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The do’s and don’ts of dating in the Kingdom

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Dr Fil Tabayoyong, a social and holistic health professional, runs the Condom Bar in Phnom Penh. Photo Supplied

We are at the tail end of the wedding season in Cambodia, which runs from December through February, because the weather is nice and it doesn’t rain.

Many young Cambodian women look for a mate or husband at events such as the Water Festival or at religious ceremonies. Another option that is still common is being set up by their parents. Marriage is an economic arrangement and financial status is important when the parents select a husband for their daughter.

Cambodia is a conservative and Buddhist country. Showing affection between a man and a woman is rare, and so is kissing and touching in public, also known as PDA (public displays of affection). In Western culture, dating is the first step in starting a relationship.

Many Cambodian girls are not interested in a relationship until she is married. Dating is new to their vocabulary, and preserving their virginity until they get married plays an important role in the Cambodian culture.

“Cambodian mates [male or female] are categorised as either traditional or modern, and are bound by strong cultural Khmer practices in terms of relationship to the opposite sex. Their religion, Theravada Buddhism, has much to do in shaping this relationship so that in most instances deviant sexual behaviour is always considered to be sweetest,” says Dr Fil Tabayoyong, Jr, a social and holistic health development professional and an international medical doctor. “This means that what is forbidden is sweetest but has to be performed and done clandestinely.”

For some Cambodians, online dating sites are a tool for finding a mate. Dating sites such as badoo, dating.It, and mingle2.com are popular.

If you are interested in someone, ask them out for coffee. Sometimes the first step is to take the courage to ask, but don’t specify that it is a date. Women can ask men out too. If the answer is no, OK, so it’s not the end of the world, and it’s better to know now than later.

An anonymous dater suggested, “People just want to meet for the first time in a safe, relaxed atmosphere. This will take a lot of pressure off your date for he or she will know that there is little chance that there could be some monkey business going on with basically a stranger you are meeting for the first time. Cambodian women can be very shy and have a lot of fear about meeting. So tell them that if they would like to bring a friend, that it’s OK.”

A friend of mine had the courage to ask me out for dinner via Facebook. I gladly accepted his invitation. That’s a date!

If you do find yourself in a relationship and decide to become sexually active, remember it’s always important to be safe, from unwanted pregnancies and diseases.

Dr Fil also manages the Condom Bar, a place where people can meet and interact, enjoy bar drinks and exotic food, and its corporate social responsibility is to educate customers on safe sexual behaviour with the ABCs of HIV/AIDS prevention . The Condom Bar, located in Phnom Penh, is the only condom bar in the country and supplies free luxury condoms to customers.

For more information about the Condom Bar, please email: docfil@yahoo.com.

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