When we moved here in Phnom Penh, one of my biggest apprehensions was getting along with Khmers. What if they are not nice? What if I find them unapproachable or what if they find me obnoxious? What if I I don’t get along with any of them? I’m famous known among my friends to be aloof and could sometimes be brutally frank. People usually assume at first that I’m unfriendly and I just can’t help the way I am, I’m just not the type to let people close when I hardly know them at all. I’m far from those friendly, ‘social butterfly’ types of person. So, let’s just say, I was scared about how I would fare socially here.
I guess I let my crazy anxieties get the better of me, coz when I got here I was just proven wrong. I found Khmers to be very friendly and warm. When we arrived I got along famously first with my nephews and nieces mainly because I could easily communicate with them in English. I remember our first day, Hi-ace’s niece set aside half her day so she could tour me around the market and help me buy the things I need. She had always been ready to help with everything.
Cutie Khmer kids..
My Khmer sister-in-law’s are also very very nice. It’s a pity I can only speak and understand a smattering of Khmer but they never left me out and go to some length using sign language to make me understand.
They are tactile sort too. They are touchy and don’t be surprised to see people holding hands even men! I remembered I was really surprised when a few days of knowing me, one of my sister in law walked around in a mall with me and it was just natural for her to hold my arm or drape her hands over my shoulders companionably. I wasn’t used to that, but I must confess I felt touched that she didn’t consider me strange enough to stay aloof from me.
Same with our neighbors too. They are shy but very friendly.They like hanging about and their kids likes practicing speaking English with us. My sister, Ouwie also told me she noticed a big difference between her students here and her students in the Philippines. She said students her are really very affable and she was surprised when they took it upon themselves to constantly email her or chat with her, even if they are not her current students anymore. It’s also common for them to give her a call, just to catch up and ask how she’s doing and share some news to her.
I find them to be very patient, calm and I’ve rarely seen a fight here in a public place. Take the case of our trip to Mondulkiri with Hi-ace’s students, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere for several hours because a heavy equipment was blocking the way, and I never even heard anyone raising a voice! That’s something I think we Filipinos could learn from. Of course, they tried to resolve the situation, but in a very diplomatic and unruffled manner. So at the end, we do through without anyone having a heart attack and I could look back and say being stuck there became one of the highlights of the trip!
Of course, there are exceptions. Like in all other places and people, there are those I find annoying. One are those motodup and tuktuk drivers out to bleed you for money. I don’t find them amusing at all, but there are times I feel for them too. But hey! All of us are trying to earn a living too, so I wish sometimes they’d stop seeing barangs as walking ATM machines.
Another thing I don’t really appreciate are some really grouchy and gruff salespersons in the market or in malls. I’ve had repeated experiences of sales persons berating me or snapping at me just because I dared to touch what she is selling! I was like, duh?! How can I buy something without choosing or even checking it out? When this happens I just learned to take it in stride and instead of getting annoyed, I just move on to another store. Well, its their loss anyway, haha when I’m known to be shopping addicted..
Hmm, I guess looking back I’ve also have some minor irritations when it comes to dealing with Khmers, but those are exceptions. In general, Khmers are very cordial and good people. I have great admiration for them knowing what their past has been like and I’m just thankful I got the chance to be here and get to know some of them..