ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Travel and Places»
  • Visiting Asia»
  • Southeastern Asia

Greeting Rituals in Cambodia

Updated on January 9, 2016
A Cambodian Doing the Greeting
A Cambodian Doing the Greeting | Source

The Cambodia Greeting Ritual

With their palms put together as in a prayer and bowing slightly, the Cambodians do this Sampeah saying Choum Reap Sur (for hello) and saying Choum Reap Lear (for goodbye).

The Sampeah is performed in different ways depending on the age and status of the person one is greeting.

As respect is central to Cambodian culture, they have distinct ways of addressing each other. Formally, the Cambodians address a man with the respectful prefix Lok (Mr.) and Lok Srey (Mrs.) followed by surname and given name. Following Lok only with a surname is impolite so be sure you catch both names.

Within the family, they use Lok Ta for grandfather, Lok Yeay for grandmother, Ming for aunt, Oum or Pue for uncle, Bong Bros for brothers and Bong Srey for sisters. Nowadays, those of the same ages often just call each other with their given names.

As in many cultures, tradition sometimes gives way to modernism. But in Cambodia, even between ages, respect is still very much expected. You often find yourself being asked your age not because they are nosy but because they want to address you properly.

Note: This intro picture is of our friend, Soeung Sameang, who happily greeted us when we came back this time to Cambodia.

Planning a trip to Cambodia? - Here's a good guide for you

This book explores the different provinces of Cambodia including some of the remote ones such as Mondulkiri and suggests things you can do such as watching the Irawaddy dolphins, taking a tuktuk and other unique experiences you can enjoy in Cambodia.

National Geographic Traveler: Cambodia
National Geographic Traveler: Cambodia

Written by a fellow familiar with the region, this book is worth reading.

 

5. Various Ways of Doing the Cambodian Greeting, Sampeah

1. Cambodian Greeting for friends of the same age - Both palms are placed together facing each other at the chest level

Source

2. Cambodian Greeting for persons more senior in rank and age - Palms are placed together facing each other reaching the mouth level

Source

3. Cambodia greeting for parents, grandparents and teachers - Palms are placed together facing each other at the nose level

Source

4. Cambodian Greeting for the king and monks - Palms are placed together at the level of the eyebrows

Source

5. Praying to God and other sacred deities in Cambodia - Palms are placed at the forehead facing each other

Source
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places)
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places)

This book is a good introduction to understanding Khmer culture.

 

The Sampeah: Greeting Ritual at the Heart of Cambodian Culture - Know more about Cambodian Culture

Majority of Cambodians are Khmer. Khmer practice Theravada Buddhism so this is the major influence in the rituals in Cambodia although many Khmer ancient customs and traditions have already been practiced in the ancient kingdom of Angkor as part of the community rites so they had been a part of their own unique culture as a people.

You can read about the ancient civilization of Angkor.

Do's and Dont's in Cambodian Culture

  1. Avoid touching a child or another person in the head especially putting your palm on the head of a child.
  2. Avoid pointing your toe towards another person. It is very impolite.
  3. Try to use your right hand when handing things over or receiving these. Also, in eating. Sorry for left hand people.
  4. Avoid pointing your fingers at the person's face. It is impolite even if sometimes, you only meant it for emphasis.

Another Sampeah Greeting from Cambodia - From Panya

Sampeah
Sampeah | Source

Cambodian Khmer Teach Children to Do the Sampeah Early

Panya at this age already knows how to do the Sampeah. It is often one of the first things parents teach their children. It is their pride when their kids are able to do this and kids are always made to perform this in front of guests.

Other Cambodian words of politeness

Learn a few words of greeting in Khmer and use these when you're there. The Cambodians will truly appreciate this gesture.

  1. How are you?

    luk-sohk-sah-bahy chia dteh?

    Sometimes I just ask: Sohk-sah-bahy(bai)? and they are happy.

  2. Fine, thanks.

    Sohk sah-bahy chia dteh, O-ku!n

  3. Thank you

    O-ku!n

  4. Good Morning

    Ah-ru!n soou-sdey

  5. Good Afternoon

    Dti-via soou-sdey

  6. Good Evening

    Sahy-yu!n soou-sdey

More useful Cambodian words


Please: Sohm

Sorry: Sohm-toh

Market: Phsar

Thank you: Akun

Yes: Baat (Man) and Cha(Woman)

No: Otay

Cambodian Greeting on Videos - Watch them do the Sampeah

Video showing how to greet the Cambodian way.

Tutorial Video on Cambodian Greetings

Sampeah greeting from a young Cambodian - We got this greeting in the Park in Cambodia

Little Girl Doing Sampeah
Little Girl Doing Sampeah | Source

This little girl was giving Sampeah to everyone she met in the park one Saturday afternoon.

