Cambodia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Cambodian culture and behavior are not very different from elements of traditional East Asian cultures. Partners in the private and public spheres are used to dealing with foreigners, nuances and minor cultural misunderstandings are tolerated. Nevertheless, respect for one’s own history, culture and religion (with the exception of Buddhism) is expected. Building a relationship is important, concluding a business partnership can be a long-term process. Establishing personal contacts is therefore not to be underestimated. Multiple air connections between Phnom Penh and all ASEAN regional capitals make this easy. That is why the local market can be a suitable combination for the existing portfolio or the intended operation in Southeast Asia.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation Cambodia, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Addressing

In the case of higher positions and in the public sector, it is advisable to choose the address according to the position or rank, otherwise Mr./Mrs. and surname (address: Dear Mr./Ms., non-address: Dear Sir or Madam). Cambodian names come first with the surname, followed by the first name. Many senior civil servants, but also functionaries of chambers of commerce, etc. uses the honorific title of Excellency (on HE business cards) and is expected to be addressed by this title. Prominent businessmen, on the other hand, use the title Oknha or Neak Oknha. Other titles are also common.

Business meeting

How to arrange a business meeting and how it takes place (location and time of the meeting /office, restaurant; lunch, dinner/, business cards, gifts, etc.)?

The vast majority of meetings take place at the partner’s headquarters. It is advisable to choose a time between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., with the exception of the lunch break (approx. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.). The private sector tends to be more flexible, including a shorter lunch break. First contact and negotiations are usually very formal. On business cards, the position indicating seniority in the company should be properly highlighted, although this may not strictly correspond to the hierarchy used within the Czech company. At the end of the meeting, in the case of a first meeting, an exchange of gifts is expected. For example, a book about the Czech Republic/Prague, a simpler souvenir made of Czech glass, etc. are suitable. Alcoholic beverages or tobacco products are not suitable for gifting. In meetings with lower-level local partners and mostly foreign representatives, greater informality is common, discussions can be more open and sometimes can quickly turn to first-name addresses. A working lunch/dinner is a good choice as a follow-up meeting, but by agreement, this format can also be the first contact – usually in the case of lower time flexibility on both sides or if the subject of the discussion is to be a less formal topic. It is customary for the partner to be accompanied by an escort (assistants, interpreter, etc.) without specifying this in advance, so it is advisable to agree on the format of the meeting when planning.

Timing of negotiations

A large number of Cambodian holidays must be taken into account when timing the meeting. Although their number has been reduced in the recent period, religious and cultural holidays are multi-day, and Cambodians also extend them with holidays. The most important holidays are Khmer New Year (April) and Pchum Ben (September-October). It is not advisable to plan meetings in their close proximity.

What surprises a Czech businessman the most during negotiations?

It should be taken into account that the first meeting will mainly be for getting to know each other. Establishing trust is important. It pays to be factual, but it is not necessary to immediately go into great details, if the partner does not request them himself. Hierarchy is important in negotiations. Many will be surprised that right from the beginning it is possible to reach high-ranking contacts (mainly in the state administration). It is good to take advantage of it, but having reasonable expectations will not speed up the process.

What are Cambodian traders like?

As part of the negotiations, not only an individual product should be presented, but also a broader vision of business activities. This is mainly manifested in the public sector, when the partner is expected to offer and provide an ideally comprehensive solution in its own way (investment in the form of build and operate). During negotiations, it is necessary to read between the lines and perceive the reactions of the other party from body language. Building a relationship is important, the final establishment of a business partnership may take a long time. Visit Animalerts for more information about Cambodia culture and traditions.

Is negotiating with local traders different, made difficult by cultural/religious/ethnic differences?

Cambodian culture and behavior are not very different from elements of traditional East Asian cultures. Partners in the private and public spheres are used to dealing with Western foreigners, nuances and minor cultural misunderstandings are tolerated. Nevertheless, respect for one’s own history, culture and religion (with the exception of Buddhism) is expected.

How do Cambodian businessmen manage time in a business meeting?

Punctuality is required and is also observed by local partners. It is advisable to set aside approximately 1 hour for each meeting (2 hours for lunch/dinner) and it is necessary to allow time for transportation to the meeting.

How do Cambodian businessmen deal with emotions in business dealings?

