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People of Life
Most of the people of Cambodia live in villages and farm the land or fish to obtain their food. To see the real life and culture of how over three- quarters of the people of Cambodia live, you have to leave the cities and visit the villages. Houses are either in groups or strung out along a canal, river road or hillside. They are the source of Cambodian pride and satisfaction. All major events birth, marriage, and death occur within the villages.

Cambodians are very shy people but very warm and welcoming to visitors. Their society is conservative, and centered around the family and religion. However, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, with an average daily income of approximately US$1.30 a day.

More than 80% of the people of Cambodia follow a traditional lifestyle in the countryside. The main occupants of a village are farmers and their families engage in traditional agriculture on small farm lots. The majority of farmers live in permanent villages known as sedentary villages. It may look idyllic, but subsistence farming is very hard. Most grow rice and basic crops.

Each morning you can see workers walking to the fields carrying their tools and leading their water buffalo or cattle. At sunset they return to the shelter of the villages.

Other villagers live in temporary shelters until the end of the growing season when they return to a village that is more permanent but which may be moved if new land is needed. These people are called shifting cultivators and they live in the more rugged upland areas. These people mostly belong to hill-tribes of Cambodia and live in the North-eastern provinces.

Like almost all other countries in Asia, the Cambodian people's main food is rice. Cambodian peasants have planted rice ever since the time of the Angkor Empire. At the present time they still implement their traditional techniques.

Cambodia has a geographical advantage and is extremely blessed with good water resources. The people in the countryside still plant their rice seasonally. The most common time they would plant is in the wet or monsoon season. In the dry season, the only farmers who can plant their rice paddy fields are those near water.

About 10% of the people of Cambodian run small businesses from their 'shop houses' (The front of their house is the shop, and the family lives behind this or above on the first story) and about 8% of people work for the government.

Visitors will notice a huge gap between rich and poor. A few Cambodians are very rich, with big houses, expensive cars and servants, while the very poor live in small thatched houses and do not even have a bicycle.

Country life follows the rhythm of the seasons around planting and harvesting the crops. After the rainy season you will see people climbing palm trees to obtain palm juice to make palm sugar. You can also see them fishing in the rivers and lakes to supplement their income. As in most other countries, rural people tend to marry younger (18 25 years for men and 16 20 years for women) and have more children (3 - 5). In contrast, urban men marry at 25 35ys of age and women at 20 25yrs and rarely have more than 3 children.

Cambodians usually have 3 meals a day. Rice in some form is eaten at nearly every meal. Fish is the main protein. Poor people may have to make do with cold rice (left over from lunch time) and fish sauce for their evening meal.

Despite the hardships of recent years, adult literacy has risen to 65%. It greatly varies over the country, and sadly less girls than boys continue with their education.

Cambodia is experiencing a resurgence of traditional arts, especially classical dancing which was performed at the palace and folk dancing.