Characteristics Of Khmer People: #1 Exclusive Guide

Cambodian people

Ever wondered why Cambodia is known as the country of smiles? Well, it is obviously because of the kind nature of the Cambodian people.

So, in today’s post, we will dive deep into the characteristics of Khmer people and talk about their special traits. While the people of Southeast Asia are usually perceived to be cold and ignorant, you will be shocked to know about the parallel truth in this blog.

If there is one thing that makes Cambodia a safe and unique space, it is because of its citizens and their characteristics that have been nurtured since birth. Many visitors have also named the people of Cambodian society as hospitable- រាក់ទាក់ (reakteak) and caring- ការយកចិត្តទុកដាក់ (kar yokchett toukdeak). So, if you want to know more about the locals before you interact with them one on one, this blog will become your best guide. Let’s get started!


What Do You Call Cambodian People?

The Cambodian people are known as “Khmer” to the world. However, when people talk about themselves and their language, they tend to use the word “Khmi.”

The history of the Khmer empire is full of twists and turns. From the France colonization to the Khmer rouge regime, at one point, the Cambodian people lost all their identity and treasure. When in the 1860s there were Thai and Vietnamese tensions, the French colonization took an easy entry into the country. It was upon this that the Cambodian locals were given the name “Khmer,” by the France administration. While locals use the word “Khmi,” as a foreigner, it is respectful to use the word Cambodian and Khmer.

Also, the country has a population of 10 million, and about 20% of the population includes different ethnic groups. While the majority consists of Khmer ethnic, others constitute Vietnamese people, Khmer Loeu, Chinese- Khmer, and Khmer Chams.


Characteristics Of Khmer People

Although visiting Angkor wat, surfing the markets of Phnom Penh, and Theravada Buddhism has already made the country a place worth traveling to, other reasons make Cambodia a lovable place to visit. The reason that pops up the brightest is the people themselves.

There are many positive traits of the people of Southeastern Cambodia that have attracted locals worldwide, bringing praise and love to the country. So, let’s get to know some of them and make your trip experience awesome as well.

1. They Always Smile

Cambodian society

One of the most lovely things about Cambodian people is that they make you feel at home away from home. The country is known as the country of full smiles because of the friendly nature of the people. No matter who you are, locals will always smile at you and make you feel at home, even in a strange city. Especially in rural Cambodia, you will never feel like a newcomer. The moment they see you, they will wear a wide smile with twinkly eyes, giving you are warm welcome to their beautiful country.

2. They Have Excellent Resilience

If there is one thing you have to respect about the locals is the Cambodian sense of resilience- ភាពធន់ (pheap thn). Despite a horrific past with colonization, the Khmer rouge, and millions of death, the Cambodian people still stand stronger than ever.

The past events almost crippled the country with a lack of identity, freedom, and peace. However, due to the resilient nature of the people, the country has been able to rebuild its dignity and now protects its citizens. So, if you think there are deep differences between the west and the east, the Cambodians lie higher in the hierarchy of resilience.

3. They Are Humble

Another positive characteristic of the Cambodian people is that they are very humble- បន្ទាបខ្លួន (banteabakhluon). From Buddhist monks to common people, you will find humility innate in every local in Cambodia. Their culture teaches them to be helpful, humane, and kind. They always act modestly, and even if there is a hierarchy in society, you will not find one person acting out because of their status. They are happy with their lifestyle and try to make others happy too. Especially when it comes to foreigners, they always act with modesty and try to help people without any condition.

4. They Are Honest

No matter what stereotypical nature of the Southeast Asians you must have learned during your life, once you come in contact with one, you will realize how honest- ស្មោះត្រង់ (smaohtrang) and true to words the locals are. Although honesty might come out cold to westerners who try to sweet coat everything they say, Cambodians are always straightforward with their feelings and thoughts.

The locals will not hesitate to mention it whether you are fat, thin, tall, short, or even young or old. It is just a trait of honesty that also helps them in many other circumstances like helping people or giving information. However, once you get the shock as a first-timer, you are sure to adopt the same habit of honesty.

