Do’s and don’t in Cambodia

Tourism has a strong impact on local cultures. It is worth remembering, that despite the growth of western trends and habits, Southeast Asian countries have quite conservative cultures.   Below you will find the useful list of do’s and don’ts while volunteering or simply visiting Cambodia.


Do cover up

Due to hot climate visitors tend to wear shorts or mini skirts but it is preferred to dress modestly in Cambodia. Bear in mind, that shorts are considered proper attire only for schoolchildren! Appropriate clothes is a must not only when inside a religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered, hats removed) but also when volunteering. While dressing up, think of what you would wear to your work normally.

Do ask for permission before taking photos of others.

Do take off your hat and shoes when entering Khmer house or a place of worship.

Additionally, visitors should dress appropriately when inside a religious site.

Do bring a small gift such as fruits, flowers, dessert if invited to dine in Khmer home.

Do allow elders to control the conversation, walk first, and take the lead.

This is a way of respecting elders, which is very important in Cambodian culture – remember about it while working with local Khmer staff.

Do sit while talking to a monk if he is seated

Do pass things using both hands, as a sign of respect.

Do bring some cash as a gift if invited to attend a Khmer wedding.

Don’t touch someone on the head (even children).

Don’t display affection in public.

Cambodians are conservative in sexuality which is why one should be mindful in contact with opposite sex in general – even small gestures like placing an arm around a local to pose for a picture can be misinterpreted.

Don’t sit higher than the eldest person in the room.

This is one of the ways of showing respect to elders and is very important in Khmer culture.

Don’t give in to frustration.

Loosing control, shouting and screaming is not socially acceptable and can make Cambodians embarrassed. Facing this kind of situation Cambodians often smile out of awkwardness which can be even more confusing.

Don’t talk about business or war when at the table.

Don’t start to eat when you are a guest at the dinner table before your host has taken a bite.

Don’t give money to street children and don’t buy souvenirs from them.

Children should not be involved in raising money for their families. There are many organizations giving opportunities to street children but by giving money to them, tourists make the problem increase. Check out why here.

Don’t visit orphanages.

Despite the big number of warm invitations, orphanage tourism is a big problem, not a solution. Check out why here.