Tips for doing business in Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the country that many investors are interested to invest and doing business within the country. Today, we have a tips for doing business in Cambodia. Cambodia is officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia which is located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The Capital city is Phnom Penh, and the population around 13,607,069 people. The Ethic Groups consists of 90% of Khmer, 5% of Vietnamese, 1% of  Chinese and 4% of other. The main religion is Buddhist. Khmer is the official language of Cambodia and is used in most social contexts including government administration, education at all levels, and in the mass media. Below are the tips for doing business in Cambodia.

1. Saving Face: The concept of retaining your honor and reputation in front of others. When negotiating, allow the other party to “save face” by giving just a little on the final price. Also, Be sure to give genuine complements to people when merited.

2. Greeting People in Cambodia: The traditional Cambodian greeting – known as Som Pas – is made by putting your two hands together (with fingertips near the chin) and a giving a slight bow with your head. The hands are held higher to show more respect to elders and monks. Many Cambodians choose to shake hands with visitors, so the best rule-of-thumb is simply to return whatever greeting that you were given initially. It is considered very rude not to return a greeting.

3. Proper Dress in Cambodia: Modest dress is the rule in Cambodia, particularly for women. Although many tourists wear shorts to deal with the heat, the locals tend to cover as much skin as possible. In Cambodia, shorts are considered proper attire only for schoolchildren! Men in Cambodia typically wear collared shirts and long pants. Women should not wear short skirts or show their shoulders.

4. Respect for Elders: Aside from monks, elders are given the highest level of respect in Cambodia. Always acknowledge an elder’s status by allowing them to control the conversation, walk first, and take the lead. When seated, you should attempt to never sit higher than the eldest person in the room.

5. Visiting a Local’s Home in Cambodia:

  • Remove your shoes, even if not told to do so by your host.
  • Remove your hat while indoors.
  • It is polite to bring a small gift such as fruit, flowers, or candy to your host; hand your gift to them with both hands.
  • Always wait for the eldest to sit. The same applies to when to begin eating.
  • Avoid conversation about business or war when at the table.

6. Showing Respect in Cambodia: As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the head is considered the highest and most spiritual part of a person’s body. The feet are considered the dirtiest and least sacred.

  • Never touch a Cambodian person on the head, even children.
  • Never raise your feet higher than someone’s head.
  • When seated on the ground, tuck your feet beneath you so that they do not point at someone.
  • Unless told otherwise, always remove your shoes before entering a home or business.
  • Do not use your left hand to touch, eat, or hand someone something.
  • Pointing with your index finger is considered rude. Instead, gesture with your right hand palm-up.
Jaraswan Jarasjaruwan or Pear is a full-time MIM student. She got a Bachelor’s of Science from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. After she graduated, she worked as an educational consultant in Thailand for 2 years. Pear chose to study international business at Portland State University because she is interested in the business field and also the reputation of the university. Currently, Pear is studying Chinese as a third language. Also, she will choose Global Marketing as her specialization in the Master of International Management program.
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