A store manager noticed my difficulty and rushed in direction, apparently coming to lend me a hand with the cart.
To my surprise, she did not come to help me at all, but to escort a white couple who had just arrived at the end of the adjacent line to a new register so that do not have to wait in line.
The manager immediately ordered a cashier to the newly opened register and proceeded to unload the white couple’s grocery onto the checkout counter as they stood idly and watched.
Meanwhile, with both hands preoccupied with my little boy as I nudged my cart along with my knee, I was wondering whether I should try to use one of my feet to transfer the grocery from my cart onto the checkout counter.
When I finally arrived at the register, I placed the milk bottle on the counter and proceeded to lean forward to use my freed hand to transfer the items one by one onto the counter, careful not to wake up my boy in the process, with no one coming to my assistance.
I’ve been living in Cambodia for the better part of the last five or six years, and I still can’t believe some of things I witness here. This kind of experience is becoming a daily occurrence now that we are trying to resettle into Cambodian society.
A lot of Khmer people from abroad often get treated like royalty when they visit their native homeland. They go back to their adopted countries with very fond memories of the incredible service they get at Cambodian hotels and restaurants.
But it’s not genuine courtesy.
People here will treat you well as long as they think can gain something from you. People perceived to have money and/or power, including the Khmer elite and some foreigners, usually get treated with obsequious servility. Meanwhile, the weak, the poor, the powerless, the handicapped get nothing but disdain and contempt.
I realize that I am living in third-world country and am prepared for the culture shock that I occasionally encounter. However, there are a few universal principles of right and wrong that should transcend all ethnic, cultural, religious, geographic, and socioeconomic boundaries. There can be no justification when these fundamental principles are violated.
It’s no wonder that Cambodia promotes itself as the “Kingdom of Wonder”. When visitors come to Cambodia, they’ll encounter a lot of things that will leave them wondering….without ever arriving at an answer.