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Dating & Romance

Cambodia is at times an absurdly conservative society, especially in regard to male-female relationships. It is extremely rare for a Cambodian man and woman to show any kind of affection in public, and you will almost never see a couple holding hands. Romantic love as a concept is not very well developed in a country where the vast majority of marriages are arranged. Cambodia, overall, is probably the most sexually conservative society in the Mekong Delta region.

Ironically, Cambodia is one of the easiest places imaginable to get laid for a foreigner, both male and female. Polyamory is the norm in the tourist areas, and sex has about as much meaning as a kiss in places like the beaches of Sihanoukville and the Lakeside of Phnom Penh. Great care should be taken, as Cambodia has a horrible medical system and sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV and AIDS, are rife.

Cambodian Women

Cambodian women are generally disappointing. Physically, they are probably the least attractive race of women in Southeast Asia, and they do little to make up for this with their personalities. It is quite rare to see a foreign man in a long-term relationship with a Cambodian woman.

The lack of a mature concept of romantic love means that many Cambodians women are looking for little more than a meal ticket and as much pocket money as they can get. The “No Money, No Honey” attitude is strong here. It is a society where women who have sex before marriage are automatically branded as whores and will never find a decent husband. Lacking other alternatives, these women almost invariably become some form of working girl.

There is an incredibly broad “grey area” here, ranging from street prostitutes and brothel girls, to bar and hostess workers, and on down the line to girls who hang around clubs and guesthouses looking for a traveller who will economically support them and their extended family. Where to draw the line between a “normal girl” and a prostitute is very unclear… This can be one of the chief drawbacks of trying to have a relationship in Cambodia.

There is a shocking lack of curiosity about the world among Cambodians women. After so much hardship, it seems that the entire society is living day-to-day, only concerned about their immediate survival… and of course their new cell phones. As a foreigner used to women who have personalities and individual thoughts, it can seem like Khmer girls don’t.

For those interested in marriage, Cambodia is a country where a foreign man, enjoying his relatively high social status, can easily have a marriage arranged for him with a beautiful young woman. Though the results of this practice are decidedly mixed, some foreign men who have done it are quite happy with their situation. A wife under these circumstances is expected to be obedient and serve her husband, though she will also traditionally have control of the household finances. Divorce is extremely uncommon in Cambodia, for good or bad.

Cambodian Men

Many foreign women consider Khmer men to be the most attractive in Southeast Asia. In general, their features are more masculine than say, Thai or Laotian men, and they can be quite charming. Unlike most of the rest of Asia, it is probably almost as common to see a foreign woman with a Cambodian man as it is to see a foreign man with a Cambodian woman. Men are supposed to foot the bill in Cambodia but this might not always be realistic given the economic differences.

Machista attitudes are quite common in Cambodia, so women should make an effort to dress conservatively if they don’t want a lot of attention from the omnipresent motodops and tuk-tuk drivers. Women should wear long pants and shirts that cover their shoulders. Cambodians women don’t even wear bikinis on the beach, preferring to swim in shorts and tee-shirts or even long pants. Topless sunbathing or skinny dipping is therefore obviously not acceptable, unless you’re really drunk or partying with the author…

M.J. Lloyd

James Tramplefoot has been, and will continue to be on the road indefinitely, for years and probably decades.