Negotiations are usually formal and Cambodians are not only very polite in negotiations – sometimes too much so when dealing with foreigners, especially if they feel they are in a lower position. In this, Cambodians differ to some extent from some other Asian nations, who take a more equal approach to dealing with foreigners. Prominent display of emotions – especially expressions of anger and dissatisfaction is unacceptable in contact with Cambodians, especially if it can cause a loss of face for the partner. Disinterest is often expressed through non-verbal communication.

Are there any territorial differences in business dealings within a country?

Outside the capital in Cambodia’s provinces, the style of meeting is usually less formal, and in some cases can be more impromptu. In the provinces, it is necessary to count on an interpreter.

It is suitable or customary to offer alcohol during business meetings?

It is common to serve wine (usually red) during a working lunch/dinner, but it is a good idea to discuss this with your partner at the start of the meeting. Alcohol as a gift is rather inappropriate, especially on a first date.

How to dress for a work meeting?

When dealing with important partners and in the public sector, fully formal attire should be the standard. For other meetings, a business casual style is often sufficient (for men, a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, chinos), but a too relaxed style is inappropriate (e.g. jeans, shorts, even if it is a repeated informal meeting in the form of dinner ).

What should an ideal negotiation team look like (number of members, age and gender composition of the team, team leader)?

The number of team members and age composition does not have a big effect. The partner party is often represented by a very large team, especially in the state administration. However, with exceptions, only the team leader conducts the negotiations. On the opposite side, it should be similar, but supplementing the presentation by other participants is possible. Gender stereotypes cannot be ruled out. Nevertheless, important positions in Cambodian companies are also often held by women, usually of an older age.

It is customary to invite a business partner to your home, or be invited home? If so, what is usual for such a visit, what to expect?

Being invited home by a partner is very unusual. On the contrary, it is quite common for Cambodians to invite to weddings, which are always a spectacular social event – not just a family event and last for several days. Refusal of an invitation should be polite, on the contrary, in case of participation, it is good to set aside a few hours and also prepare a gift.

Communication

Is it important to bring an interpreter with you?

It is not usually necessary to bring an interpreter to meetings in Phnom Penh, English is widely used here. However, the use of an interpreter is quite common in the Cambodian provinces. It is expected that the counterparty will secure it themselves, but it may not be a condition. In written communication, English is fully sufficient.

How about language facilities?

English is generally common in the private sector and, in the case of Phnom Penh, also in the state administration, with the exception of the military and security forces. French or Russian is not unusual in some cases in state administration (a number of officials studied in the USSR in the 1980s).

Are there any communication taboos?

When it comes to communication restrictions, it is important to avoid controversial topics such as the political/human rights situation as well as negative topics (poverty, the Khmer Rouge, etc.).

What is the best way to communicate (in person, email, phone, etc.)?

In terms of communication, personal interaction and frequent trips to Cambodia are essential. You can also communicate electronically (in addition to e-mail, messengers are common – Telegram is the most common, followed by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and the Chinese WeChat. LinkedIn is not so widespread. Freemail services (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) are often used before official company accounts, which is not a sign However, electronic communication cannot replace face-to-face interaction.

Recommendation

Establishing personal contacts is not to be underestimated. Multiple air connections between Phnom Penh and all ASEAN regional capitals make this easy. That is why the local market can be a suitable combination for the existing portfolio or the intended operation in Southeast Asia. At the same time, it is necessary to get rid of traditional stereotypical cultural perceptions that are often associated with Cambodia in the Czech Republic due to the geographical distance between the two countries and the rapidly changing economic development of the country.

Public Holidays

The most important holidays are Khmer New Year (April) and Pchum Ben (September-October) every year. It is not advisable to plan meetings near them. These are movable holidays.

Public holidays in 2022

  • January 1 – New Year
  • January 7 – Victory over Genocide Day
  • March 8 – International Women’s Day
  • April 14-16 – Khmer New Year
  • May 1 – International Labor Day
  • May 14 – King Norodom Sihamoni’s birthday celebration
  • May 15 – Visak Bochea
  • May 19 – Royal Plowing Festival
  • June 18 – Birthday celebration of Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
  • September 24-26 – Pchum Ben
  • October 15 – Death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk
  • October 29 – Coronation of Norodom Sihamoni
  • November 7-9 – Water Festival
  • November 9 – Independence Day

Cambodia Culture of Business