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Business Etiquettes in Cambodia

Meeting & Greeting

As Cambodia is a hierarchical culture the business world follows suit in terms of protocol and behaviours. Respect and deference must always be shown to the most senior person. When meeting a group you will be introduced to the highest ranking person, similarly you should have the most senior of your group greet them. If groups are involved you should introduce people according to rank so that your Cambodian counterparts understand the dynamics of the group.

Handshakes are normal although be careful not to be too firm as this may be construed as aggressive. If men are dealing with women they should wait and see if they extend a hand before doing so. Eye contact should be kept to a minimum.

Cambodians address people with the honorific title 'Lok' for a man and 'Lok Srey' for a woman with the first name alone or both the first and surname.

Business Meetings

Meetings do not stick to any schedule or agenda. Issues may be tackled separately and altogether if need be – once an issue has seemingly been resolved it may later be addressed again. Meetings will continue until the attendees feel everything has been satisfactorily covered.

Building a relationship on mutual trust is crucial so initially time should be invested in getting to know your counterparts. Small talk should always be employed at the beginning of meetings. Cambodians are very indirect communicators so some reading between the lines is a necessary skill. They will always consider the implications of making statements or using particular words especially if it involves anything negative as this draws in the issue of face. In fact if Cambodians disagree with someone they would rather remain silent than make any comment. If they disagree with an idea, they generally remain silent. If unsure about statements be sure to double check.

Cambodians prefer ideas to be brought forward in a gentle way and to wait for others to respond. Pushy, pressured or boastful communication styles are a real turn-off.

Punctuality is important. Arriving late shows a lack of respect for the person with whom you are meeting.

Non-verbal behaviour is just as important, so do be aware. For example, smiling in Cambodia is situational and can have many meanings; it may mean a person does not understand what has been said, they are nervous or even irritated. Showing emotions is considered a negative behaviour. Anger, impatience or frustration should be hidden as it would lead to a loss of face. Modesty and humility are emphasized in the culture, so compliments and praise are generally responded to by a deprecating comment. It is a good idea not to speak with bravado, which may be interpreted as boasting.

Avoid prolonged eye contact and be sure to speak clearly, slowly and to avoid use of slang, adages and colloquial sayings.

Business Cards

Business cards should be exchanged after the initial introductions. Have one side of your card translated into Khmer if possible and present it in a way the Khmer side is readable to the recipient.

Use the right hand or both hands when offering or receiving a business card. It is important to treat business cards with respect as the way you handle the card is indicative of the way you will treat the person.





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