If you’re traveling to Cambodia, you should know the #1 thing locals love!
No. I don’t mean the Dollars.
They love to see foreigners try to speak their language.
Everyone learns Hello (susedai) and Thank You (Arkoon) but we’re going to learn some next-level Khmer phrases and words that’ll make locals love you instantly!
Bong – General way to address anyone
Bong proh – To address elder brother
Bong srey – Elder sister
Arkoon Chran Bong Srey – If you have to thank a lady older than you, you’ll say ‘Arkoon Chran Bong Srey’. In this phrase, ‘Arkoon Chran’ means ‘Thanks a lot’ and ‘Bong Srey’ means ‘Elder Sister’. This is going to impress them much more than just saying ‘Arkoon’.
Soksabai Saisabok – Soksabai stands for both ‘How are you’ and ‘I am fine’ in Khmer. So when someone asks you ‘Soksabai’ you would ideally reply ‘Soksabai’.
But here’s the insider secret: Cambodians love to make jokes by jumbling words. So instead of replying ’Soksabai’, you can reply, ‘Saisabok’ and you’re sure to make them laugh!
Leisanhai Laisanhei – Same as the above, Leisanhai stands for ‘Goodbye’ and the jumbled version ‘Laisanhei’ is a funny response to Leisanhai.
Soksabai Saisabok Leisanhai Laisanhei – Now that tongue twisting phrase is the #1 on my list to make locals love you! Say it all together while sipping some Angkor beer with locals and watch their reactions!
Chul Moy – Chul Moy is Cheers in Cambodia and not many tourists get around to learning this one. Another one for the beers!
Sidenote: If you’re not drinking beer with the local Cambodians, you’re missing out on one of the most important Khmer experiences. Beer is the reason the king is still in Cambodia. No kidding.
Muy Pi Bai – Use this when clicking a photo. Especially if some locals ask you to take a photo with them (this will happen when you travel offbeat. In tourist places, it’ll usually be the other way round and you’ll be paying them to pose with you)
This simply means 1,2,3. Just like we count in our language when we take a picture.
‘sabai sabai’ – happy happy. Locals will use this a lot and say ‘sabai sabai happy happy’. This one is also very popular in Thailand and you can say it all the time with no reason.
You should also learn counting in Khmer. It’s super easy and logical. Read my post on ‘How to count in Khmer’ here.
3 thoughts on “Khmer phrases to make local Cambodians love you instantly!”
i don’t think you can reply with sai sabok. It’s just a wrong reverse of sok sabay. You should say Sok tomada = I’m fine.
This was super helpful! Will be going there in mid-January. Hope to build up my comfortability with the language in the meantime. Great blog!! Cheers!