Siem Reap © Jim Purdum

Cambodian culture is strongly influenced by ideas from India, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Having gone through a long path of development thousands of years ago, that ideology has permeated the lives and thinking of people in this country. It is essential to thoroughly learn about Cambodian culture before starting your journey. By doing so, you will not only have a clearer and deeper view of people’s lives, but it will also help you avoid doing things that conflict with their customs. Joining us to learn about the top cultural characteristics of Cambodia in the article below!

Angkor Wat complex at sunrise | things to know before visiting cambodia
The tranquil beauty of Battambang | things to know before visiting cambodia
Vibant night in Siem Reap, Cambodia | things to know before visiting cambodia

So, what to know before going to Cambodia? Let’s check out our Cambodia travel tips (Cambodia tips) with the 15+ things to know before going to Cambodia, things to know before traveling to Cambodia, things to know before visiting Cambodia as follows!

Angkor Thom, Siem Reap | things to know before visiting cambodia
Cambodian cuisine | things to know before visiting cambodia

Cambodia is a country rich in culture and customs, especially Cambodian culture bears the imprint of religions imported from India, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. The people and traditions here are very popular, capturing the hearts of tourists, thanks to the friendliness and enthusiasm of the people. Besides, this beautiful country also has a very unique and unique culture, making foreign tourists coming here want to learn about the uniqueness of this land.

A Cambodian woman in her weaving work | things to know before visiting cambodia
Phnom Penh skyline at night | things to know before visiting cambodia

Cambodia has a heroic history (# things to know before visiting cambodia)

Cambodian people, from old and young, are extremely proud every time they mention their nation’s history. The first inhabitants of this country appeared around the first century AD. From that time until today, Cambodia has had to go through many historical events to achieve peace and prosperity. Especially the prosperous period under the Khmer dynasty.

Independence Monument, Phnom Penh | things to know before visiting cambodia

During the period from the 9th to the 13th century, Cambodian history had the most glorious pages in terms of economy, culture and society. At this time, the level of the Khmer people was so developed that they built a powerful empire with great influence throughout the lower Mekong region. That period was also the time when impressive architectural works such as Angkor Wat were built. Over a long period of time afterward, the Cambodian people also affirmed their outstanding strength by winning civil wars and wars of invasion. International friends were extremely surprised by the potential capacity of the people of this country.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh | things to know before visiting cambodia
Floating village | things to know before visiting cambodia

Greeting culture in Cambodia (# what to know before going to cambodia)

Unlike many countries in the world, Khmer people do not have the gesture of shaking hands in traditional culture. They often greet each other with sompeyar – clasping hands at different heights to express respect for people from many social classes. The clasping of hands is passed down from generation to generation in Cambodia. It is a sign for people to show respect and politeness to the other person, especially those with noble positions in society such as monks, kings and elders.

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In the trend of international integration, people have also used the habit of shaking hands more in life. You will often see two Cambodian men greeting each other or between international guests and locals greeting by shaking hands. However, for women in this country, they still maintain the custom of greeting in the traditional way.

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| things to know before visiting cambodia

Typical Khmer architecture

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The most famous and impressive architecture in Cambodia are those built during the Khmer Kingdom around the 12th to early 13th centuries. Buddhism, Hinduism and legendary ideas have a strong influence on decorative art styles. To build these architectural works, people use materials mainly from wood, bamboo, stone and even straw. However, with the erosion of time and objective and subjective factors, today we only have the opportunity to see with our own eyes the most solid wonders. Walking around relics and archaeological sites, you will find countless ancient temples, small roads and ancient mossy walls.

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Banteay Srei temple | things to know before visiting cambodia

Cambodian people are extremely resilient (# things to know before traveling to cambodia)

As mentioned above, Cambodia had to go through countless pains and events in history to gain peace and freedom like today. Facing all challenges, Cambodian people still maintain their resilience and indomitableness. War cannot defeat them but only increases their fighting spirit. To this day, traces of the Khmer Rouge regime still exist in architectural works as well as in the hearts of the people here.

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It can be said that the heroic struggle history of the Cambodian people is forever remembered as a source of pride and also an immense pain. The people have always maintained an indomitable spirit to rebuild their country for prosperity after the war. Today and tomorrow, a bright future awaits them.

