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Khmer, part of the Mon-Khmer family, is the official language of Cambodia. English is rapidly gaining popularity, particularly among the young, while educated older people speak French. Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage colours many facets of society including art, cuisine, dance and music. Although millions of statues, artifacts and books were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, exquisite Khmer art still remains. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom provide stunning examples of Angkorian-era architecture, and the National Museum in Phnom Penh exhibits an astonishing collection of Khmer sculpture. Traditional Cambodian dance was threatened by the Khmer Rouge, but the highly stylized royal ballet still survives.




Cambodian families are close-knit. Cambodian children are given a lot of affection and freedom until about the age of three or four, when they are expected to bathe and feed themselves. At the age of five, they start looking after their younger siblings. By the time children are seven or eight, they have learned to be obedient and respectful toward their elders and monks. At the age of ten, girls are expected to help their mothers with simple household tasks, while boys have to look after the family's livestock. 

Between the ages of eleven and nineteen, a boy may become a temple servant before going on to become a novice monk. Teenagers usually play with members of the same gender, except during festivals, when girls and boys take part in group games. 




Age is an important marker in Cambodian society. Old age brings high status. the young must show respect for their elders, even when the age difference is slight. An elderly couple may invite their youngest child's family to move in and run their household. In return, older Cambodians often help care for their grandchildren and devote more time to service at the temple.




Although the husband is the head of a Khmer household, the wife has a lot of authority, expecially in managing the family budget. Men and women have different, but not necessarily unequal, roles in Cambodia. Some tasks are performed by either men or women, but others are performed together, such as preparing rice fields for planting and buying and selling land. 




Traditionally, parents and matchmakers chose young people's life mates. Today, young people in the cities often choose their own marriage partners. Traditional Cambodian weddings last three days. modern wedding ceremonies are shorter. 

Wedding ceremonies begin in the morning at the bride's home. Buddhist monks offer a short sermon and recite prayers of blessing. Ceremonial rituals include cutting hair, tying cotton threads soaked in holy water around the bridal couple's wrists, and passing a candle around a circle of married couples to bless the newlyweds. After the wedding, a banquet is held. 


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