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It’s been a little over a month since I moved to Cambodia. I’ve experienced new smells, new tastes, a new culture, and a new way to appreciate my life (by trying to cross a busy street). You might hear some things about this country from travelers and expats. Some of these things are good and some, not so good (even downright horrible). I’m certainly no expert at this point, but I’d like to give you my personal takes on some of these internet ramblings and see how they stack up against reality.
1) THE PEOPLE ARE FRIENDLY. Absolutely true! There hs not been a day gone by, just doing my daily things, that I haven’t had complete strangers say hello, how are you, where are you from, or even how old are you? When I’ve been lost, I’ve received directions. When I’ve been confused, I’ve received patience in giving me an explanation. And when I’ve been hungry, I’ve always been steered in the right direction for a tasty meal. The Khmer people are the friendliest I have ever encountered. I will never be true family, but I am always made to feel as if I am.
2)THE FOOD WILL MAKE YOU SICK. Nonsense and B.S.! The food is delicious, filling, and inexpensive. When people talk about food poisoning it’s almost always nothing to do with the actual food. There’s a lot of bacteria that exists here that doesn’t exist back in the Western world. Your body needs to adapt to it. Until that happens, there will be times when your system will reject it in the most disgusting ways possible! You will be “sick”, and it’s miserable, but it’s not tainted unclean food. It’s your body doing what it’s meant to do to keep you alive! So don’t be afraid to grab some fried meat on a stick. It’s yummy.
3)THE TRAFFIC WILL KILL YOU. Big 10-4 on that, good buddy (old school CB talk)! Crossing the street here is a sporting event. And if it becomes a full contact sporting event, you’re going to lose! There are rules about driving, but what they are, and how they work is left to the imagination of each individual driver. The secret is simple for surviving. First, pick your spot. Second, once you start DO NOT STOP. EVER. Commit and hope for the best!
4)YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING. True….AND false! Many things are technically “illegal”, but rarely, if ever, enforced. And, even when they are, it’s usually a matter of bargaining a “fine” to a local police officer to make it go away. People will tell you that there’s ALWAYS a way to get something done in Cambodia. They are correct. Figuring that out is the hardest part. Having said that, you could find yourself locked up in a very uncomfortable jail should you wish to engage in illegal activities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of who saw you do it, how connected they are, and if it will make good press for the country. Currently, there are several Brits locked up for having a semi-pornographic game of Twister in a rented villa near a temple. They thought it would be fun to put it online. This caused a loss of face to the government and they were all arrested for charges of lewd conduct. Since this story is making international headlines, a quick bribe and a “sorry” isn’t going to cut it. Use common sense, people!
5)EVERYTHING IS SO CHEAP. Price is relative to where you come from, but, for the most part, this is correct. Imported, foreign items will cost more due to import fees, but local goods are shockingly inexpensive! If you smoke cigarettes, you can buy a pack of Marlboros for $1.50. Beer can be found everywhere, all day every day, for 50 cents to $1.00. You can buy a weeks worth of fresh fruits and veggies for about $6-$10 at the local markets. Where I come from bananas are $1.25 per pound. here, you can buy a whole bunch of them for 2500 Riel….which is about 60 cents! Everything from food to clothes are incredibly cheap. Sure, you might have to haggle to get a better price, but even that process is done with smiles, good natured, and everyone leaves happy. All in all, with rent, utilities, food, entertainment and transportation, I can live comfortably on $500-$600 a month. I’m good with that!
Thanks for reading and if you’ve had experiences in Cambodia, let me know in the comments. Or, if there’s something you’d like to know, feel free to ask away. Until next time….