Have you ever been to Cambodia?

See results

When you were in Cambodia, did you do the sampeah?

See results

Sampeah Greeting for the Monks - Monks on Procession in Cambodia

Sampeah to the Monks
Sampeah to the Monks | Source

Rank and Age Make a Difference in the Greeting

As you have already seen in the former pictures, rank and age differentiate the type of Sampeah greeting. In this picture, you see the greeting for the monks. Many people even kneel as the monks pass or when they offer something to the monks or when they ask for the monks blessing.

Take note if you're a woman, you cannot touch the monks. You have to keep your distance. Our friend monk can put his arms around my husband and hug him when we have not seen him for long but he can't do it to me. A big smile coupled with words of greeting is enough. I just do the Sampeah.

The Cambodian King Father doing the Sampeah Greeting - Cambodia in Mourning for the King Father

Offering to the King Father
Offering to the King Father | Source

Pillars of Cambodian Culture: Religion, King and Nation

The King is central to Cambodia's culture together with the nation and religion: Religion, King, Nation are the 3 pillars of Cambodian society. Cambodians also have elaborate rituals around death.

Cambodians, young and old, continue to pay their last respects to the King Father, Norodom Sihanouk. This speaks of how much Cambodians love their King and the respect accorded him. The mourning for the King Father will last for 3 months during which all scheduled celebrations like the water festival will be cancelled.

Young People Doing Sampeah Greeting to the King Father - Their Respect to the King

Offering to the KIng Father
Offering to the KIng Father | Source

A Cambodian Family Offering at the Temple - Kneeling in front of their God

Cambodian Family Praying in the Monastery
Cambodian Family Praying in the Monastery | Source
Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters
Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters

If you are only beginning to understand Theravada Buddhism, this is the book to guide you.

 

Cambodian Culture is Founded on Theravada Buddhism - Understand Theravada Buddhism Better

A book to help you understand Theravada Buddhism on which is founded the culture of Cambodia. Buddhism is at the heart of life of the Khmer, about 95% of Cambodians. This book simplifies the rather complicated precepts of this type of Buddhism through the teachings of its masters.

A Pagoda in Cambodia - At the Center of Cambodian Life

Monastery in Cambodia
Monastery in Cambodia | Source

Monks Walking in the Streets of Phnom Penh - Sets the tone in the city

Monks in the Streets of Phnom Penh
Monks in the Streets of Phnom Penh | Source

Cambodian Groom doing a Sampheah - Greeting his Guests

Cambodian Groom Greeting Guests
Cambodian Groom Greeting Guests | Source

Cambodian Bride Doing the Sampheah - Greeting the Guests

Cambodian Bride Doing Traditional Greeting
Cambodian Bride Doing Traditional Greeting | Source

The Sampeah is used by everyone - To greet each other

Temple in Bokor Mountain
Temple in Bokor Mountain | Source

The automatic reaction of Cambodians is always to do the Sampeah when meeting someone.

Cambodian Statues Doing Sampeah Greeting - You can see the statues in this pose all over Cambodia

Statues in Wat Botum in Traditional Cambodian
Statues in Wat Botum in Traditional Cambodian | Source

Try using Sampheah for greeting - While in Cambodia

The Royal Palace of Cambodia
The Royal Palace of Cambodia | Source

Another try at Sampheah - You get used to it

The Royal Palace in Cambodia
The Royal Palace in Cambodia | Source

Cambodians greet each other based on their Buddhist Beliefs - What's on auction on Theravada Buddhism

Cambodia follows Theravada Buddhism and all the important rituals and ceremonies in Cambodian Khmer life are founded on this. There are also other ethnicities in Cambodia and they of course have their own way of greeting but the majority are the Khmer so what is often referred to as Cambodian is mainly Khmer.

Traditional Songs are always sung in Cambodian gathering - They accompany every ritual in Cambodia

Dos & Don'ts in Cambodia
Dos & Don'ts in Cambodia

if you're travelling to Cambodia, get this book. It is excellent in its description and entertaining to read.

 

Know the dos and don'ts in Cambodia - Here's a book to help you

Understanding the do's and don'ts in the place you are visiting is a necessary preparation especially when you are going there for business. But even if you are going as a tourist, it is still important so you can act sensitively.

Share with us how other cultures greet each other - Or just leave us your thoughts on this lens

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      dellgirl 3 years ago

      Wow, this is so interesting and it's very informative. I learned a lot from your awesome photos. Thanks for the great lesson on greetings in Cambodia.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      I used the Sampheah greeting in Cambodia, but I'm sure I got the levels wrong. It didn't matter though, as I think people understood that I was trying to get it right and appreciated that.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @darkflowers: Am happy you enjoyed learning more about other cultures.

