Curious people you meet on the streets of Cambodia

I have gathered a list of things – fascinating, dangerous, funny, sad, that Cambodians do, which are absolutely normal for us, Cambodians, but not for visitors. Here I am, with a lot of references, presenting you the people you’ll meet in Cambodia.

Old people on a moped



There are a lot of mopeds in Cambodia and they occupy most of the space on the streets. Streets in Cambodia would look just like those in New York, if the mopeds were turned into cars. Since they are such an important mode of transportation, it is no surprise that older people use them to transport themselves to the pagoda (Buddhist temple). You may think it’s dangerous – and it is! – but usually they’re strong enough to ride a moped.

Man takes a nap on a moped



The truth is, they don’t casually sleep on a moped. They ride mopeds for a living by taking people to places they want to go. It’s the same concept as driving a taxi, but the difference is, instead of using a car, we use a moped. The man in the picture probably doesn’t have customers, so that’s what he does, although it somehow looks funny.

Girl carries objects on head



Actually, you’ll see men carrying things on their head too, but you’ll mostly see women. They’re the experts! They carry “products” and walk around to different places to sell them.

Man carries too many objects on moped



If you look at the website I took the picture from, you’ll see that Cambodians aren’t the only people who overload stuff on their vehicle. Speaking of overloading, you’ll also see one moped carrying 4 to 5 people, and it is really dangerous. And if you travel across provinces on a, what we call, “taxi”, there’s no exact time it leaves, but the driver leaves whenever they have put as many people as they can inside the car. This often means, two people in a passenger’s seat, and two in a driver’s seat.

Serious drivers

This may sound sarcastic, but they are serious drivers because they only focus on driving. If you’re crossing the street, simply try to make your way between those cars, because if you wait for them to allow you to cross, you will be standing for the whole day on the sidewalk.

Woman in casual pajamas

P.C. - Chris Lewis

P.C. – Chris Lewis

While many women dress fancy when they leave home, you’ll also see women who dress in pajamas. This seems funny, but it is actually quite common, and to an extent, nobody is bothered by that. However, you’ll see really fancy dresses and costumes when they attend a ceremony, and you’ll be amazed.

Man in casual towel

I wasn’t able to find an appropriate picture of a man wearing a Cambodian towel/scarf outside, but you can picture it. Normally, middle-aged men wear a towel casually when they sit in front of their house or if they’re just wandering around their house. Of course, they wear proper clothes when they ‘go out’.

Street Children

P.C. - Azli Jamil

P.C. – Azli Jamil

Cambodia is a poor country. Although, according to the World Bank, 10.1% of our population lived below $1.25 a day in 2011, I think the percentage is higher than that. Nevertheless, unfortunately, you’ll see children with bags walking on the street, searching for recyclable cans and bottles, or simply usable trash. You’ll also see homeless children and adults, and beggars. It is painful to see, but organizations have done a lot and made incredible impacts to some individuals.

Friendly and smiley people

Believe it or not, Cambodians smile all the time (not literally); we genuinely smile at you when we see you, and we get disappointed and stop smiling at you, if you don’t smile back. This is not a trait; it’s a culture. It’s a way to show our acknowledgment and respect towards you. If you look back at the pictures above, they’re smiling, even in their nap! Of course, it’s not just because they’re looking at the camera – we really smile whenever we see you.

What do you think?

Our Correspondent
Cult Cambodia correspondent
Vilayvann -

Born and raised in the debris of the French colony in Cambodia, I grew up to be the least girlish girl or the most manly girl in the world, as described by my friends, just because I never had dolls or those ...

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About this place

Continent: Asia
Capital: Phnom Penh
Population: 14,453,700
Area: 181,040 km2
Currency: Riels
Languages: Khmer

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