Y OUNG Khmer girls employed by local and foreign breweries are throwing away
their inhibitions, and some say culture, to sell beer in restaurants and
Money is the key motivator in a country where good paying jobs are
Earning anywhere upwards of $60 a month, the girls are often in
conflict with their parents who believe they are promoting a "taxi girl" image,
despite the pay packets they bring home.
Among the girls, opinions are
Ny, a single parent working for Victoria Beer admits she has
little choice having to support her baby and her family. "As I am the main
breadwinner my parents have no right to complain," she says.
admits she will continue to be a beer girl until her fate changes.
girls earn money and shame for taking such employment.
For some, the
money is vital. As in the case of Lek, her husband is a soldier and she has to
fend by herself when he is posted outside Phnom Penh.
Girls from the
provinces come to the capital searching for well paying jobs and for Iem, an
Angkor girl from Kompong Thom, the money is more important than the shame. As
the only member of her family with full time employment she sends $30 of her $50
salary to her parents every month.
Wa, who has been working with
Carlsberg for over a year, defends her job. "I like the job and the clothes. I
feel more modern wearing this uniform but my parents are ashamed, as my skirt is
cut above the knee."
Dang Chan, an 18-year-old "Tiger girl" complains
that "the clothes are too sexy. It is no wonder we are treated like taxi
Such is the pressure she received from her parents and friends
that she plans to quit her work.
However, Cambrew, brewers of Angkor
Beer, takes a more traditional approach to promoting beer. The girls wear the
national dress, blouse and sarong.
Jaime Fong, Cambrew's General Manager
stresses the importance of the long skirt. "Since we are promoting the national
beer it seems logical that we promote the national costume. Our girls prefer it
that way," he says.
Neary, an Angkor supervisor for three years in charge
of 65 girls, judges her job on the quality of training and work code over the
nationality of beer.
"The regulations are very important to us all," she
says. "That it is why the Angkor girls are the best. Some companies encourage
their girls to drink or sit with their customers to increase beer sales."
Cambrew takes a dim view of such behavior. "We are promoting national culture
and not taxi girl culture," stresses Jaime Fong.
Customers approve of the
service provided by beer girls. Setha, a government employee, is an avid beer
drinker frequenting a variety of drinking establishments to see his favorite
girls, but says that he is not encouraging the "taxi-girl" image.
here with my friends to chat and eat food. Sometimes I chat with the girls but
that is as far as it goes. Occasionally a girl will flirt with me, but I always
tell them I am a faithful husband."
Zhang Liangjun, a businessman from
Senyang in China, is a frequent visitor to the beer girl
"The Cambodian girls are very soft and they are all my
friends. I only wish beer girls were allowed in China. Unfortunately the police
take a dim view of such things!"
Most of the girls admit that they are
not improving their chances in the marriage stakes. They will not admit to a
prospective boy friend that they are a beer girl.
"That would ruin our
chances, maybe when I know him better I might tell him, but if he wanted to
marry me I would probably leave," says Neary.
Nevertheless, Khmer beer
girls are here to stay. And with improved training and greater acceptance by
parents, they can expect to make a greater impact on everyday Khmer life as beer
consumption rises in line with economic development.
The girls used to be
on a pay plus commission basis. Now they are all on a straight pay packet.
There are some sales gimmicks used by the companies to boost sales, like
the ABC pull ring, VB coded prizes at the bottom of the can and Angkor's prizes
under the cap.
Sometimes the girls grab the cans before the customer
realizes that he has lost out on the chance to win the prize draw.
girls are pretty friendly to one another, though competition for customers is
Tiger employs about 300 girls, Carlsberg, Foster and VB
about 250, and San Miguel, Stella Artois, and BGI around 100.