When a foreigner begins to be Cambodian

A passport does not define your real belonging, although it is a legal document to establish your origin. Many Cambodians born or grown in US or Australia, do not find their place in their ancestral nation, because they got already a foreign identity, so ethnic belonging does not define also your real cultural identity. As Cambodia became so international after UNTAC in 1992, when more than 15 thousand foreigners entered to the Kingdom, people from other continents integrated into the ancestral Khmer blood in many ways.

Now well, when do you know when a foreigner – or barang – starts to be a little or much Cambodian? There are some signs you can notice. Here some of them:

  • They say “Kamae” to refer to Khmer language or culture: “I speak Kamae“, “I like Kamae food.”
  • They say local geographic names rather than international ones. The most common is to say “Kompung Saom” instead of Sihanoukville.
  • They greet putting their hands together in front to their chin, rather than shaking hands, even with other Westerners.
  • They use chop sticks in special meals in a very natural way.
  • They use light shoes and remove them anytime they enter an interior place.
  • They eat spicy food and ask for more spicy.
  • They use only a spoon to eat.
  • They sit down on the floor rather than on chairs.
  • They don’t ask for toilet paper.
  • They miss the water pipe at the toilet if it is not there.
  • They sit down in lotus position many times and find it comfortable.
  • They smile very much.

These are some attitudes a foreigner start to demonstrate in a natural way, showing they are getting already a Kamae mentality and making their life in Cambodia very much at home. Do you have some other signs of your Kamae culture? Tell us in your comment.


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39xwdGtVXI) and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (http://www.colombia.co/en/culture/colombians-that-are-making-this-a-better-world.html).

One response to “When a foreigner begins to be Cambodian”

  1. Juan Camilo Zapata says :

    Oh my! That moment when you realize that you’re definately becoming Cambodian!

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