Three little words – Khmer will set you free!

Probably not the ones you are thinking about. The three most useful words in Khmer for a ‘barang’* like me are not the equivalent of the ones the Hump  sang about on this link; here.(It seems WordPress no longer allows the use of youtube on free accounts like this.)

mr-20chanthouNo they are, “Knom chung dar”*, or I want to walk. Reading ex-pat forums one of the most frequent complaints I read is about the amount of times you are propositioned by tuk-tuk (see picture left) or motodop(see below) drivers walking around Phnom Penh. But hey, they are just businessmen, and they are all men – well so far in my experience, seeking to make a living. Why shouldn’t they tout for trade? Complaining about it seems symptomatic to me of one of the dangers of ex-pat existence. Not becoming part of the society you live in and railing against aspects of it you do not like. Why not learn to engage, with a smile? The ones near me have now learnt that during the day when I am not wearing a shirt with a collar, trousers and shoes, and often, carrying a helmet, I am most likely going to want to walk and say so. “Ah dar” they say, with a laugh moto-dop-cambodge-cambodia-phnom-penhand everything is Ok. Others on my walk to the nearby Central Market or the swimming pool are also familiar with it, hey they still tout, but why shouldn’t they, it’s their business. But, and it comes down to something deeper these complaining expats maybe haven’t thought about, when I have been with Khmer friends they would rather ride their moto or take a tuk-tuk than walk. It is culturally not expected to walk, it isn’t said, but it is what the poor do, If you can afford it you do not walk. People do not expect to walk if they can avoid it. Walking is a western affectation. So, if you choose to walk, do not complain about people touting for business, engage with the culture and show you are not just an an affected westerner, just as I do!

My next favourite three words are the ones for left, right and straight-on for when I am in the tuk-tuk or on the back of the motodop. Khmer will set you free!

* As it is the transliteration of another script into Roman I accept my spellings of what I hear the Khmer words to be may be wrong for other people, they are right for me and generally work – that’s what counts as far as I am concerned.

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