Cambodian people are well-known for their kindhearted hospitality. They welcome foreign guests and like to communicate, e.g. in order to improve their English or other foreign language skills. Of course, they know that foreigners are not familiar with all local traditions and will excuse slightly "strange" behavior.
However, out of respect, many visitors like to be informed how to observe local customs and practices.
Helpful rules of politeness can be:
• The traditional respectful way of greeting one another is to bow the head slightly with hands pressed together at the chest. This gesture known as “Sampeah” is not expected from guests from Western countries. Handshake is not common in Cambodia, but will not be refused.
• Ask for permission before taking photographs of locals, particularly of monks.
• In tourist areas you will be often asked if you like to have a Tuktuk, massage, or a look inside a shop. This may be getting on your nerves as it can occur every few minutes. But respect each individual by giving a polite answer. Only in cases of obvious pestering let them feel that you feel disturbed.
• Particularly in front of big Angkor temples, there are children selling postcards, shirts and souvenirs who will ask repeatedly if you want to buy something and will follow you even after you refused. The best way to react is to tell them that they should accept your decision not to buy anything.
• Be aware, at some smaller Angkor temples without official custodians, there are school children who seem to play or relax. Actually, they are waiting for tourists and will ask for a dollar for school books or support after a small conversation. Usually they start asking you, what your country is. Then they will answer you by naming the capital of your country in order to pretend some intimacy. They will give you explanations, but they will not forget to ask for a dollar as a reward. Some of them will show you documents concerning social projects. This is a prepared trick. The best way to talk to them is, right at the beginning, to invite them to come with you in case they will not ask for money or beg afterwards. The temples with most school children, who are usually very friendly kids, are Preah Pithu, Tep Pranam and Preah Palilay, all of them close to the main car park of Angkor Thom.
• It is customary to remove your hats or caps when entering a compound of a monastery or pagoda, already outside the buildings. But this is not required at ancient monuments. The dress should be appropriate; particularly shoulders and thighs should be covered.
• It is obligatory to remove shoes when entering a room inside a place of worship.
• It is respectful to remove shoes when entering someone’s home. Many Cambodians will kindly signal you that they accept an exception from the rule for you as a guest. On the other hand, even some guesthouses ask their guests to remove shoes before entering the corridors.
• If invited to a Cambodian family’s home privately, it is polite, but not indispensible, to bring a small gift for the host, such as flowers, fruit, or sweets.
• If invited to attend a Cambodian wedding, guests bring cash as a wedding gift.
• Don't begin eating if you are a guest as long as the host has not yet begun to take a bite.
• When using a toothpick at the table, usually provided in restaurants, use one hand to cover your mouth.
• Present and accept gifts and business cards with both hands. For handing out money, better use the right hand.
• Never use your feet to point at someone. Never show your soles of the feet to a Buddha statue.
• When sitting on the ground, what is customary in Cambodian houses, do not stretch your feet out to persons or altars.
• Don't touch a local person on the head.
• Don't touch monks; even avoid handshakes if not offered by them. Women should not hand out gifts directly to a monk.
• Keep public displays of affection to a respectful minimum
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- Temple visits in chronological historical order
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