Ethnography Project: Cambodian Culture “A person without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots. ” Marcus Garvey. What do you think of when you hear the word Cambodia? Do you think of the dirty water? The cows? The hard working rice pickers? The poverty? What does being Cambodian mean to you? To me, it means a lot. If I never knew that I am Cambodian, things would be a whole lot different. There’s a certain way in which we speak, believe, dress, and celebrate traditional events.
With me explaining a little bit on those certain topics will make you realize how much of an impact it is upon me and other Cambodians. Jomreapsua Greetings between Cambodians are dependent on the relationship/age between the people. The traditional greeting is a bow combined with a bringing of the hands together at chest level (similar to bringing hands together for prayer). If one intends to show greater respect, the bow is lower and the hands brought higher. With foreigners, Cambodians have adopted the western practice of shaking hands. Women may still use the traditional Cambodian greeting.
The simple rule is to respond with the greeting you are given. “Jomreapsua” mean’s hello in Cambodian and is used often with a smile. The clothing that covers thou There are two different forms of clothing in which a Cambodian person wears. There are traditional clothing and casual clothing. Casual clothing consists of regular clothes like a t-shirt, jeans, shorts, dresses, blouses, shoes and sandals. Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most important aspects of the culture. Cambodian fashion is divided by the people’s differing castes and social classes.
Cambodians traditionally wear a checkered scarf called a “Krama”. Traditional clothing is a bit more elegant and expensive. Depending on your occasion, traditional clothing may vary. Women wear sampot. There are many variations for the sampot, each is washed according to social class. The typical sampot, known also as the sarong is typically worn by men and women of lower class. Some Khmer men and women wear a Buddha pendant in a necklace fashion. There are different pendants for different uses; some are meant for protection from evil spirits, some are meant to bring good luck. Ta-Sehea? (What you say? )
In most cases, if you’re an American-Cambodian, most of the time you speak English, can speak Khmer (but not fluently), and can understand Khmer. Speaking Khmer is like speaking any other kind of language. Khmer is the official language of Cambodia and one of the major languages of Southeast Asia. It is spoken by eleven million people in Cambodia and nearly three million more outside Cambodia. Conversations are just like any other conversation held. If you are learning Cambodian and you never heard us speak before, it would be difficult to you. And if you are a person listening to us speak; you would hear a lot of “ongs”.
The language is a bit difficult. Don’t be “bap”! About 90% of Cambodians are Buddhist and believe in Theravada. With that, they believe in reincarnation after death. The birth of a child is a happy event for the family. Confinement and childbirth expose the family, and especially the mother and the child to harm from the spirit world. A woman who dies in childbirth; crosses the river in Khmer is believed to become an evil spirit. A big no-no in Cambodia and in most of Southeast Asia is to touch anyone on top of the head. If entering a temple, ensure that you sit cross-legged to avoid offence.
If entering a temple, ensure that you sit cross-legged to avoid offence. In temples men should wear long pants, so no hairy legs are poking out, and women should avoid any clothing that exposes the shoulders. Chhamn Tmey (Khmer New Years) Khmer New Years is a holiday that celebrates the New Year. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year’s Day, which usually falls on April 13 or 14th, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. Khmers living abroad may choose to celebrate during a weekend rather than just specifically April 13 through 15th.
It is always celebrated at temples. What we do during celebrating are gambling, shaving cream fights, dancing, singing, eating, praying, and having a good time with each other! Khmer new years is a holiday that most Cambodians look forward into celebrating this special holiday because everyone comes together. Even people who aren’t Cambodian enjoy coming to celebrate with us too. Proud to be Khmer I am who I am, and I am a proud Cambodian girl. Being Cambodian wasn’t something that I decided to be, but more of what I am born with. Growing up in a Cambodian household has taught me a lot.
I’ve learned what my ancestors have done as to being a Cambodian, and how that it is similar to what I do. I realized that if I were to be any other ethnicity, I don’t think I would be the same person that I am today, because my likes and dislikes would most likely be different. When I walk around, I walk around remembering where my roots came from. I walk around applying what I’ve learned at home to my daily life. The positives in my future As far as being Cambodian, my kids will be too. My kids will be Cambodian and their kids will be Cambodian.
Generations of the Khmer culture will be passed down from my ancestors, parents, and me. Also, with Khmer being my second language, it will look good on resumes and will get me a better chance at a certain job or career. Quyam Tho (I’m leaving) This is the way I live my life. These are my roots. This is what makes me who I am today, and that is being Cambodian. Everything about it impacts me in some sort of way. From the way we greet each other and to the way we celebrate Khmer New Years is something that I can’t change, and will not change even if I had the ability to. I love what I am and I love how it affects me as an individual.