Business Etiquette

Greetings – Cambodians have different ways of greeting depending on the situation. Handshakes are the norm between men, but it is not uncommon to greet women with the “Sampeah” – the placing of palms together in a prayer-like position at chest level, with a slight bow of the head. The higher the hands and the lower the bow, the more respect is shown. The Sampeah is also commonly used as a way to apologise or say thank you.

Harmony – The creating and maintaining of harmony tends to be highly valued in Cambodian business culture. Cambodians will try to establish or preserve a sense of harmony through maintaining and saving the face of all those involved, building a relationship based on mutual trust and gently bringing forward ideas. In this way, it is best to avoid hard selling, pressure tactics or any other negotiation styles that may create conflict or confrontation. Rather, allow time for getting to know your counterparts and help maintain harmony.

Dress code – In business, smart business attire is not unusual for first meetings, but given the tropical climate more relaxed attire without a jacket and tie can often be worn once initial meetings are over. Women should also cover their shoulders and knees.

Body Language- The head is considered the highest and most spiritual part of a person’s body. Never touch a Cambodian person on the head, not even children, and women should never touch a Buddhist monk. Do not raise your feet above someone’s head (best to tuck them beneath you when seated on the ground), and always eat with your right hand rather than left.

Sealing the deal – It takes time to secure a deal in Cambodia as they believe in building relationships first. Successful business is about personal relationships and getting to know one another first so one should expect to be involved with Cambodia for a long time instead of just thinking about it as a short business trip. Often visits need to be made and long-term commitment needs to be shown.


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