Khmer people are hard working

5. They Are Extremely Hard Working

Being mostly an agrarian society, the country has nurtured many Cambodians that live and provide for their families through hard work and dedication. Long working hours, seven working days, and heavy work has been common daily task for local farmers and businessman in Cambodia. They do not complain and work as harder as possible by expressing happiness. It is a trait that helped the locals work hard with a high value despite the years of destruction and restore its beauty and prosperity.

6. They Are Prideful

Not to take it as a negative trait, but Cambodians are prideful in that they are proud to belong to Cambodia. They love to show their land to foreigners and share different stories and folklore of their culture. Cambodia’s unique traditions and customs make the locals very different from western people. And so, whenever someone visits their county they take great pride in introducing new customs and explaining different rules and regulations. Oftentimes, they also invite people to join them on trips and different adventurous activities with family members.

7. They Are Helpful

If you get lost in Cambodia or need some assistance with your tour, there is nothing to worry about. With just one request, Cambodians will come running to you with solutions. No matter if they are urban dwellers or belong to high status, anyone will be willing to help you out. Even if your car breaks down in the middle or if your bike stops working, flocks of Cambodian people will come up to you and help you get things together without any selfish motives in mind. Such reasons add up to why the country is known as one of the safest countries to travel to.

8. They Are Simple And Peaceful

Cambodians are also known to be people of simple living and high thinking. They eat simply, wear simple yet creative clothes, do not complain about their lives, and never compare themselves to lavish western life. Moreover, they are known to be peaceful in their heart and soul. Unlike Vietnamese people who are fighters, Cambodians are peace-loving and have avoided open confrontations even during the Khmer rouge years. They believe in the common good of people and community, known as “samaaki,” and lead a calm life.

9. They Are Religious

Characteristics of Khmer people

One of the most important points you must remember is that Khmer people are very religious at heart. Even Cambodia today has nurtured souls that follow religious rules and traditions heartily without any complaints or mishaps.

The population mainly follows Buddhism. So, Buddhist beliefs are kept in practice and Buddhist monks are held in high regard. Even other southeast Asians have strong Hindu and Buddhist cultures where priests and monks have exalted positions in society. There is also deep reverence for the royal family and follow definite manners and etiquette.

10. They Are Supportive Of Education

Khmer people are also known to place a high value on education. They believe through education one learns to respect elders, understand the sense of community, and become religious. Despite being very superstitious, Cambodian people have a deep sense of courtesy and respect learned through the process of education.

11. They Are Resourceful And Problem Solvers

Sulking around the corner due to some problem? Never in Cambodia. Khmer people are known to be resourceful in themselves and problem solvers who always think on their feet. No matter what the problem is, they always find a quick solution to the problem. Even though it is only a temporary solution, they will not let the problem stay till a permanent solution is found. So, if you face any disaster during your trip, don’t worry. The Cambodian people will fix your problem before you know it.

12. They Are Curious

One thing you must know about the locals as a traveler is that they are curious. Do not be shocked or surprised if they go on asking questions about your personal life. From what is your name, family status, and job occupation, there will be a multitude of questions that will follow up for further information. It is because Cambodians are always inquisitive about things. Don’t be upset because they like to learn; if you answer them, you will only create a special bond.


Over To You!

Well, now you know why Cambodia is loved by travelers worldwide. It is not just about the beautiful temples, nature, or sightseeing zones, but mostly because of its people, the nurtured characters, and the culture. A place can only feel like home when the members of society are willing to become good humans. And so, Cambodian people are prime examples of how a kingdom becomes a destination.

Learning so much about the nature of Khmer people, are you curious to learn about their language and culture? If yes, I have the best recommendation for you!


Learn With Ling

Ling is one of the best apps for beginner learners. It is an app that is filled with 60+ languages with content on various topics such as food, sports, accommodation, weather, and many more. It hires expert writers and native speakers who curate such content and uploads audio to ensure that the learner picks up the correct accent. You will also find an AI interactive chatbot in the app that will help you communicate through interactive exercises.

Moreover, continuous interactive lessons, mini-games, puzzles, and quizzes make retention easy, storing every other word in your long-term memory. So, if you want to learn Khmer with Ling, download the app from Appstore or Playstore right away!

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