    • darkflowers profile image

      Anja Toetenel 4 years ago from The Hague, the Netherlands

      I had no idea Cambodia has such a wide variety of ways to greet each other, it is very interesting to learn about his. Thank you for your beautiful Lens ful of wondeful information and beautiful photos, it's a pleasure to learn more about your culture!

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image

      KamalaEmbroidery 4 years ago

      It's very similar to the greeting used in India. "Namaste" - my soul bows to your soul. Except I've never noticed differences in India for social status. That part's more like bowing in Japan which I never could get right. Cambodia is so beautiful. I've wanted to visit for a long time, especially Angkor Wat.

    • profile image

      hmommers 4 years ago

      We shake hands or kiss on the cheek, depending on how well you know each other.

      I never knew the hands gave different levels in Cambodja. Not sure I would dare to visit out of fear to upset anybody.

      Great lens.

    • butternyk profile image

      butternyk 4 years ago

      Great place to be

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love the way the Cambodian people greet, in India we too greet with a "Namaste or Namaskara".

    • profile image

      crstnblue 4 years ago

      Very interesting lens, Aesta1, thanks for sharing!

      Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Oh, forgot to mention that I noticed the blessing didn't take when I was here in September, it has to be a year or so now....but it is a delight to revisit your work, always a labor of love!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was absolutely fascinated the first time I came here and it is a pleasure to return to do a little dusting once again on your excellent teaching of the greeting rituals of Cambodia...beautifully presented with such a sense of honoring!

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @LiteraryMind: It is indeed fascinating.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      What a great lens. It is so interesting to learn about other cultures.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @xtianfriborg13: Angkor Wat is a monument to that.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @takkhisa: Yes, I have seen it in Thailand but not in Sri Lanka for every day greeting.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      I think Buddhists greet such way all over the world. I am a Buddhist and in my culture we greet the same way you do in Cambodia. Great lens.

    • profile image

      xtianfriborg13 4 years ago

      Goes to show the Cambodia has a very rich culture. It's important we keep those in mind.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @TaraWojt: I hope you get a chance to visit Cambodia one day.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: I am glad you did learn some things from the greeting rituals of Cambodia.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very informative lens, I have learn many new things from it.

    • TaraWojt profile image

      Tara Wojtaszek 4 years ago

      I've always wanted to visit Cambodia - perhaps some day.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @SquidooPower: It speaks a lot of their own uniqueness. Doesn't it?

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      Greetings. This was a very informative lens and brought back some wonderful memories of when I was in Thailand. I did thoroughly enjoy this lens. You have done a great job on it.

      TonyB

    • SquidooPower profile image

      SquidooPower 5 years ago

      L-O-V-E-D this lens. The way different people around the world greet each other is intriguing to me. Great topic, great lens.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @WriterJanis2: It fasciinated me as well.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Interesting reading about this and how different levels are used depending on whom the gesture is used for.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Melissa Miotke: I hope you do as this place is really interesting especially Angkor Wat. There is nothing like Angkor Wat in the world.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      I hope I get to go to Cambodia someday so I can be greeted for myself:) This seems like a really welcoming culture.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @SteveKaye: They truyl are. Arriving here theother day was like coming back home.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      These are such beautiful people. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: Thank you so much again Tipi.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @LadyFlashman: I hope you do. The people are so nice there.

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a beautiful lens, and so useful too! I would love to go to Cambodia one day. I really have learned a lot reading this lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was here in 2010 and am delighted to return with angel dust....

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Lady Lorelei: Culture is complicated and often we offend people because we don't know.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Ruthi: Respect for elders is really central in this culture.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      I had seen the Sampheah greeting before but did not understand the full meaning of it. I was surprised by the many impolite gestures that would be viewed as from our culture.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 5 years ago

      I truly enjoyed learning about the Cambodian Sampheah and how it varies with levels of respect.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @LaraineRoses: Anyone can really use this.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @srsddn lm: Although neighboring cultures often are similar as you can see between Thailand and Cambodia.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      Thanks for bringing all different ways of greetings to your lens. Very interesting, specially note the differences.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      This was so very interesting!! The deaf greet each other with sort of a salute.

      Angel blessings**

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @pawpaw911: Thanks for visiting.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Mandy Stradley: That will be exciting. Are you going?

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Nithya Venkat: Thank you for your visit and appreciation.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @kindoak: I think so as there has been intermingling of cultures between them given conquests of each other.

    • kindoak profile image

      kindoak 5 years ago

      Interesting about the different height of the hands depending upon who you greet. Would the same rank/ palm height system apply to for instance Thailand?

