Sociology Index

Social Customs And Traditions In Cambodia

Social Customs And Traditions

Most of Cambodia's population live in rural areas as farmers. In the countryside, houses are made up of palm leaves and bamboo and are usually built on stilts to protect them from floods that occur annually. A rural village is made up of a group of houses that center around a Buddhist Monastery. Social standing is reflected by material possessions, which is apparent in wealthy and middle-class Cambodian tradition, custom and lifestyles.


In the rural areas, clothing is simple and material possessions are hard to come by. Women tend to wear cotton shirts with ankle length skirts. Ninety-five percent of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism. Men and women both wear a krama, a multipurpose cotton garment. It can be used as a head covering, loincloth for bathing, and as a bag for carrying items. In the city, Cambodians usually wear Western clothing. About 90% of Cambodians are Khmer.


It is a tradition in Cambodia to “Chul Mouy” which means cheers in Khmer, and it is common for this to be relayed to every member sitting at a table before every swig is taken. “Chul Mouy” or cheers makes a drink last long. When visiting temples, palaces or other important sites, remember to wear clothing that falls below the knees and elbows.


Hats and other items that cover the head are taken off when entering a temple as a custom and tradition in Cambodia. The sampeah is the usual form of greeting in Cambodia. Sampeah involves pressing the palms of the hands together in front of the chest, accompanied by a small bow.


The more important the person, the higher the hands are on the body. It is customary in Cambodia to pass things by touching your right elbow with your left arm and handing over the item with your right hand. Cambodians leave the chopsticks together on top of the bowl. Chopsticks sticking vertically out of the bowl resemble the incense sticks that are burned for the dead, which is not seen as a good omen.


The Khmer practice a blend of Buddhism and animism. Family is extremely important. Many have lost family members in Cambodia, and a significant number of households are headed by females due to the civil war. Extended family structures are the norm, with large numbers of children. Grandparents head the family, followed by parents, aunts and uncles. Families are patriarchal, with men as providers and women in traditional roles, their position reinforced by culture, religion, and gender. Children are taught respect and deference to adults and authority figures.



Culture and Customs of Laos
by Arne Kislenko.

A must-have for high school and public library shelves, this volume reveals contemporary culture and traditions in Laos. This all-encompassing volume offers a comprehensive look at the contemporary culture that defines this Southeast Asian country of Laos, examining everything from Buddhist traditions to Laotian cuisine. Coverage includes a brief history of the nation followed by in-depth narrative chapters on religion, literature, visual and performing arts, fashion, gender roles, everyday social customs, and more.