The Sampeah is a Cambodian traditionally greeting style or way of showing respect. While performing the salutation or mutual recognition “Sampeah”, people have to raise both hands, places our palms together in the lotus-like fashion while bowing slightly. The word often spoken with the Sampeah when greeting to somebody is Chumreap Suor, while Chumreap Lea is spoken when saying goodbye.
Although the Sampeah is a form of greeting, it is also a common way to say thanks or apologize and is an important part of Khmer culture which is heavily influenced by Indian Hindu/Buddhist culture. There are five level of greeting in Cambodian culture include: forehead level (praying, Deva, Brahma, God, Buddha), eyebrow level (King, Monks, Sacred Objects), nose level (Parents, Grandparents, Teachers), mouth level (Bosses, Older persons, Higher rank persons) and chest level (Friends or same-age persons).
- Chest Level: People of the equal age or friend or rank ought to respect each other by placing the budding lotus hands at the chest.
- Mouth Level: A younger person or lower in rank ought to respect an older person or higher in rank by placing the budding lotus hands at the mouth.
- Nose Level: Children and grandchildren or students to respect their parents and grandparents or teacher by placing the budding lotus hands at the nose.
- Eyebrow Level: People to respect the monks, King, and Sacred objects by placing the budding lotus hands at the eyebrow.
- Forehead Level: People to respect the God, Brahma, Buddha, or praying.
When praying to the Buddha, the person places his palms together close to his or her face and bring his or her hands toward the ground three times. Customarily, the higher the hands are held and the lower the bow, the more respect is conveyed. Except when meeting elderly people or government officials, between men, this custom has been practically replaced by the handshake. Women usually greet both men and women with the same traditional greeting. Even though it may be considered acceptable for foreigners to shake hands with Cambodian, it is more appropriate to respect the custom and respond with a “Chumreap Suor”.
- Pkai Novels (2008, March 10). Khmer Salutation [WordPress]. Retrieved from