Sunday, April 11, 2010

You know you’ve been in Cambodia for 6 months when…

Half a year already – here’s how you know:

  • • By 6am you’re wide awake; lunchtime is for napping; 8pm is a late night

  • • Your morning coffee is cold, sweet and drunk from a plastic bag; your afternoon fruit shake comes with milk, sugar and raw egg; your evening beer is liberally watered down with ice

  • • Food means rice; eating needs a spoon and fork, polished rigourously before use; afters means picking your teeth with a wooden stick and chucking leftovers on the floor

  • Rats, spiders and dogs are just as delicious as pigs, cows, chickens; if you’re lucky your hard-boiled egg come with a bonus foetus; if you’re really lucky you get to eat juicy maggots

  • You know it’s worth it as the pineapples are awesome, the coconuts delicious, the mangos divine

  • Electricity is a blessing; water, cold from the fridge, is bliss; internet is miraculous

  • You use 2 wheels not 4, you treat stop lights as mere suggestions, you worship roadbuilders

  • People are by nature friendly - you ask strangers where to find the best mangos, you tell strangers where you’re going, you are no longer scared when a stranger smiles at you

  • People are by nature nosey - you stare at cars, you stare at anyone you don’t recognise, you especially stare if any funny white people come through your village

  • You bow not shake, perch happily on hard wooden chairs for hours, and can almost squat with your bum touching the floor

  • Weather is degrees of heat; sweating is like breathing; your blankets and bed-socks are not strictly necessary

  • Commuting is a stroll across the temple island, pausing to eat some chilli-dipped mango, or to ask how your neighbour slept

  • Gheckos are ignored; your kitchen cockroaches have pet names (as does Sammy the scorpion); a snake in the office is an afternoon’s light entertainment

  • Money means tens of thousands of riel; credit cards are pointless; coins seem strange and exotic

  • Showering from a bucket makes sense; peeing in the street is unsurprising; popping a high pressure hose to your bottom is perfectly rational

  • Bribery is normal; police taking money from drivers is just a toll system; free healthcare or education are ideas from another world

  • Stuff chucked on the floor provokes a shrug; piles of burning rubbish are a morning tradition; litter bins and dustmen are a distant dream

  • You get irritated when anyone criticises Cambodia – whilst continuing to moan about all aspects of it whenever you reach the safety of Siem Reap

  • You can write a blog about how you know you’ve been in Cambodia for 6 months without even thinking of spicy street food (that’s Thailand), peasants in pointy hats (that’s Vietnam), picture words which read from the right (that’s China), or indeed noisy, polluted, uncivilized, dangerous cities - guess that’ll be back home then?


  1. beautiful!!! You're almost describing what't like being in Ghana for 6 months! We get ice cream and water and ginger drinks and gin and whisky in plastic sachets and food in plastic bags (all kinds of food) and I'm sure I still have a lot more plastic bag stuff to find out! :)
    spoons here are replaced by fingers, a technique I'm yet to master because it's not just sticking your fingers in there, especially when eating okro!

  2. yes plastic bags are kinda useful, though also a real scurge - moral dilemma blog on litter to follow! in the meantime here's an alternative list from the other foreign devil in my village

  3. I think i may have started something - here's the latest suggestions from fellow volunteer Jen:

  4. and another! - here's Charlotte's, including good points about the optimum setting for aircon and the fact that yes can mean either yes or no...