I often laughed when people traveled overseas and seem surprised by how generous people are when they have fewer material things. I would always think, “Why wouldn’t they be generous? I believe most people are giving and collaborative by nature.” We in the West have been distracted by stuff and instant gratification and socialized us to keep things to ourselves.
But now after meeting so many generous Cambodians and friends around the world since I’ve landed, I see what people are talking about.
Make sure you are fed
One of my Khmer (Cambodian) friends was so kind to take me on her scooter to 60 Road, one of the local hangouts to meet her friends. I just mentioned I was hungry and just bought enough to be full. She kept asking me if I had enough and said, “I’m worried that you did not eat enough. We can go look for more food.” Her kindness is very typical Cambodian hospitality.
My other friend said, “We have a saying: don’t hide your stomach. If you are hungry, keep eating until you are full.”
I am very grateful for my friends and family in Vancouver who practice subtle but very considerate habits of serving people first, helping clean up and making sure everyone has what they need. It’s surprising how often in North America, people don’t do that.
I’m actually growing increasingly irritated with self-entitled tourists. My friend and I met a Canadian guy and since I’ve landed, I’ve been so in the habit of always offering food as people have with me that when he got a big piece of pie and didn’t at least offer if we wanted to try, his lack of consideration was noticeable. I know no one is obligated to share food, but it is, I wouldn’t say a cultural difference, just a different level of consideration.
Since I’ve been here the last few weeks, I’ve done a lot of cooking with people I have met here and it has happened so naturally. It’s been nice that where I’m volunteering, we have one hour lunch breaks. And because we work where we live, it’s plenty of time to cook a meal.
One of the biggest differences I’ve seen in work and life habits is that no matter how busy things are with work, people still take the hour to eat and contribute a meal if we plan a group lunch.