This post gives a very general view about Cambodia and aims to get you familiar with the country and help you talk about Cambodia without sounding like an idiot.
First thing first, Cambodia has a King and a Prime Minister, and therefore is officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Point on the map
If you have heard of Thailand and Vietnam, but not Cambodia, this map helps a lot! Cambodia is bordered by both countries. Despite this, we don’t share the same language, nor do we understand each other. It is located near the equator, and so has a lot of tropical fruits that aren’t available in colder parts of the world. Additionally, there are only two seasons: dry and rainy, and NOT summer and winter.
Cambodia’s official language is Khmer, and much of it is influenced by Sanskrit and Pali, so there are definitely some overlapping words in Thai and Hindi too. While there are many dialects in different parts of Cambodia, the indigenous community is also present, mainly in Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri, and different groups speak their own languages too. I volunteered in Rattanakiri a few times and in some villages, people didn’t speak Khmer at all.
This is how my name looks like written in Khmer: គី វិល័យវណ្ណ
What Cambodia is known for
If people ever have heard of Cambodia, it’s either Angkor Wat or the Khmer Rouge regime. Angkor Wat is a temple that was built in the 12th century in Siem Reap province, and is Cambodia’s landmark. The temple was inspired by Hinduism and took roughly 40 years to complete. In fact, Angkor Wat is the same temple that appears on the flag of Cambodia.
Rouge is a French word for “red”, and Khmer is another way to refer to Cambodia or Cambodian people. Khmer Rouge, which started in 1975 and ended in 1979, was a genocide period under Pol Pot’s leadership and his allies that killed approximately 2 million Cambodian educators, artists, and the elite class.
The majority of the population is Buddhists, and Buddhism is actually Cambodia’s official religion. However, other religions are also represented and freely practiced, such as Christianity and Islam. Many Cambodian people’s cultural practices and perspectives are a lot shaped by Buddhism. Our belief in Karma, in which our current state is a result of what we did in the past, is an example.
Modern architecture in Cambodia is mostly influenced by our famous architect Vann Molyvann. He designed the main buildings in Cambodia, including the National Sports Complex. For a trailer to the documentary about him and his work, watch the video below.