by Heng Sothea
1. Buddhism is the nation religion and it is based on three concepts:
dharma(Buddhist doctrine), Karma(a belief that one live and future
live are connected), and Sangha (Buddhist ascetic community).
3. Flag : The blue color symbolizes the country's royalty. The red
represents the nation and the white represents the religion, beginning
with Brahmanism, and the current major religion - Buddhism. The
emblem of the temple represents the structure of the universe.
2. The King and His Royal family are the most respectable for all Khmer
• Khmer people greet to each other with Sampeah which is to put the
palms together like a lotus to show their respect to other.
• We have many festivals such as Chol Chhnam Thmei(Khmer New
Year), Cham Reun Preah Chun (King’s birthday), Pchum Ben, Om
Touk Ok Ambok Sampeah Preah Khè Bandet Pratip(Reguatta
Festival), etc. Khmer People have three days off for celebrating the
• Most of Khmer take the King as their hero. Usually, they have their
parents in their mind because of the close relationship in the family.
The present-day advanced technology makes it possible for rapid
communication among people across cultures. The opportunities to
get in touch with groups of people belonging to different beliefs or
cultures other than ours occur so easily that we are hardly aware of
them. Therefore, if people are knowledgeable about different
cultures, this will lead to a better understanding and peaceful mutual
The Ministry of Culture has thus offered basic information
concerning Khmer culture for the benefit of interested persons on the
b. The monarch
c. Social customs
THE DO’S AND DON’TS ACCORDING TO KHMER CULTURE
• Shoes or sandals must be removed before entering a Wat regardless of one's status in the
society; this includes the king.
• Visitors should be appropriately attired. Men should wear shirts and pants; they should
never go shirtless or in shorts. Women should not wear short skirts, low cut or open
dresses that reveal the body, very colorful clothing or too much perfume.
• Inside the Wat, visitors sit with legs bent and both feet tucked to the side, Som Pas and
bow to the floor three times.
• Women cannot touch a monk. If a woman wants to hand something to a monk, the object
should be placed within reach of the monk, not handed directly to him. This restriction
even applies to a monk’s mother.
• Monks sit on a platform or raised seat above the laity. However, if there is no platform or
raised seat, monks are also allowed to sit on the floor or mat, if they sit upon a pillow or
folded blanket which symbolizes a higher seating.
• Visitors always sit with their legs bent and feet tucked backward when the monks are
• Never stand when talking to seated monks. It shows grave disrespect.
• A Buddha statue, well kept or in ruins, is a sacred object, so do not touch it or stand on
• A monk can be addressed with “Venerable” followed by his first name or whole
name (last and first).
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, which is also practised in neighbouring Laos,
Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka(*)
• Monks eat only breakfast and lunch, which have to be finished before noon. In the
evening, monks are allowed to drink water, milk or tea. Any schedule or engagement
should take this restriction into account.
• Food intended for monks should not be tasted before the monks eat it.
• Climbing, sitting on, or leaning against a Buddha image, regardless whether it is big or
small, ruined or in good condition, genuine or a replica, is considered a disrespect to
religious object. If one wants to have a picture taken with a Buddha image, do it in a
polite manner that shows respect to the image.
• Buddha images should be placed in suitable places. Normally, Thais place Buddha
images at a high level. Placing Buddha images on the floor, near the staircase, under a
table or a chair, in the bathroom, or on the lawn should not be done, for it is considered a
• Buddha images are sold as objects of worship, and not for any other purpose, since they
are deemed to represent the Lord Buddha. Moreover, the use of Buddha images as
trademarks for goods such as sweets, beverages, alcoholic drinks, toys, or the placing of
Buddha images on articles used in daily life such as shoes, socks, swimwear, or
underclothing is forbidden.
• A Buddha image is one of the most venerated objects made for worshipping. Therefore, in
Cambodia several laws have been issued to protect Buddha images, for example, the
unauthorized export of Buddha images from Cambodia is a violation of the law, and legal
action will be taken against the offender.
b. The Monarch
1. The Monarchy is an institution of worship. Any transgression to the
Monarchy either openly or secretly is a misdemeanor according to the
2. Respect should be paid to the Monarchy.
3. When entering the palace grounds, dress politely. Sleeveless shirts or blouses,
shorts, or sandals are not allowed.
1. Khmers greet one another with a ‘Sampeah’.
2. Khmers consider the head to be venerable and thus one should not touch
anybody’s head. If touching anyone’s head by accident, it is wise to
apologise to him/her immediately.
3. Khmers consider the feet to be lowly and thus one should not put one’s feet
on the table or the chair, or point at people or things with one’s feet.
4. Expressing sexual feeling in public is unacceptable in the Khmer culture.
5. Any form of amusement during the Chol Chhnam Thmei or other traditional.
Khmer festivals should be held to propagate the good traditions and express
goodwill and pure intention. Water should not be thrown in the festival.
c. Social Customs
• Hats should be removed. Cambodians wear hats for protection from the sun or rain
rather than for style. It is disrespectful to wear hats inside a home.
• Visitors should remove their shoes before entering. Although it is not compulsory,
Cambodians always insist upon removing their shoes even if they are told not to do
so by the host. It is to show respect.
• Cambodians always offer drink such as water, tea or juice to their guests; sometimes
food is also offered. To honor the host, the offer is accepted, even if the guest takes
just a sip or a bite.
• Some homes use beds or mats for receiving guests. If that is the case, visitors should
sit by tucking their feet backward. It is impolite to cross or stretch legs.
• The younger person always Sampeah an elder first. For example, a guest would
Sampeah his/her elder host when entering the house, but a younger host would
Sampeah a visiting elder first. The younger individual should not sit elevated above
an elder. Seating for the younger person should be at the same level or below the
elder. To sit above the elder would be considered rude or misbehaved. If an older
person is sitting on a mat, it is impolite for a younger one to sit on a chair despite
that he/she is told to do so. When sitting on a mat, the younger persons should
bend their legs and tuck them to the side with both feet point backward. If sitting
on a chair or couch, younger people should not cross or shake their legs.
• When walking in front of or passing an elder, a younger individual should bow
to show respect. The lower the bow the more respect is conveyed.
When accepting things from or handing things to an elder, the younger person
has to do so with both hands. An elder will do so with only one hand.
• The elder's head should not be touched or patted. Cambodian parents always
tell their children not to touch or pat another person's head because it is a sin.
When standing or posing for a picture, a younger person never puts his/her
hand on an elder's shoulder. It is considered very rude. When talking, take off
hats and don't put hands in pockets. When eating, don't start before the elder.
• Avoid pointing your foot at a person or touching someone on the head. Women
should wear long clothing that covers the body. Photography: Permitted, with
certain restrictions, such as the photographing of military installations, airports
and railway stations. It is polite to ask permission before photographing
Cambodian people, especially monks.