Cambodian Society
in the United Kingdom


Behaviour Code

The tourist behaviour code is written with the intention to minimize any that may arise between tourists and residents due to differences in language and customs. It is also to reinforce and even renew a sense of pride in the local people, their culture and provide an opportunity for tourists to learn, appreciate and respect the Khmer culture. It aims to inform tourists about the local society, its customs, dress code and acceptable behaviour in religious and other places.


Swakum ! Welcome !
Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia. It makes no difference whether you are here on business or pleasure. You are in for a treat. You will catch a glimpse of the Khmer people, their history, culture and nature through the pristine beaches, natural landscapes, quaint villages, exotic traditional dances, the world famous Angkor complex and archaeological treasures.

Proper Greetings 

Cambodians traditionally greet each other by joining their hands together in front of their chest and bowing often (Chum Reap Suor) followed by the western practice of shaking hands.

Although men tend to shake hands with each other, women usually use the traditional greeting with both men and other women. It is considered acceptable for foreigners to shake hands with Cambodians of both sexes. When you are invited to a gathering, it is polite to make an effort to properly greet the people you meet on your arrival. 

  • You should respond to greetings from others. It is considered disrespectful not to return greetings by other people. 

  • When you enter pagodas (wats) sit with your feet to the side rather than in lotus position, then you join both hands together under chin and bow three times to the floor. Always be seated when the monks are seated. 

Dress Code

Casual dress is the norm because of the hot and humid weather. However, more formal attire is preferred for meetings, official functions and major ceremonies or events. if you are here for pleasure, wear sport shirts, tee shirts and trousers, skirts, slacks, blouses and comfortable shoes. If you are here on an official or business visit and will be attending meetings, receptions and parties, you will need to be appropriately attired.

For any such occasions-in a suit or sports jacket and tie for men and formal dress for women.

  • Do not wear shorts or sandals to government offices, or wear swim suits, biker suits (lycra), bikinis, or see-through apparel in the city streets or villages. This is considered offensive by local people. 

  • Both men and women should be particularly sure to dress appropriately if visiting a religious site, for example, a pagoda (wat). Smart casual attire is recommended.

  • Nude bathing is unacceptable in Cambodia 


  • There are many photographic shops in Cambodia, offering international standard services. Be sure to take plenty of photographs so you can take back good memories of the Kingdom. Photographers are free to shoot almost everything. However, a few principles should be observed. 

  • If photographing local people, always ask their permission first. Most of them will be happy to pose for you.

  • Taking photographs of military bases and other designated security areas is prohibited.

  • Ask permission before taking photos inside pagodas, royal palaces, other sacred places or special events.

Food and Drinks 
Cambodian culinary specialties can be described as mild variations of the tastes of Thailand, but often with some French influence. Rice and fish are the basic ingredients for many Khmer dishes. Local specialties include curries, soup and varieties of dishes prepared with beef, pork, poultry and seafood which are abundant.Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available in the markets. 

  • Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruit which can be peeled. 

  • You are most likely to be offered a cup of water or hot tea when you visit a Cambodian house or other places. This is a symbolic gesture of welcome.

  • It is inappropriate to put all the dishes on the table at the start of a meal.

  • A Cambodian meal almost always includes soup (samloh). It is eaten at the same time as the other courses, not as a separate stand-alone dish.

Visiting Pagodas (Wats) and other religious and traditional places 

The official religion of Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism, which is also practiced in neighboring countries like Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The sight of a saffron-robed monk is common throughout the Kingdom and almost every village had a pagoda (wat).Visitors should dress neatly in all religious places. They should never go shirtless, in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attire. 

Shoes, sandals and a hat should be removed when entering a mosque or a pagoda (wat) where Buddhist images are kept. Each Buddha image, large or small, well kept or in ruins, is regarded sacred. 

  • Never climb onto a Buddha or photograph a Buddha inside a temple without asking permission. Always be respectful when viewing a Buddha image.  

Addressing People

  • Members of the family or people whom you wish to treat as friends should be addressed according to the following rules:

  • People of your age or younger can be called by their name. 

  • People older than yourself should be addressed as Bang (older brother ) and Bang Srey (for women). 

  • Old people should be addressed as Ta (for men and Yeay (for women).

  • Official and casual acquaintances are supposed to be addressed by usages approximating "comrade", but in practice people use Lok (Mr), and Lok Srey (Mrs), which is not only formal but conveys respect as well. When speaking with such people in English, it is best to use Mr, Mrs or Miss.

There is no regulation on tipping in Cambodia. However, tipping is greatly appreciated as salaries are low. The value of the tip is optional, depending on individual generosity. It should commensurate with the level of service rendered.

A small present, instead of a tip, is greatly appreciated.


Bargaining is a way of life in Cambodia and many shops will offer discounts after negotiation. Cambodia is noted for its handicrafts - handmade articles such as silk materials, wood carvings, stone copies of Khmer art, silver items and jeweler are worth buying. It is illegal to export anyantique art objects.

Personal behaviour

  • Polite behaviour is welcome everywhere. What is considered polite in other countries is probably considered polite in Cambodia too. However, there are few customs, social and religious taboos.

  • Cambodians admire a calm and considered approach to all aspects of life. Open show of temper and anger should be avoided.

  • It is considered a grave insult to touch another person's head, even if is meant as a friendly gesture.

  • Use the right hand to accept things or shake hands.

  • It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.

  • Keep an open mind and do not demand much from your host. Loud voices and boisterous behaviour are considered impolite. Smiling and nodding establishes good intent.

  • public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
    If you like someone to come over to you, motion with your whole hand, palm down. Do not signal with your finger.

  • When picking your teeth with a toothpick after a meal, it is considered polite to hold the toothpick with one hand and to cover your open mouth with the other.

  • In private homes, it is polite to remove your shoes when entering the house.

  • Be appreciative of people who appreciate

By observing the behaviour code, you can thoroughly enjoy your stay in Cambodia and take home pleasant memories.

Courtesy of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in London, UK.