The Cambodian life revolves around family, usually an extended family, and religion. Nearly 90% of the Khmer lives in the countryside, in rural villages as either fishermen or farmers. Their lives are influenced by the rhythms of the seasons. Beyond the extended family and close friends, the Khmer draw great support from their community and there is great pride for the district, village or province.
Faith as Cornerstone
Religion helped the Khmer rebuild life after the genocide years, and during various Buddhist festivals, the wats are loud with the prayers of the faithful. It is common for the Cambodians to have a small shrine in their house. However, with their lives so in tune with the seasons, it is not surprising that the Buddhist beliefs are tinged with elements of ancestor worship, animism or Neak Ta. Therefore when a villager becomes ill, he or she is likely to consult a kru khmae (shaman/healer) who is well informed in herbs or mystical emblems to ward off bad spirits or luck.
Harking back to Hinduism, the Khmer also subscribe to astrology and an astrologer, called hao-ra or kru-tieay in Khmer, is consulted for important issues like dates for a wedding, starting a new business, determining the proper locations of new buildings or choosing a spouse.
Food In Celebrations
Having tasted famine, food is very important to the Khmer. During the major festivals and celebrations, they splurge on treats not usually afforded such as shrimp, crab or duck. Guests are invited, food is paraded and everyone eats far more than their fill. They tend to start their days early and dinner is the time for the family to get together.
The Cambodians greet each other with the sampiah, in which hands are pressed together as in prayer, and a bow, similar to the Thai form of greeting.