Culture & Religion
Cambodia suffered from a massive genocide in the 1970s, where Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge to restructure the country. They wanted to build an agrarian cooperative and rebuild it’s society. By doing so they killed a quarter of its population, and the rest had to do forced labour in slave labour conditions. No sign of religion or intelligence was allowed. The Vietnamese brought an end to the Khmer Rouge towards the end of the 1970s but the country then had to go through famine and civil war. In the 1990s the UN stepped in and took control of Cambodia for 2 years to turn the country around.
Even after all these horrible events, you can still see the amazing Khmer culture shine through. You will find that everyone is extremely friendly, have huge smiles and are welcoming to tourists.
Cambodia is a predominantly Buddhist country, evidenced by the chanting and clouds of incense floating from the pagodas in the early morning as well as the orange-robed monks who pace the streets collecting alms from residents and shopkeepers.
Foreigners are generally well-tolerated but can endear themselves to the locals by being aware of Cambodian etiquette. It's advisable for women to dress on the modest side: short shorts and revealing tops don’t go down well. Knees and shoulders should be covered when visiting temples, and in some places, shoes should be removed.
The Cambodian traditional greeting is called sampeah and involves placing the palms together in front of the body, like the Thai wai. Young and internationally-minded Cambodians may shake hands instead as they are aware of Western culture, but don't attempt to shake hands with a monk as they are forbidden to touch women!