How to greet people in Cambodia?

The traditional greeting of Cambodians is a prayer-like clasping of the palms. They bow gently and raise their hands to chest height. It is known as Som Pas. Generally speaking, the more respect is being offered, the higher the hands and lower the bow.

Cambodians will do Som Pas and say Choum Reap Sur when they meet (Hello).

They will once more say Choum Reap Lir and Som Pas as they leave (Goodbye).

Som Pas is a greeting and a way for Cambodians to show respect. It would be impolite to not respond to a Som Pas when it is being used as a greeting; in Western society, it is equivalent to declining a handshake that has been extended.

The impact of Western culture is now accepted in Cambodia. Men in Cambodia typically shake hands. Women, on the other hand, frequently stick to the traditional greeting and are cautious about shaking hands because Cambodians are not used to touching, particularly those who are of the opposite sex.

When addressing someone formally, Cambodians use the titles Lok (Mr.) or Lok Srey (Mrs.), followed by either the person’s given name alone or both the given and family name. The family name is rarely used alone, such as in the West.

Informally, Cambodians will address an elderly man as Ta (grandfather), Po (uncle), or Bong (brother), and an elderly lady as Yeay (grandmother), Ming (aunt), or Bong Srey (sister). They are also frequently used to show respect for someone who may be senior in situations when it is unclear what age the other parties are. 

In Cambodia, it would be considered impolite or otherwise inappropriate for a younger person to address an older person without using a title.

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