Doing business in Cambodia and winning your partner’s heart (Business Culture and Etiquette)

Business etiquette is essential in business negotiations with foreign partners speaking different languages and coming from different cultural backgrounds. Even with similar languages and cultures, there are local nuances and sensitivity. Understanding each country’s culture is, therefore, an important advantage for successful business negotiations.

In this article, let’s take a closer look at the business etiquette you should know for neighboring country Cambodia, a favorite investment and manufacturing destination with a language and culture in some ways similar to Thailand.

1. Greeting or “Sampeah” in Khmer

In Cambodia, people greet each other by putting the palms together at chest level, in a similar manner as in Thailand. If both sides are men, they shake hands after a Sampeah. If they are opposite genders, only a Sampeah is enough. The phrase “Chom reap sour” means hello. Men say “Chom reap sour bah” and women say “Chom reap sour jah.” 

2. Pay particular attention to honorific titles 

Cambodian people emphasize the importance of honorific titles, which vary by a royal title, position, occupation, education, and gender. In business negotiations, honor your partners by addressing them with the correct honorific title.

For high-ranking government officials with the royal title of “Ek-udom,” always address them with their royal title instead of Mr.

“Oknha” and “Neak Oknha” are royal titles for businessmen. Always use them before saying a businessman’s name. “Lok Okhna” or “Lok Neak Okhna,” equivalent to Sir can be used during a conversation.

“Lok Chumteav,” equivalent to Madame, is the title for women. Always address women with this title to show respect and honor, even if you may be uncertain about their correct title.

3. Meetings 

Cambodian people prefer to meet in person for business negotiations. An interpreter is strongly recommended for effective communication and to avoid misunderstandings, even if your business partners can speak English well.

4. Handling business cards 

When receiving or giving a business card, use both hands or the right hand. Avoid using the left hand, which is used for cleaning the body.

Maintain business cards with due care to show respect and honor to the card owners

.5. Gifts and souvenirs 

During the New Year occasion, exchanging small gifts on the first post-New Year meeting is a tradition.

When visiting someone, you should bring a small gift like a fruit basket or a flower bouquet to show your hospitality.

6. Avoid inviting your business partner to a lunch 

Many Cambodian people take a power nap after lunch to refresh themselves for working in the afternoon, so you should avoid inviting them to lunch.

7.  Attending events as per invitation 

You should show up at an event as per invitation, especially auspicious ceremonies. Showing up as per invitation is to pay respect and honor to the host, even if you can only stay at the event for a short time.

Apart from the business interests of each party in business negotiations, understanding the local traditions and customary practices of each country helps you overcome cultural barriers and paves the way to smooth business success.


SCB has overseas branches in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV) ready at your service if you are interested in doing business in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). For more information, please visit

Information courtesy of Cambodia Commercial Bank (CCB)


DITP. “Business Etiquette and Culture.” (30/10/2020)