We’ve had some interesting conversations about whether good manners are universal or culturally specific.
We’ve found the local people in both countries to be either delightful or indifferent to us. In Cambodia, they would often put their hands together in a prayer pose and lower their heads briefly as a greeting of respect – really lovely.
In contrast, we’ve had numerous encounters that we would interpret as very rude, always with other tourists. Most often we’ve been physically pushed out of the way. Some groups have been noticeably noisy in public spaces such as airports or hotel hallways. Once, a woman stood directly in front of me to watch a chef demonstration, when there was clearly no room to do so and I was obviously watching the same show. (You can see our surprise in the photo Tim took!) Then, when the chef
was done, someone from her table (one of six), walked up to the display of fancily carved items, took the most elaborately decorated piece of fruit, and ate it!
In Cambodia, there were frequently bands of landmine victims playing music for money on the street. We saw a Caucasian woman (who did not appear to be a landmine victim!) sit down with them, pick up a drum, and pose for a picture. It seemed weirdly obtrusive or inappropriate to us at the time.
It’s been funny to hear our guides’ impressions of particular nationalities of tourists, offered to us unsolicited. They encounter people from all over the world every day, and seem to take great delight in forming opinions about various countries based on the folks they meet. We are happy to report that the stereotype of Canadians as being polite (at least in our opinion, and theirs) seems to be holding true here!