Living in Phnom Penh: I am “Bong”, he is “Monsieur”!@#

Cambodians resemble Filipinos a lot in terms of physical features and that is hardly surprising since were both South East Asians. I think the difference between the two is the way we clothe ourselves. The weather here is same as in the Philippines and it could get really hot but Khmers veer towards the conservative side, preferring long sleeved shirts and long pants while most Pinoys I know her prefer casual clothing as in shirts and shorts.

So when I am here in Phnom Penh I don’t really want to be stared at so I stay away from tank tops and short shorts and I go for short sleeved T-shirts and pedal shorts so I am usually mistaken for a Khmer as long as I don’t speak. I know a smattering of Khmer but still when I speak its with an accent and they can’t understand me.

My husband on the other hand, isΒ  of Chinese descent but was born and raised here in Phnom Penh so he is often mistaken for a Chinese, Korean or a Japanese tourist.

The other day we went to Tuol Tom Poung Market and we found it both so funny that the sellers there keep calling me “Bong” which means elder sister or “ate” in Tagalog. When they see my husband they would say, “Monsieur, can we help you?”. And they would end up laughing when my husband would respond to them in fluent Khmer.

And those incidents happen not only in markets, when hubby is driving, he has been stopped by the police several times asking to check his license, believing him to be a foreigner.

In Angkor Wat, foreigners have to pay for a visitor pass (about $20) while Cambodian nationals and holders of K1 visa can go in for free. The last time we visited, they asked to check his visitor’s pass and they didn’t bother checking for mine thinking I was Khmer and he was the foreigner. The same thing happened when he went there with a Filipina friend. I guess this is something I will have much fun about while living in Phnom Penh.

We both find it so amusing and I guess I have to learn to speak the language so I could play the part really well. πŸ™‚


  1. Posh Post Reviews

    November 8, 2008 at 9:52 am

    hey that is cool! hihihi how are you dear? hope you can stop by this weekend at my blog. take care!

    Posh Post Reviewss last blog post..Luli Arroyo Weds

  2. Mel Avila Alarilla

    November 10, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    May I invite you to join Filipinos Unite!!!. You may do so by commenting on my post or by sending me an email at containing your name, address, name of blog and its url. Your name will be listed in an Official Registry of Filipino Bloggers permanently posted at my blog. Please join and be counted. Thank you so much. God bless.

  3. edelweiza

    November 13, 2008 at 4:52 am

    haha.your story amused me. yeah right, you have to learn to speak the language fluently so you could play the part well. πŸ™‚

  4. chethan

    November 13, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Hi there πŸ™‚ I just stopped by here to ask if you would like to sponsor the contest I’m running on my blog. It will be great to have a part of the contest titled as “Christmas n NEW YEAR Bash!” and even sponsors can participate in the contest. Please PM back and let me know πŸ™‚ Thank You.


  5. pinayws

    November 16, 2008 at 7:08 am

    hi mel, thanks for the invite.. of course would be proud to be on the list..will comment on your post for sure..

  6. pinayws

    November 16, 2008 at 7:17 am

    hi edel, im trying to learn but its really a pain. hehe if and when i learn it it’ll be like my 5th language/dialect so everything is really confusing for me. πŸ™‚

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