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Cambodian beliefs

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Cambodia is on the list of countries with the largest number of religious people in the world. Hinduism is one of the earliest religions introduced and quickly won the trust of the Cambodian people. It was not until the 7th century that Buddhism was introduced to this country by a few monks. Currently, Buddhism is the ideology with the strongest and most comprehensive influence in Cambodia, with up to 97% of the country’s population following Theravada Buddhism. From then until now, Buddhist ideas have gradually become the concepts and lifestyle of the Cambodian people.

Monks at Angkor Wat temple
Monks at Angkor Wat temple | what to know before going to cambodia

The majority of people practice their religion in Cambodia, including both the young generation and the adult generation. In this country, monks are extremely respected, while Buddhist temples are present everywhere. Moreover, in every house of Cambodian people, they hang images of Buddha at the altar in the most solemn way.

Angkor Wat -siem reap-combodia1
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People often go to temples, especially on special occasions of the year. It can be said that Cambodian Buddhism has made important contributions to the cultural development of this country. Buddhist architectural works are not only the center of community activities for residents but also a place to preserve traditional features. From there, souls who love life and love people are formed and spread everywhere, creating a peaceful and happy life for the entire country.

Costume and clothing (# things to know before going to cambodia)

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Cambodian people have similar ideas to Asian countries in thinking about appropriate dressing. Any tourists coming to Cambodia during the days when this country joyfully welcomes holidays should wear discreet and polite costume and clothing. If so, you will be warmly welcomed and respected by the people here.

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According to Cambodian beliefs, a suitable outfit for men is simple pants and a polite shirt. For women, you can choose between trousers and jeans worn with T-shirts, shirts or skirts. Those who like tradition can choose to wear a sarong instead of regular pants. The common point of these costumes is modesty: pants/skirts must be knee-length and shirts must cover the shoulders. Young people in Cambodia have had a more modern mindset when they began to commonly use shorts and tank tops. However, it is better to avoid wearing those types of clothes on your travel journey because it gives a bad impression to the majority of the population.

Cambodians love to party and gathering

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During your journey to explore Cambodia, you will find countless lavish parties of people along the roadside. The main characteristic sign is a row of white theaters set up with lavish banquet tables. It is a sign of parties celebrating important events of people from weddings, birthdays, death anniversaries, funerals, or any other reason. People often celebrate for five consecutive days with loud music, singing and chanting from early morning until late at night. No matter what the occasion is, they always hold a big party to invite relatives and friends to join.

Pub Street Siem Reap
Pub Street, Siem Reap | what to know before going to cambodia

Cambodian people have a passion for singing

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Singing is a hobby and passion of the majority of people living in Cambodia. Therefore, you will find many karaoke rooms not only in the capital but also in the centers of the provinces. This is the favorite entertainment of people and tourists. Besides, this passion is also expressed anywhere or at any time in daily life. Life-loving Cambodians sing cheerful tunes while working in factories, on construction sites, in restaurants or on tuk-tuks. It is a source of positive energy that will inspire life to any tourist.

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Cambodians are extremely studious

Compared to other developed countries in the world, Cambodia is still a country that is still much inferior. The lives of people in this country still face many problems such as poverty, illiteracy or lack of clean water. To be able to educate the economy, education is extremely important in Cambodia. Contrary to the somewhat limited reality, the people of this country always maintain an admirable studiousness.

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Overcoming difficulties and deprivation, they research and learn knowledge on their own in outstanding creative ways. Young Cambodians make their friends around the world admire them when they independently learn foreign languages such as English, Japanese, draw, play DJs, play modern musical instruments,… You can easily Find clips showing that talent on Youtube with countless results.

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Visiting rules in spiritual sites

Known as the “land of temples and stupas”, temples and pagodas are the most famous tourist attractions in this country. Therefore, tourists need to understand some rules before traveling to these sacred places.

