During our recent visit to Phnom Tamao, I spent some time chatting with our guide about life for her in Cambodia. I came away with 6 pages of notes….here’s what she told me.
What’s your name? Samphors Horm. A lot of people here call their friends by their last part of their name, for me that’s Phors. But it’s easier to go by Sam.
Is that what your family calls you? No, they call me Samphors.
What does it mean? Beautiful.
How old are you? 26. I’m getting old now.
Are you married? No, not yet.
Not yet? In the countryside girls marry age 14, 15, 16 mostly. In the city between 20-30. There is a stupid idea that you are a bad girl, a problem girl because I’m not married. I am old in Cambodia, my mum wants me to get married.
What’s it like to be a woman in Cambodia? It’s really hard to be a woman in Cambodia because your parents treat you…. your neighbours are looking to see if you are a bad girl. Some people don’t give benefit to the ladies. They give benefit to the men, he can be a king but the girl cannot. So it is hard to be a Cambodian lady.
If you get married you have to look after your parents and family and you can’t work anymore. Your husband give you salary every month. It is not easy to be a Cambodian lady. You have to know everything, learn everything about the family. My father teach me everything from when I was about 7. He wants me to learn for when I get married so I know everything for my husband.
Would you like to keep working if you get married? I would like to, yes. Maybe I can find a foreigner (laughs). A Cambodian man will not let me and I really enjoy my work.
Would you parents be happy for you to marry a foreigner? Yes, my parents are really open. They live in Phnom Penh. Before I couldn’t have a boyfriend because I was studying and my neighbours would think I was a bad girl. Now I finished and work for a foreign business and my parents have read a lot about foreigners. They love foreigners and want me to marry one!
It seems like what your neighbours think really matters? Yes it is really important to Cambodian people. You have to be perfect to your neighbours here.
Do you think things are changing for women in Cambodia? It’s been changing for about 5-10years. Before women can’t go to school, go anywhere. Women just stay inside. We been learning a lot from outside. In the countryside it still hasn’t changed. Education makes a difference.
Tell me about your work? I have been working here for about 3 and a half years now. I really enjoy it here a lot. I really love the animals.
It started by accident. I had just finished my university degree (tourism). My boss is my customer (at my parents minimart) and we talk like sisters and she asked me if I wanted to work for her. I didn’t know what the job was but I said yes! The first time I was really scared because there were a lot or foreigners. Cambodian people are really shy. I never talking to anyone (they are so tall!) But now I talk to everyone.
What did you study? Tourism
Have you travelled anywhere? Yes to Thailand. I love it!
How many hours a week do you work? 9-10hours a day, 5 days a week.
What do you do for fun? Shopping. That’s my fun thing! I shop at the local markets and central market and I go to the countryside with my friends, to the beach. That’s a lot of fun too. This year I don’t have time. Busy, busy, no fun for me.
What is making you so busy? I have my mum, she has a minimart. I have to sell. Sunday and Monday are my days off but I still have to work for my parents. So no holiday for me!
So when you said you work 5 days a week, you actually work 7?! Yes, 5 days here and 2 days at home. S0 7 days a week. I start at 7am every morning so have to be in bed at 10pm.
When I go back home after work I have to cook for my parents. It’s a lot of work. Being a Cambodian woman is not easy.
What do you love about Cambodia? I love Cambodian people, I love my country. I love the food.
What is your favourite place in Cambodia? Kampot. It’s tranquil, less people. It’s really beautiful and I can swim there a lot.
What are you most proud of as a Cambodian? The people.