Photo credit:Destination Wedding in Cambodia Mark J. Sebastian | www.markjsebastian.com
This is a Guest Post by Mr. Livina Tep, a Cambodian owner of www.teplivina.com
Earlier this month, there was a hot Facebook discussion amongst Cambodian people about a couple blog posts about Cambodia and Cambodian people written by a tourist coming to Cambodia.
The posts stirred up the discussion in such a negative way.
As a Cambodian, I felt painful reading the article even though most of what the author (called Mark) wrote about his experience in the article is true at least in my experience and knowledge about the country and culture.
However, after reading many articles in the website, I came up with an idea that we Cambodians probably should learn to treat foreigners or tourists better so that such a bad article about Cambodia is not published whether domestically or internationally.
There should not be more articles like this shown to the world. Instead, Cambodia or Cambodian people should be written or talked about in a much better way.
In fact, to have good-minded tourists recommend Cambodia to other tourists is not something that comes automatically without any action or reason.
The tourists who come to visit Cambodia for fun or work have to have a good experience with the country in order for them to make genuine recommendation to their friends, relatives and other people.
As the hosts of the country, we Cambodians should do something if we want more tourists and foreign investors or workers to come to our country.
We have to do something to gain more popularity and reputation for Cambodia so that more and more foreigners bring more money to us directly or indirectly.
In my opinion, on behalf of the service providers, we should learn to satisfy our customers better.
In this article, I am going to offer some ideas on how Cambodian people should treat foreigners or visitors who come to Cambodia.
1. Treat visitors with fairness
All in all, foreigners are also human beings even though they come from different areas of the world. They are, physically, far away from home.
They really want to feel at home.
The faster they merge with Cambodian people and culture, the better for them. One of the best ways to make them feel belonged to the country is to treat them fairly.
Cambodians should do to foreigners the same way as they do to other Cambodian people.
Let me give you a real scenario that I witnessed and that I think should never happen to any foreigners coming to Cambodia.
A couple days ago, I had lunch in a local restaurant near The Central Market, Phnom Penh. While having lunch, I had a travelling shoe-polisher approached and got my shoes shined.
After getting my shoes, he immediately went to have another pair of shoes belonging to a male foreigner having fried rice at a nearby table.
He charged me around $0.40USD, which is a reasonable price for a normal shoeshine.
Yet, what was surprising to me is that he charged or forced the Khmer-language-illiterate foreigner to pay him $3USD.
With hesitation and doubts, the foreigner paid anyway, maybe because he did not want to ask from help from the seller or cause more problems.
I am sure the foreigner was extremely upset because he knew that he was ripped off since 3 dollars for a 5-minute street shoeshine is way too expensive.
I felt bad for him because I myself used to be ripped off by taxi-drivers in Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok.
I am sure that he would never ever recommend his friends to have shoeshine in Cambodia, if not travel in Cambodia because I did the same thing with my experience.
Whenever I hear people wanting to travel to the cities where I was over-charged, I always advise them to be extra-careful with those taxis or even not to go to the cities if they can choose.
The example mentioned is just one of the many cases that I have seen foreigners ripped off in Cambodia.
But, I still have a strong hope that we Cambodians can stop doing such a stupid thing because it is only a short-term gain.
Long-term benefits are more sustainable for the development of the country.
2. Treat visitors with genuineness and kindness
Foreigners also hate to be cheated. Cheating should not exist in Cambodia, a country generally known to have a long history and beautifully gentle culture.
Unfortunately, cheating really exists in this country and is done my some evil-minded individuals who think of nothing but their benefits.
Genuine treatment leads to confidence and trust, which definitely leads to positive recommendation.
As I wrote above, foreigners want to feel the sense of belonging.
If you happen to have any chance to help them, you should do it with a god-like heart, not just because you want their money. You must show them that they are in good hands.
If possible, you should treat them like they are your friends.
We all want money especially from visitors who are happy to spend money in our country, but money should not be the only motivation for us to work with or for these foreigners. Humanity works best with these people.
We Cambodians should learn to help them without thinking of money or any benefits at all, at least before we accomplish our work.
To set a good example, I personally like to help foreigners who get lost finding ways. Seeing them looking for where to go, I approach them and give directions FREE of Charge.
