Are Cambodians afraid of foreigners?

This is a post from a blog that I stumbled across on a blog called It’s Adventure Time, and it’s by Molyka Rom (“Molly”), who describes herself as “a communications manager and a Cambodian lifestyle Blogger/writer.” That’s about all I know. She sounds intelligent, vivacious, and young – and makes me feel very old. And to my surprise, she says that Cambodians are scared of foreigners. Intimidated by them. Maybe resent them a  little. I’ll just give highlights – read the full post here.

Molly’s words begin now….


Will there be time that Cambodia can actually do things by themselves? If you asked me whether I am Cambodian. Of course, I am Cambodian, and because of that, I am very frustrated how Cambodian are always scared of foreigners, and do everything to satisfied them– even though it means we’re the owner of the land?

…Deleted a few paras about a video telling what fun things foreigners can do in Cambodia – like, shoot guns; Molly is pretty impressed and wishes she could do this too…

…In Cambodian perspective, we think that foreigners are cool, fun, friendly, adventurous, handsome, beautiful, crazy or even dangerous and scary! …

In Cambodia, we like to serve foreigners. By serve here I mean, we’re in favor of foreigners, and allow them to do things that they wish to. We think that foreigners mostly from the developed countries; therefore, they’re rich and educated and creative (while they are actually not, sometimes). So, we mostly accept the opinion from them whether it is bad or good.

Cambodian are kind. We try to bargain thing for foreigners. We help foreigners when they ask us to help or even offer some help without asking. We try to speak English to them because we thought that it’d be beneficial for us to practice more English until some of us here do not use our language properly because mostly we just forget how to use it well, since everything is available in English. Everywhere here in Cambodia always has English language available. If you go to coffee shop here, you might not find a menu in Khmer. It’s just full English. And it doesn’t make sense in a way when we try to call it in Khmer language. For example, instead of calling in Khmer way of Strawberry Smoothies “Strawberry kalok”, we just call it “Strawberry Smoothies” just like foreigners when we order things in the coffee shop. …

Some Cambodian young people think that it’s always cool to hang out with foreign friends. Why? Because we can do reckless thing that we cannot when we hang out with only Cambodian friends.

(My comment: reckless things? What reckless things? I never deliberately do reckless things. Maybe just dumb things because I don’t know any better. Are Cambodians under the impression that foreigners are being thrilling wen in fact they’re doing dumb things because they don’t know?)

We are always treated well when we’re with foreign friends, and despite whatever we do, it’s always fun to be with foreigners because no one will actually judge you the way they judge us when we’re with Cambodian friends. Old people here might not like it, but to young people having foreign friends are like the coolest thing ever.

(Editorial comment: So we’re a force for social dislocation? Is that a good thing? “Cool” has a lot to answer for.)

We try to adopt the Western behavior and attitude, but again this actually depends on people. So, I cannot say that everyone is like that. Well, some Cambodian may try to influence our culture to foreigners by teaching or showing around what Cambodian like to do. Like I said, it’s actually depending on what kind of people they are.

But since we’re kind, helpful and everything doesn’t mean foreigners can do thing as they want. I mean, excuse me if this post offend to anyone that might come across this post, but I believe as foreigners, yes, our country is a paradise to you. Everything is cheap, you can do whatever you want with the cash you have, but at least show some respect to the culture, to the country and to the people here. Take aside foreign tourists, but what frustrated me the most that urges me to write this post since the beginning is that I wonder why Cambodian people let foreigners dominant over our land in terms of everything.

(Like, for example, riding your motorbike with no clothes on.)

This afternoon I check one resort in Kompot where it is soooo beautiful and surrounding by mountain, beach, all those beautiful scenery on Facebook. Then, I saw a post where there is a Cambodian asking “Can Cambodian stay there too?” I cringed a little bit.

(Only a bit?)

Why are you scared of them? … They might be weird but there’s nothing to scared about them. I am just frustrated and sometimes unsatisfied how we always serve foreigners, provide them good hospitality, and please them in any way, while Cambodian never actually get to do this themselves. Or even worse, some services treat foreigners better than Cambodian who actually want to experience thing just like foreigners do. I can say it is unfair, literally unfair to Cambodian to not to experience beautiful, fun and weird things or activity just like foreigners do.

I notice that whenever there are a lot of foreigners in any place, say restaurant or in any place that have foreign dominance, Cambodian will cringe away, and just never involve in it. They will be very awkward and do not know what to do in there. Or just, I don’t know, acting weird, and just go to find other place. They DO NOT like to go to a place where foreigners dominant. But again, as Cambodian, I feel it is not fair in a way that foreigners can do much more in Cambodia than Cambodian can do to the country.

(To understand the next bit, it helps to know that Molly is a student of media – she wants to be a doco film-maker).

Expats here get pretty famous and have their face in every social events here just by creating something new and different. Their name can actually boosts up to the sky without trying hard. (Sorry if it offends to anyone while reading this). But it is true. We understand that Cambodian is still young in everything, and that the human resource is still lacking. Therefore, we still depend on foreigners to take lead in every project. This is sad in a way that Cambodian people still prefer foreign services. For instance, in education system, some people prefer to have foreign teachers …. Or just say, they’re creative and open-minded. I, myself, also prefer to study with foreign teachers, too. … And this case does not apply only in education system, but almost every sectors –name it, private sector, NGO sector etc.

Most of leading, professional media institutions are dominant and organized by foreigners, when it’s actually about Cambodia. It is really sad in a way that foreigners know much more than we Cambodian do because we do not dare to take a giant step to see what behind the story of the country, or have a courage to do so because of some pressures that I shall not mention. But, in my opinion, I just want to see Cambodian actually do thing by themselves without the need of foreign assistance. And, while saying this I hope that when Cambodian actually do things by themselves, they can do as good as foreigners do. Creative, professional with good quality. Once we have this qualification, I hope we can actually enjoy things that foreigners can enjoy here. To be able to go and see nice resort, eat in good restaurants, have fun partying the way we want without being judged just like what foreigners do to our country, and prove that Cambodian also have people who are open-minded and have the quality that is independent enough not to bother foreigners to advise on it. It’d be fun, wouldn’t it. However, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that I hate foreigners or wish to make Cambodian hate against foreigners. I always appreciate foreigners who try to provide us assistance and bring a better change to Cambodia where we’re in need of help. But this post is to remind Cambodian people to actually have a confident to themselves to speak up, and make things happen. Or just, being more independent.

Before I started to write this post, I thought to myself whether my post will boost up some nationalism or cause any controversy since this topic is very debatable. This post is not to raise the hate against foreigners or whatsoever, but I just write what I have in mind, and whether or not you agree or disagree with this, feel free to give your argument or click like or share it to your friends to know about it, I don’t know. And this is it. 😀