I love killing two birds with one stone and while we’re still on holiday in many parts of the world and our teachers are taking a break from teaching and contributing to our blog, I decided to recycle my own piece of written contemplation on the topic of happy people abroad and more specifically on the smiling faces of Cambodia.

Cambodia is just one of the destinations where Teacher Horizons place their qualified teachers so the following may be an interesting insight if you’re planning to settle in this part of the world for some time. Read on and if you want to stock up on some sunshine, contact us to find out whether Cambodia is a good match for you and your skills.

Are we all the “same same” or are we different?

I am on my way out of Cambodia and I am contemplating. Contemplating and thinking, remembering and reminiscing.

During my many (eight!) years living in the Kingdom and indeed during my many years of travelling through Asia I’ve seen and observed many things. I’ve met people from literally all corners of the world and I have worked with tourists and locals alike in photography and tourism.

Out of the repetitive, predictable and somewhat obvious observations I’ve heard from visitors regarding the “local population” one statement stuck out the most. It’s a statement in one way or another describing the people of Cambodia (or insert your favourite Asian / South American / African/ “third world” / developing country here) being so nice, happy and content despite the obvious lack of “things” we consider essential. Yes, to a degree, smiling is in many parts of the world considered a certain sign of happiness or at least of momentarily contentment and pleasure but did you know that in some countries it can also signify embarrassment or uncertainty of what to do, say or how to behave, an attempt to “save face”? Cambodia is a prime example of this.

But aside from this, let’s not get too deep into contemplation whether happiness in fact comes within or is directly derived from the amount of possessions we own, whether it’s based on our social status, having or not having a family and children, having much money, being healthy, being in love, having the job of our dreams or a combination of all of the above.

I’ve debated much on this topic over countless glasses of red (and white) wine with friends who, like me, have been settled here for more than just a passing visit – we are talking years. We are way beyond the cliche of “people are so nice here”. We know that humanity with all its positive and negative sides resides just under the very surface of any skin colour and if you happen to scratch it – well, see for yourself. Aside from that seemingly obvious happiness there’s also sadness, there’s envy and greed, there’s jealousy and ego.

But…. Maybe Cambodians really ARE overall a very open, welcoming and forthcoming bunch because it’s been the most wonderful eight years I could wish for if I don’t focus on the encounters of the traffic kind or the occasions of loud weddings and funerals in my neighbourhood. A different story altogether.

So, let’s move swiftly to a conclusion, because there is one:

I think that we carry the smiles of other people within us and what we encounter daily is a mirror of ourselves. Count the smiles when you’re grumpy – you probably won’t get many. Crack a smile with your “hello” and the whole world is beaming back at you, it’s infectious. I challenge you to try this at home, wherever your home may be, because that’s what you do when you’re on holiday, isn’t it? And that’s why everybody seems so “nice”. Fact. Strike up a random conversation with strangers, open up and see what happens. Compliment people, be “nice”, treat everybody the way you want to be treated – am I stating the obvious? Perhaps, but we often overlook the obvious so switch from cloudy to sunshine and be ready for amazing things to happen! 😃

Below are my favourite Cambodian smiles and for those interested in teaching abroad why not refer to our happy teachers and gain an inspiration?

Friendly monk in a monastery Monk in Angkor Wat Head monk in Wat Atvea Nun of Angkor Wat Countryside fellow On the way Heavy load and still smiling Smile on Phnom Santuk Happy friends gathering Uhm, dentist? Peek-a-boo Harvest Smile




photo of author
Written by Anna Bella Betts
Teacher Horizons blog manager by night and photographer by day.
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