    • Nithya Venkat profile image

      Nithya Venkat aka Vellur 5 years ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed reading this lens. So many ways to greet people. The photos are great. Fantastic lens.

    • Mandy Stradley profile image

      Mandy Stradley 5 years ago

      Great lens! My husband is photographing a Cambodian wedding next month!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting reading about the various greetings.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: Thank you so much for the visit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Cambodian greeting is so wonderful.. So proud to visit here :)

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @MisterJeremy: Yes, respect is really important to the Khmer.

    • MisterJeremy profile image

      Jeremy 5 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Very nice. Getting greetings right is an important way to show respect.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @julieannbrady: Thanks for using some words you've learned.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @squidoopets: Thank you for the visit.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @hntrssthmpsn: You are right. It does not take much from us.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      What a cool peek at a tiny slice of Cambodian culture! It's so great to be able to extend a greeting to a traveler according to his or her native tongue and culture!

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      Loved this article on how to greet people Cambodia style, many thanks

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      What an interesting introduction to the greetings of Cambodia! Dti-via soou-sdey!

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @jaredsgirl: Thank you for visiting.

    • jaredsgirl profile image

      jaredsgirl 5 years ago

      Beautifully done lens! I've learned so much about how Cambodians greet one another and others. Thank you for sharing!

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @jlshernandez: You are right as they have influenced each other.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @JoshK47: Thank you for the blessing.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @goo2eyes lm: You are right...same tradition.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      cambodia and thailand are having the same way of greeting.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Absolutely wonderful to learn this - thank you for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      The Cambodian greeting gestures are similar to the Thai greetings. Correct me if I am worng. It is interesting to find out that the higher the palms of the hands are placed relative to your face, the higher the social status of the person you are greeting is. Blessed by a SquidAngel. ****

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @viscri8: Thank you so much for the blessing.

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 6 years ago

      This lens is blessed -- as a greeting for the gentle people of Cambodia

    • viscri8 profile image

      viscri8 6 years ago

      Lovely girl making a lovely demonstration of a Cambodian greeting style. To learn the local greeting is the first sign of respect one can show when in a foreign place -- it is usually reciprocated with a lot of good will.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: It is similar, isn't it?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow- there are so many ways to greet with the Sampheah greetings, one will have a tough time to remember. Reminds me of Indian "Namaste".

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @ecogranny: Thanks for the visit.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing the customs for appropriate address and greetings in Cambodian culture. I live in a city rich in diversity, and your page is not only informative but helpful.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Mclure2: Visit now.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @elyria: Thank you for the visit.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @vkumar05: It is the Indian influence.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @Fcuk Hub: Yes, it is admirably recovering from this sad history.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 6 years ago

      Altrough has Cambodia a sad history, it is nice to know something good from this countrry.

    • vkumar05 profile image

      vkumar05 6 years ago

      The greeting style is exactly like that in India. In India it is called 'Namaskar' or "pranam'. Excellent Lens. Great share.

    • elyria profile image

      elyria 6 years ago

      I love learning customs and traditions of different cultures. Wonderful lens and great instructions!

    • Mclure2 profile image

      Mclure2 6 years ago

      Great Leans. Always would love to visit Cambodia

    • mountainstevo profile image

      mountainstevo 6 years ago

      Thanks for teaching us :)

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @goo2eyes lm: Happy to be part of your circle.

    • aesta1 profile image
      Author

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @hamshi5433: Because both have the Buddhist culture.

    • profile image

      hamshi5433 6 years ago

      This is pretty similar to us Sri-Lankans. Cool information.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 6 years ago

      thank you for visiting my lens. you also have nice lenses like this. good to know how to greet people in cambodia. welcome to my squidoo circle

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I think it is very important to learn and understand the customs of other cultures. Thanks so much for sharing these Cambodian customs - I learned a lot!

    • victorianpassage profile image

      victorianpassage 6 years ago

      Thank you for this cultural lens! I certainly learned something from it. =)

    • Demaw profile image

      Demaw 6 years ago

      Very informative and nice lens.

    • dc64 lm profile image

      dc64 lm 6 years ago

      I love learning the cultures of other countries. This was nice.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      Thank you ... this was very interesting and beautifully demonstrated.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Very interesting and unique. It's helpful to know something of the culture of any place that you visit.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Lovely lens. Angle Blessed and lensrolled to Born to Be Angelic

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Culture is so interesting! Lensrolled this to my lens on Culture- a force for good or bad?

    • Adriana Daniela profile image

      Adriana 6 years ago from New Market

      Thanks for the education: very nice lens. Blessed :)

    • profile image

      sprevendido25 6 years ago

      This will be very helpful when we come to Cambodia.