I am happy to do it because I can practice using English language, and those foreigners feel even happier because they can get to the place they want to.
It is a win-win strategy.
3. Treat visitors with knowledge
Because they are not in our country, foreigners do not know much about our country and culture at all.
Even though most, if not all, of them want to know and learn about us, they in general are so critical in our information.
In order words, they do not want fake or wrong information about anything starting for toilet paper to the history of Angkor.
If you work with foreigners, you should impress them with your knowledge. You do not give them any information just for the sake of giving.
Instead, you should filter your information and give them something reliable. This way builds a positive image for our people.
Again, treat them like your friends or relatives, and I am sure you don’t want to give wrong information to your friends or relatives.
Let me give you another example why I think knowledge is important.
Whenever I go to Siem Reap, the Cambodian province of Angkor Wat, I am not happy at all to see small children between 12 and 16 years old working as unofficial tour-guides for some little money.
I clearly understand that the kids are financially desperate, thus forcing them to learn stories and facts of some temples so that they can earn by telling those to tourists.
Yet, I am not joyful with this because the kids with unreliable or pre-matured knowledge could cause problems or upset the tourists especially when they realize at the end that they have always carried the wrong information got from the kids or other Cambodian adults.
Again, this is about long-term benefits. Righteousness brings certainty and confidence while unreliability brings confusion and rejection. Lack of knowledge could make foreigners look down on us while fake information makes foreigners feel cheated.
4. Treat visitors with security
One of the best ways that Cambodians could give to foreign visitors is security, and one of the worst things that Cambodians could do to any foreigners is stealing things from them or physically attacking them for any reasons.
Shamelessly, I have to admit that such things have been reported to have happened to foreigners in Cambodia.
Specifically for stealing, it is not even a good act for Cambodians to do for other Cambodians, let alone Foreigners.
Yet, there are people who really need money to survive, thus forcing them to take upon such an immoral act.
As for physical attack, I am not saying that all foreigners coming to Cambodia are good, thus deserving respect from us.
Some of them especially males are quite bad because they come to Cambodia with ugly purposes like doing drugs, buying sex, abusing women or children, and etc.
However, we Cambodians should deal with this type of foreigners or tourists lawfully rather than physically. A lot of people make judgment based on overgeneralization, thus making our reasons non-sense if we attack these foreigners because we automatically become racists when we assault them no matter how bad a mistake they have made.
Furthermore, I urge our Cambodian people to take good care of foreigners coming to our country by helping them honestly and genuinely if you witness that they are in trouble or something.
We should protect them from the few bad Cambodian people who are waiting to take benefits from foreigners, thus destroying the whole image of Cambodia.
If we provide them with security and warmth, they will surely come to our country again and possibly with more friends and relatives.
5. Treat visitors with righteousness
This point aims to awaken Cambodian people from giving too high value to foreigners or visitors to Cambodia.
While I am writing this, there are still many Cambodian people who worship foreigners especially those from America, European countries, or the 1st-world countries as if they were gods.
Even though we should not de-value them, we should not give them too high value either.
Seeing these foreigners with too high a value, many Cambodian people are willing to sacrifice anything to be near them.
This is how many Cambodian women and children have been tricked and cheated by these so-called great foreigners.
We Cambodians should stop carrying such a disastrous belief which makes these foreign visitors too proud of themselves that they can do anything in Cambodia as long as they have money.
I strongly believe that if we give value to ourselves, they will see our value and stop causing problems to us.
Plus, if we give value to ourselves, we will stop thinking of messing around with them because we know that they are nothing but human beings like us.
In short, since most of us Cambodians are Buddhists, we should follow Buddha’s advice that goes “Do upon others as you like to be done upon”.
I personally have travelled to many countries and know that as a tourist, I really want to have the feeling of staying at home with me even though I am abroad.
I want to have fun in the country that I visit, make new friends who are also genuinely interested in me and who can take good care of me, and arrive home safely.
I hope that we Cambodians can give all visitors to our country such a pleasant experience so that we will come to our country again for fun or work and bring more and more people with them.
If we can do that, our country will get more income leading to development and prosperity.
The article is written by Mr. Livina Tep, a Cambodian owner of www.teplivina.com. He has written many article related to Self Development and learning, students and people in Cambodia and other countries to grow and develop exponentially.