Sampeah – The Cambodians diss Obama

Investors Business Daily Editorial for November 20, 2012: Obama’s Southeast Asia Trip All Style, No Substance

On his trip to Cambodia, a country he claimed didn’t deserve a visit due to its strongman government, first lady Bun Rany greeted Obama with a traditional “sampeah” pressed-hands greeting reserved for servants, a little dig that was probably lost on him but not to Asians.

I was curious what the writer meant about the types of sampeah, so googled and found the video cited below. In it, the lowest hand level described is for sampeah to a peer.

As the level of respect toward the one being greeted goes up, so too the hand level goes up. The very highest level is hands at forehead for prayer.

The video doesn’t demonstrate sampeah to those who are lower than peers, such as servants, and I was not able to find anything about that. What I did see over and over at various sites teaching visitors about how to sampeah correctly was the notation that the hands are always held close to the body during the bow. It also seems important that one hold the palms together precisely. You’ll note that Bun Rany, Cambodia’s first lady, did neither while greeting Obama.



IBD editorial

Sampeah Etiquette [3:44]

1 Comment

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One response to “Sampeah – The Cambodians diss Obama

  1. Ting

    Well, well, well…….I know it shouldn’t, but this added a little spice to my holiday. Thanks, Chrissy!