PARENTING IN PHNOM PENH
Updated: Mar 19
rowing up in Thailand and Cambodia, I had the unique view of appearing caucasin but integrating seamlessly into the culture.
While sitting (Ahem) researching one evening, I began typing key words on YouTube like "kids, school, phnom penh, life in phnom penh'.
The results left me unsure of weather to laugh or look up these self-prcolaimed experts.
I gave up after a few hits.
If I were a parent planning my arrival it would make me want to grab a map and blindly point to another country on the globe.
RELAX! It's a shame there aren't more positive (cough, informed) reviews out there but rest assured that no, Phnom Penh is not a slum filled with unclothed children, toughened bar girls and elderly gentlemen nursing a cold draft at 9:00am.
It's a developing city that has, as every city does, the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. When you're traveling with children, it makes it one of the less desired locations on the map, primarily due to education and health care.
As charming as the city is, it can be a challenge to know what to expect when moving with your children.
Below I've compiled a shortlist of what every parent should have when moving to Cambodia:
A Guide For Getting Around The City by someone raised in the city.
Your First Impressions
Don't expect your study, however thorough it may be, to compensate for situations you encounter.
Use common sense. Much as you would walking in any bustling city around the world, keep a grip on your belongings.
Khmer people are friendly.
Don't be surprised by the lack of social boundaries. Age before beauty -- aka heirchary is still followed on many occasions. For example, a woman as old as my aunt whom I barely know may tell me I look fatter each time I see her. She's not being rude, but honestly commenting on cultural beauty standards. In Asian culture children are taught to show respect for elders and family members.
The stream of unruly expats that have crossed through customs have made them more jaded and less keen to respond to tourists as in times past, but if you're moving here make a point of getting to know your regular tuk-tuk driver, waitress and your weekly family restaurant, or even just your neighbors.
It might take time at first. My advice is to do it anyway.
Tip #2: The Grabbing of Essentials & Transport
Phnom Penh primarily uses Grab and PassApp transport service, with the old fashioned 'tuk tuk' still to be found in tourist areas. For a trip outside the city the easiest is to head to Facebook and look through the multitude of local car services.
Grab also connects with several food delivery services like Nham 24, Muuv and Food Panda. These apps offer convenient online shopping options based off your location with supermarkets, stationary stores and pharmacies are all available on delivery!
TIP # 3 : OUT AND ABOUT
Masks are required when in public, and many restaurants, department stores and businesses may ask for proof of your vaccine passport. Make a copy and carry it with you, along with some extra masks and hand gel when going out. While Covid-19 health policies have varied by country to country, Phnom Penh is in a delicate state of easing up on restrictions in an attempt to boost the economy and promote tourism.
This is not the city to test your personal values on masks & / or temperature checks.
TIP # 4: The Supermarket Breakdown
If you're shopping on
a budget it's almost impossible to get everything you need in one supermarket. The two most reliable 24 hour mini marts Kiwi Mart and Circle K offer a surprising amount of products.
The UK based supermarket chain is probably the best (and only) 24 hour grocery store.
Almost all items are imported, and their selection of baby items and, if you fancy, pre made meals instead make it worth the trip.
It's a bit hard to get through with it's winding isles, but this supermarket on street 450 has a nice sale collection of caned or dried food, plus a buy one get one promotion every Tuesday.
PRO TIP: Zando clothing store is just one building down and, when it's not rush hour or sales are off, it's a nice store to check out for brand name clothing for all ages.
Mainly stocked with imported French products, Tai Hout has two branches downtown and both convenient ATM's directly outside. This branch even has a certified U-Care pharmacy attached.
YOUR MINI MAP GUIDE (Note: None of the affiliated links contained in this article are sponsored. Some food for thought. ;-)
2. Shopping vs. Online Shopping
Since lockdown began two years ago there have been a bevy of stores and eatiers that have gone online. Some of the best places, beyond umbrella companies are:
FURNITURE & HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES
Khmer Rajana Furniture (Custom made wood and rattan tables, nest swings, shoe racks and dressers)
Elegant Brand KH (Office and home furniture)
Macro168 (Furniture, kitchenware, collapsible storage and a lot of other interesting gadgets. Don’t get too pulled in! 😉 )
Display: Ikea style home, kitchen and office furniture. (Note: Be prepared to come with a considerable amount of cash!)
AEON MALL 1, 1st Floor AKIRA store (You can find some great sales during public holidays on products like washing machines, microwaves, rice cookers and coffee machines.
Phnom Penh Electronics Store
(Everything you could possibly need for building or repairing.)
(Phone and computer accessories and repair)
(Phone & Computer repair / accessories.)
(Official Xiaomi store in Cambodia)
COSMETICS & MEDICINE
Japan Home Center (A little bit of everything with amazingly cheap prices)
L192 (Female clothing store)
The Deli Shop (Groceries delivered to your door. Meal plans, ranging from vegan to keto, are available as well.)
SCHOOL & ART SUPPLIES
If you’re familiar with the markets, try the stalls on the south side of the market. They have just as huge, if not more items then commercial shops and offer a generally fair price.
Eats & Drinks
Khmer staff are very friendly and tolerant of children in restaurants. If you're children are polite, kind and well behaved this ensures you much more lavish attention.
Khema Restaurant has a very reasonably priced lunch and breakfast menu, with a high tea option for those A+ report card days.
Don't let the posh environment throw you off; this is one of Phnom Penh's longest standing restaurants. The bonus? Their staff are polite and attentive to their Tiny Customers too.
Organic, and tucked away with recycled tire structures, an old tractor and a sandpit make Farm To Table a welcome place for parents to have their children let out some steam while sampling their fusion Menu.
And finally, Urban Space Cafe has just about everything you need for a full day of family fun. A restaurant, pool and playground all make it worth the trip, slightly outside the city center. Not only that, they host weekend ballet and football classes for an added price.