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The first thing to pay attention to is your outfit. As mentioned above, Cambodians always like to wear polite and discreet clothes when going out. This is even stricter if you enter temples or pagodas because these are extremely sacred places and need to be respected. Therefore, you need to prepare your clothes carefully if you plan to visit spiritual areas. Before entering the temple, you need to remember to leave your shoes outside. This is also a typical tradition when you go to a Cambodian house. When visiting and sitting inside the pagoda/temple, avoid pointing the soles of your feet at any Buddha statue or Buddha image.

visitors at angkor wat
Crowded tourists at Angkor Wat temples. | things to know before traveling to cambodia

Monks are usually not allowed to touch women. Therefore, female tourists should be careful when going near these people while sightseeing. Besides, you should also do the same if you go on the street or on public transportation. Ideally, avoid sitting next to monks like Cambodians often do!

travel, my one true love
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Gentle, simple, kind people

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Surely those who have been to this country will have to say “why are the people here so gentle and approachable?.” Indeed, their gentle nature is increasingly ingrained in their blood. You can encounter these people anywhere in this Buddhist kingdom, from street peddlers, restaurant waiters, children,… They are kind, thoughtful, sweet and always had a smile for anyone who needed help. Because it is a country with a deep Buddhist identity and a philosophy of care and compassion, it is probably an inherent quality, a part of the daily life of Cambodian people.

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russian market phnom penh

Cambodians love to learn

Although it is a country that still faces many difficulties in economics or physical conditions, that does not make the people here determined to stand up and reach out internationally. They are always aware that learning is an essential part of life, only learning can bring them a stable and happy life. Therefore, they increasingly try to learn, learn everything from the teachers’ classroom lectures, from the lessons they have learned in daily life, from their own skills and passions such as singing, painting, playing musical instruments,…

The country of traditional events

Besides the usual lunar and solar calendars, Cambodia also has its own special calendar. Therefore, in Cambodia there are many typical holidays. Around February every year, there will be many holidays held in this country. That makes Cambodia the country with the longest holiday in the world. Besides, the government in this country has just added Memorial Day to be held on May 20 every year – bringing the number of holidays up to 28 days. That is an impressive number because the average number of public holidays for the 20 countries in the G20 group – the group that accounts for 80% of total world trade – is only about 12 days.

We can take a look at some holidays in Cambodia such as: International Women’s Day – people have a day off. International Human Rights Day – another day off. People will again have up to three days off on the occasion of the death anniversary of Father King Sihanouk…

Cambodian cuisine

Phnom Penh Noodle Soup

The culinary culture of Cambodian people is greatly influenced by India and China. However, with their creativity and rich food sources, they have created unique features for their dishes. Coming to this country, you will have the opportunity to experience countless new flavors. Cambodians often eat fish more than other types of meat. During festivals, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy many new cakes from rural to urban areas. Certainly, this will be one of the worth visit culinary destinations for gourmets.

Be careful not to be lured by Cambodian specialties to visit this neighbor all the time @shutterstock

Some traditions

Similar to Vietnamese traditions, Cambodians also have many customs that need to be followed. In people’s minds, the head is the part that contains a person’s soul and the feet are the impure part because it is located at the bottom. Therefore, pointing your feet at your head or touching your head is taboo. In addition, you should never sleep or lie with your feet facing another person’s head because it shows a lack of respect for them.

In communication, Cambodians never interrupt others while they are speaking and often let others talk more than them. When sitting, you must not cross your legs because it is considered impolite. When entering or leaving the house, you need to be careful to pull the door gently or you will be considered temperamental. While staying and living in this country, show respect to your elders. Additionally, try to wake up early if you live in a homestay with a traditional family if you don’t want to be considered lazy. Finally, be careful not to look Cambodians in the eye while communicating because that is only done if you are a person of high authority or an older person.

Cambodian people are superstitious

Superstition towards this Buddhist country will not be too surprising to visitors who come here, they always have a strong belief in spirituality and super powers. At this time, fortune tellers predict what will happen in the future and can choose lucky days for couples preparing to get married. If you are also a superstitious person and believe that these things will happen in the future, this is also an opportunity for you come to experience.

Cambodia is a kingdom of festivals

Songkran festival opening ceremony, Siem Reap

Cambodia – the land of pagodas and towers is one of the new and most underrated tourist destinations in the world, attracting a large number of tourists here every year. Famous for tourists from near and far is Angkor Wat temple along with the temples of the Angkor complex. There are many traditional festivals, imbued with Cambodian cultural identity.

It can be seen that Cambodia’s traditional culture is steeped in Buddhist and Hindu ideology. You can see all of these characteristics expressed through every aspect of daily life. These are what to know before going to Cambodia and best things to know before visiting Cambodia you should note before going to.

A glimpse of the romantic West at sunset, then an Asian market only at Sisowath Quay @shutterstock

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