one of few. Bottom line look into your self for happiness, peace of the soul not other people. Am happy for you, enjoy.

garytogary :

Joe, very well put seems you have worked life out to a T one of few. Bottom line look into your self for happiness, peace of the soul not other people. Am happy for you, enjoy.

garytogary, thanks.

I have learned a lot from Oriental wisdom, be it Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, Tao or others.

In all those you find the simple way to achieve happiness.

It's inner balance and inner peace.

If anything disturbs your inner balance try to get rid of it. If a person disturbs your inner balance, delete the person out of your life.

That way it is possible to maintain your inner balance and inner peace. If something negative happens it has not so much impact and can easily be dealt with.

Another point is to not have too high expectations, lower your expectations, it makes it easier to keep your inner peace and balance.

I tried hard, not always easy for a Westerner, but it works and therefor I can say I'm happy in my life.



Although I’m not in Cambodia anymore (I’m exploring the Philippines right now), the question of being alone or lonely is one that I know a little bit about as well.
Because of my health problems, I have no choice but to spend the majority of my time alone, the company of other people invariably worsens my state, and it’s not something that I’m gonna feel the next day, it is immediate. Plus, I had to give up pretty much all of my hobbies, I just don’t have enough energy anymore.
So, unlike JoeKhmer, I can’t say that my life is never boring, since I can’t always go out and seek entertainment when I feel lonely. However, over the years, this has taught me to be patient, for once, but I have also learnt that I can attain a certain degree of happiness just by being by myself, without doing anything at all. I’m not saying that I’m never frustrated, but in countries such as Cambodia and the Philippines, I’m sometimes able just to enjoy the warm weather, which, coming from a country with very long winters, is a luxury for me.
If I had to give an advice, it would be what Iceberg said: learn the language. Not only does it keep you occupied, it will eventually open up a new culture for you, in a way that it’s just not possible to explore without knowing the language.

Hello, are you currently living in Siem Reap?

Living in a foreign country can be lonely sometimes.

What I do I keep myself busy by planning my schedule for the whole day and make friend with like-minded people.

Oxford dictionary defines loneliness as follows:
1Sadness because one has no friends or company.

‘feelings of depression and loneliness’
More example sentencesSynonyms
1.1 The fact of being without companions; solitariness.
‘the loneliness of a sailor's life’
More example sentences
2(of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
‘the loneliness of the farm’

But here's another word to consider which is boredom and defined by webster dictionary as:
Definition of boredom
: the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest the boredom of a long car trip

And another key word is Desire and more importantly the level or intensity of a particular desire.

There are many reasons why expats live here and after living here for 3 yrs now, the 2 main reasons I found by asking all that I have met is how inexpensive the cost of living compared to their home country and/or having a companion that they could not have in their home country and maybe afford the quality of lifestyle there where it's more expensive to maintain or unaffordable.  But I'm sure there are other reasons why expats live here.

Comments I've read all have merits and positive in wanting to help those who feel lonely.  However I feel that boredom has a lot to do with feelings of being lonely because most expats cannot speak Khmer well enough to socialize with the local people.  After a while, they get into a rut of doing the same thing everyday, something I saw a lot when I lived in Kampot and Sihanoukville.  So I think boredom plays a role as to why some feel lonely after awhile living here which leads into the next word I listed which is dependent on their intensity of desire of wanting to live here.

The Khmer language is a very difficult language to learn because there are so many variations or dialects where even Khmer people have difficulty understanding each other depending on what part of Cambodia they grew up (my next door neighbor who is Khmer/french in Siem Reap told me he had a hard time understanding people in Siem Reap but had no problem in Phnom Penh).  I took private classes and what I learned is not how the local people talked so I stopped taking lessons because I had no idea of what they were saying in response to my questions.  I lived in Thailand and Korea and it was much easier to pick up words or phrases that most locals understood.  However after living in 4 different locations in Cambodia, they use different words/accents to describe the same thing which further confused me.  So those who truly wish to live here and feel lonely/bored, requires learning Khmer well enough to socialize with the locals, respecting and accepting their ways and culture to live happily amongst them.  Over time, those feelings of loneliness and boredom will dissipate away.  At the same time, participating with expat activities provides more varieties of things to do. 

The other option is that if you have a large bankroll and a high steady income to sustain upper level income lifestyle, then you shouldn't have this problem at all.  I'm guessing that the medium average of expats are living on less than $1500 a month with minimal savings from conversations of those I have met and cannot speak fluent Khmer.

Loneliness is not just a problem with expats but a global problem that is increasing with social apps on the internet that is contributing to less physical social actions with people and groups creating more introverts vs extroverts in general especially for those who make posts where there's more 'dislikes' than 'likes' or no response at all.  It make them feel more isolated from society in general.

So to find viable solutions is to fully understand the problem.  I believe my suggestion targets only a small number of those who feel loneliness as you describe who are willing to make the effort.  Hopefully the comments made by others will help a larger number more so than mine.

Rock on Joe! I'd just like to add one thing - learn the language. I lived in Thailand before moving here and being able to speak Thai opened many doors. I will do my best now to learn Khmer.

Coastalboat :

Rock on Joe! I'd just like to add one thing - learn the language. I lived in Thailand before moving here and being able to speak Thai opened many doors. I will do my best now to learn Khmer.

I too lived in Thailand and after learning some Thai I encountered the fact that in Isan [NE] they speak Lao, not Thai. So there went my Thai lessons. I then learned Lao/Thai from the street.

Now in Cambodia I have a good reason to not speak Khmer. As I'm single I make contacts and I know that girls like to talk about their "crush" with other girls. I find it better to let them and to not know what they say. I realize they talk about everything concerning you including the size of... well you know. I go from the point that if I'm good to my girlfriend she will talk nicely about me. If I'm not good to her I don't deserve her.



Buy a motorcycle. I don't mean a scooter. Lots of wonderful places in the Kingdom of Cambidia to explore on a bike. Do it solo and stay away from the tourist spots,you will get to meet the locals. They are curious, freindly and happy people. Riding the bike, meeting locals and being independent will keep you from being lonely. It will give you a sense of confidence and self. Believe me,your lonelyness  and problems will disappear while riding. The best meditation I have ever experienced. Good luck and keep the wind in your face.

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