Living in Phnom Penh: Invites and More Invites…

Cambodian Culture, Living in Phnom Penh / Thursday, May 5th, 2011

From the title, one would think I’m like some social butterfly. Hahahaha! My friends would be the first ones to laugh at that. I’m okay with socializing, I’m just not soo crazy or obsessed with it. Truth is, I’m a bit shy. {Really.} So a constant avalanche of party invitations was not what I expected when we moved here in Phnom Penh. If you’re planning on living in Phnom Penh, read on.

Khmers loves weddings and parties. And they would go out of their way to invite everyone they know, even if you’re not close. Even if you’re merely ‘nodding acquaintances’ don’t be surprised to get an invite to someone’s wedding, birthday or house opening etc. It’s nice, really. Sometimes.

It took me awhile to get used to it since back home, when we have parties we invite people who really matter to us. Close relatives, family.. I think its a different case here. The more people you can bring to your party the better. It takes getting used to but after almost three years, I’m not surprised to get a lot of invitations every month. More so I guess because hubby is Khmer. But if you’re an expat here and have a few Khmer friends, you’re bound to get an invite sooner or later.

And when you’re invited, you have to show up dressed up. I always make an effort now to be dressed up when attending these parties otherwise you’d totally stand out if you’re so dressed down. Khmers love dressing up and when it comes to weddings they go all out. Formal attire, gowns and with matching bouffant hairdo’s and heavy makeup.

Also, these parties have registers. When you go in, you have to give your invitation and they’ll write down your name on the register. Gifts are in the form of cash. Yes, cash. Although its alright to give something wrapped for house opening parties or birthdays, the most acceptable gift is cash. You have to put it in the invitation envelope with your name and they will also write the amount you give in the register. I was at first shocked at this and badgered hubby why the need to write it down. It’s embarrassing you know. But that is the custom here so…one just adjusts.

My one beef is that, since we get a lot of invites its a considerable dent on the monthly budget. No kidding. The lowest minimum you can give is $10-15. For really close relatives and friends on average you give $20-30. Imagine getting 10 or more invites a month! And don’t include there your dressing up costs! Sigh. I told my husband, from what we ‘contribute’ to these parties we could get ourselves something substantial! Or I could buy myself 100 pairs of shoes every year.

I know some would say, Oh! just decline the invite.. Yeah, but in Asian society its not very polite to do so. At the same time you’re at risk of burning bridges and hurting sensitive feelings. And hubby says its one way of networking. Sigh. What can one do? At least its an excuse to glam up and eat. Lolz. A friend on mine said, when she goes to Khmer weddings she just pretends its an eat-all-you-can restaurant and eat a lot. After all, she’s expected to pay for her meal.

And oh, one thing. The photo above, those are just a few invites we got last Feb. I do have to say, they love color and stuff a lot of decor on their invites. Really interesting and maddeningly ornate. Makes me want to collect it.

6 Replies to “Living in Phnom Penh: Invites and More Invites…”

  1. Andaming invites! Hahaha. We’ve been invited more than couple of times by hubby’s officemates but we’ve never attended any of it. Bad! Hehehe.

    1. hayy sis. minsan i wanna pretend i don’t know them. si Sen kase may pagkasocial butterfly. a lot of them from Sen’s colleagues or MIL’s relatives or business chorva’s.

  2. Dami naman ng invites….well, at least your social life can be very busy at times, rather than staying home the whole time.

  3. Lui I should have seen this post last year. I got invited to this bday party and since the invitation says residence address, I dressed up very casually and to my horror when I arrived. I was really left out. In fact, I wanted to back out. Then I have this big gift while everyone was carrying just their envelopes hahahaha…really, what a shame!

    1. @rena hahaha dont worry. We had the same experience. Nowadays though i dont get stares anymore when i attend a party wearing just a casual dress. Hello!i told my husband its too much effort to dress up and spend 4 hrs making my face up when i only get to eat there for 30 mins.

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