One of my favorite parts of Cambodia culture definitely has to be their support of the two hour lunch break every day. People here tend to get to work early and leave late, so the mid-day break is a really great way to recharge in the middle of the day and prepare for the afternoon. In my office it is used in all different ways, some people go home, one lady goes for a swim, others go out for long lunches, and some bring their lunch and rest at the office. For my first few days here my jet lag necessitated it be used as my rest/nap time, but now that my body is back to normal it is a welcome chance for me to explore or get to know my co-workers.
Before I had my bike, I tended not to explore too far, as it is too hot to go walking in the middle of the day and as a result, I have found some local restaurants that I alternate going to a few times each week. There are two nice Cambodian places where I can get fried rice with vegetables and meat for $1.50, and an Indonesian restaurant across the street where I can get an Indonesian soup or lunch dish for about $2.00. The difference in prices here is really something to get used to.
I took two of the lawyer assistants with me to the Indonesian restaurant one day last week. They both spoke quite good English so we were able to have a good conversation. In learning Khmer, I have started to realize how difficult English would be to learn with all the exceptions and rules, which makes the level of English that everyone is able to speak increasingly impressive to me. Both my co-workers were very committed to their education and professional work, it seemed like this took up most of their weeks. It is common with people I have spoken to, especially around my age, for them to work during the day, and then take classes or work more in the evening. I also liked hearing about their lives outside of this, what they liked about Cambodia, and generally getting to know them. They were really fun company, and hopefully we can continue getting together while I am here.
A few ladies I work with usually hang around the office at bring lunch or have something to split between them, so one day I got some food and came back to eat with them. They are really lively and laugh a lot, so they looked like a fun group to have lunch with. A common lunch that people eat here is dried fish, it is really high in protein, and given Phnom Penh’s proximity to many bodies of water is fairly prevalent around the city. They had brought that to split, so I got to try some and while I was a little apprehensive about it, it was actually really decent to eat. Maybe next week I will get some for myself. Lunch overall was great and they were really nice about talking to me in English, but all their jokes were in Khmer, so I ended up just smiling and nodding, trying to look like I knew what was going on whenever everyone was laughing.
Two hour lunch breaks have been a very welcome addition to my day. They definitely help me enjoy being at work and enable me to work a lot better for longer for the second part of the day. I will definitely try and bring this piece of Cambodian culture back to the States with me!