Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh Paramour: No. 6

Phnom Penh Paramour: No. 6

Phnom Penh Paramour: No. 6


The other night I was solicited for love advice by a Cambodian woman. After months of me parading a succession of women in front of her and complaining to her after things inevitably went pear-shaped, I was surprised she had asked. I did not perform well.

SK met her Western partner on the internet, before he took a job in Phnom Penh. For the last couple of months he’s been back in England with their infant son. She implied he was homesick.

With the benefit of distance SK reflected on her four-year relationship and asked me if it was normal that he would never compliment her cooking, ask her about her day or acknowledge her presence when they were out with Western friends.

She said she’d spoken with him about it several times and it had moved beyond the point where he even pretended to acknowledge her hurt and promised to try harder in the future. She asked what she should do.

Her English was flawless, she was thoughtful and well-educated, and the age gap between them was insubstantial, so there was no apparent communication barrier. In any other situation, I would have said that her boyfriend was an inconsiderate, self-absorbed douchebag and if it wasn’t for the kid, to drop him for someone more worthy.

It’s to my shame that I wondered what she must have done to drill such apathy into him, instead of telling her that she deserved better. By ignoring what I’d come to know about her – in all those months of watching her exhibit a great deal of sense, worldliness and genuine interest in other people’s cultures - I’d fallen into a familiar trap.

Frédéric Amat’s Expatriates’ Strange Lives in Cambodia, an otherwise insightful critique of foreigners in the country, strikes an odd note in its closing chapters when the author predicts misery for any Western man foolish enough to take a Cambodian girlfriend, who will inevitably spend the duration of the relationship watching TV, gossiping with friends and sulking when forced out to dinner in the company of her boyfriend’s associates.

It’s easy to scorn these stereotypes in isolation, but in the tapestry of expat life they are pervasive, and many people eye interracial couples here with either amusement or suspicion.

If there is to be a wider rapprochement between the locals and the foreigners here, more substantial than cursory interactions in a classroom, tuk-tuk or BKK bar stool, it needs to begin with an acknowledgement that these two groups can pursue relationships on an equal footing. It needs to go against the damaging stereotypes of predatory Western men and hysterical, tear-prone Cambodian women.

Read more from the Phnom Penh Paramour:
Paramour No. 1
Paramour No. 2
Paramour No. 3
Paramour No. 4
Paramour No. 5


  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all