There are times I want to say this – “Excuse me, but I AM HERE!”
Here’s an observation of how some Khmers usually talk. Note that I am not generalizing all Khmers, but living in Phnom Penh for the past three years have made me acutely aware of how most Khmers converse. At first, I got offended. Who wouldn’t be? I mean I’m right there, I’m humongous, one’s eyesight cannot miss me!! but I still get ignored in conversations. Lol!
A lot of Khmers like talking in third person. For example, all my Khmer relatives know my name, but to date they still refer to me as ‘Chinkee Mama‘. Lol! I know it sounds like a brand of noodles, but I’ve learned to live with it. Also, even when you are present and participating in the conversation, they would still refer to you as a third person.
But I have also learned that they consider this polite if they/you refer to yourself in third person. Perhaps this is part of their language or Cambodian culture. Another reason could be most of them are shy particularly around foreigners. A friend of mine who is also married to a Khmer told me she talks about herself in third person specially when speaking with elders. Example, when she’s about to leave for work, she tells her mother-in-law, ‘ Ma, your son’s wife or your daughter-in-law is now leaving for work.’
So, though at first it piqued me, coz it strikes me as impolite, but its not. So now, I find amusement whenever I’m referred to as a ‘third-person’ I think there are really things that one has to learn specially when dealing with another culture. And I always remind myself now not to be quick to judge.