The way you dress in Cambodia is very important in their culture. It’s different from what you are used to. You don’t want to unintentionally offend the locals and that’s why it’s good to read up into the cultural differences. This is not your home country and sometimes you just need to adapt. This way you show respect and will avoid difficult situations.
Dress code for your visit to Cambodia
The Authority for the protection of Angkor Wat has announced starting august 2016, they will not allow men and women wearing revealing clothes like sleeveless tops, tank tops or shorts not covering the knees. It disrespects the temple’s sanctity.
Tips for you:
- Don’t wear revealing clothes
- Cover your shoulders and knees
- Take of your shoes or sandals as well as any hat or head covering when entering a sacred place
Conservative Cambodia, from Western perspective
After reading the tips, you can imagine there is quite a big cultural difference between the Westerners and Asians from the Mekong region. From the western perspective the traditional cloths in Cambodia is conservative. Uncovered shoulders and knees are inappropriate. Remember, you are a guest in a foreign country with different values and standards. In touristy areas this might not be obvious. Cambodians tend to differentiate between the ‘Barang’ (westerner) and locals. Are you in a bar, supermarket or temple? Our advice is to cover shoulders and knees, regardless of where you are.
Tip: Did you know ‘Barang’ actually means French, but nowadays it is use for all foreigners.
The krama: more than just a scarf
You will see it everywhere, the red-white or blue-white checkered scarf, the krama. It has a minimum length of 1 meter. During the Khmer Rouge it was part of the daily outfit and can be named as traditional. The krama is worn by men and women but can also be used for other purposes. It can be used as an accessory, baby carrier, to cover your head, sarong, belt, towel or even to help to climb into trees. Buy a krama and wear it during your trip!
The sampot: wrap made from cotton or silk
Times have changed, also in Cambodia. Cambodian women used to wrap themselves with a long wrap up till the ankles (sampot) and nowadays you the kids wearing tight jeans and T-shirts. The sampot is considered as a traditional cloth and is nothing more than a big cloth from cotton or silk with a low profile pattern. During festivities the dark colored sampots are switched with bright colored ones. The slightly shorter sarong for men is worn at festivities by also during their work on the farm. The sampot is usually matched with a jacket, for men it’s shorter than for women.
Inappropriate dressed tourists and sacred Angkor Wat
Dress code is a hot topic in Cambodian media now. The government has announced to be stricter with the dress code, for both tourist and locals. Last year there was quite a fuss when different Western tourist took nude pictures in the temple complex. They got arrested, fined and evicted. More and more scantily dressed Cambodians are spotted on social media. Will the government take action as well?
Tip: Our advice is to cover shoulders and knees, regardless of where you are. That’s really adapting to a culture we are not accustomed to.Hot topic: Dress Code in Cambodia!