If you live in, or are friends with Cambodians you will notice they like their proverbs, particularly on Facebook! Here’s the top 12 Khmer proverbs I have collected in my time living in the Kingdom.
Background to Khmer Proverbs
If the whole Khmer/Cambodian thing confuses you, basically the people of Cambodia are known as the Khmer and they call themselves Kampuchea. Cambodia and Cambodian are the English versions.
The Khmer have a deep history from Angkor Wat to the more contemporary Killing Fields of Democratic Kampuchea and Pol Pot. Many Khmer proverbs are thus linked to its history and surroundings, which is a tropical setting and a farming based society.
12) Anger is damage, anger is waste – Khoeng koch, khoeng khat
Basic meaning? Don’t get angry its a waste of time and energy. Truly great proverb probably most people could do with listening to.
11) Feeling shame of being ignorant leads to having knowledgeable, feeling shame of being poor leads to wealth. Kmas lngueng toeb ches,Kmas kror toeb Mean
Basic meaning – If you’re poor, or not so clever, then work harder and do something about it. We make our own destiny to an extent.
10) A mountain never has two tigers – Phnom mouy min del mean kla pi
Basic meaning? There can only one boss – very apt with elections coming up in Cambodia soon….
9) In a boxing match the last punch has to be as strong as the first
Not an actual Khmer saying, but more like a bonus round! Said by the de-mining minister about getting rid of mines.
To read about de-mining in Cambodia click here
8) A bunch of sticks can not be broken – Changkes mouy bach kach min bak
Basic meaning? Nice and simple, strength in numbers and working together.
7) Knowing is never better than willingness – Chea min chnah chorng
Basic meaning? – I am chalking this down to a knowledge is power type thing.
6) Knowledge is from learning, wealth from business – Ches mok pi rean, mean mok pi rork
Basic meaning? – Work hard at school to be clever and the money will follow…
5) Elephant that has 4 feet will always trip, respectable wise man will always forget – Damrey choeung buon khung mean bploat, nek prach ches stoat khung mean phlek
Basic meaning? I actually have no idea, but I still like it.
4) Drop by drop fills the container – Tork Tork Penh Bampong
Basic meaning? Things take time and you have to work to get it done.
3) Don’t shoot people you hate, don’t lend to those you love
Basic meaning – Another great Khmer proverb. You shoulddnt shoot people you hate, but that does not mean you should lend to someone you love. Comparable to our don’t lend money to friends.
2) Knowing ten is not equal to having one skill – Ches dob min smoeu ning prasab mouy
Basic meaning – When it comes to skills it is better to be excellent at one than mediocre at a lot. Truth!
1) If you you know a lot, know enough to make them respect you, if you are stupid, be stupid enough so they can pity you
Basic meaning – This gets to the top of the list just for how basic it is. If you are clever then get respect with your cleverness, if you stupid, well be so stupid at least people pity you. I like the levels to this Khmer proverb.
And those are our 12 best Khmer proverbs, for now, as things go on and I hear more and I am sure this is a list that I will be adding to.