Cambodian Culture


Basic Etiquette

  • If a woman needs to pass something to a monk, it is best to give it to a male to then pass forward or hold the object with a handkerchief/tissue. It is generally forbidden for Buddhist monks to come into physical contact with women.
  • The right hand is used to pass or receive items. Sometimes, both hands are used, but it is taboo to use only the left hand.
  • The soles of one’s feet should never be pointed at another person. One should sit in a way that avoids this. Feet should also not be rested on tables or pillows that people sleep on.
  • The top of the head is considered to be the most important part of the human body. To touch someone on the top of their head, especially a baby or child, is taboo and insensitive.
  • When standing or posing for a photograph, it is considered rude for a younger person to place their hand on an elder’s shoulder.
  • It is impolite for someone to walk over another person that is sitting or lying down.



  • Cambodians are generally hospitable and enjoy hosting visitors.
  • Close friends and relatives visit each other frequently and often unannounced.
  • People typically arrive close to the appointed time, give or take a few minutes. However, Cambodians can be quite relaxed about punctuality.
  • Footwear should be removed when entering temple complexes or someone’s house.
  • If invited to a home, consider bringing nicely presented fruit, sweets, pastries or flowers. These are a welcomed token of appreciation for the host.
  • Cambodians tend to offer their guests the best place to sit in their home and the best portion of food.
  • Drinks such as water, tea or juice and sometimes food are often offered to visitors. To honour the host, the offer is accepted, even if the guest takes only one sip or bite.
  • In the home, people often sit on the floor. Women typically tuck their legs to the side and behind them while men sit cross-legged. It is offensive to stretch one’s feet and legs out in front of others.



  • Cambodians tend to eat with their hands, chopsticks or a spoon and fork depending on the food and the people present. Forks are used to push food onto the spoon.
  • When invited to the dining table, wait to be told where to sit in order to avoid interfering with any hierarchical arrangements in the seating.
  • When sitting on a mat on the floor to eat, typically men will sit cross-legged while women’s legs are tucked to the side and behind them. In this informal setting, seating arrangement is less important as everyone is seen as an equal.
  • The eldest person should start eating before others.
  • If unsure of how to eat in front of your Cambodian counterparts, simply follow what those around you are doing.


Gift Giving

  • A polite way to offer a gift is to pass it with the right hand while the left hand supports the right elbow.
  • In Cambodia, birthdays are generally not considered to be a big event since many people of the older generation may not know their date of birth.
  • Gifts are usually wrapped in colourful paper. However, avoid using white wrapping paper as this colour is associated with mourning.
  • Gifts are not usually opened when they are received.
  • Avoid giving knives, as this may be interpreted as the giver wanting to sever their relationship with the receiver.

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