Understanding the Term “Barang” as a Foreigner in Cambodia


When traveling or living in Cambodia, you may frequently come across the term “Barang” being used to refer to foreigners. The term has its roots in Khmer language and carries a specific cultural connotation. Understanding the meaning and context of this term is crucial for building a better understanding and relationship with the local community. In this article, we will explore the term “Barang” and its usage in Cambodia.

Origin and Meaning

The term “Barang” is derived from the French word “√©tranger,” meaning foreigner. Over time, this word has become integrated into the Khmer language. It is commonly used across Cambodia to refer to people from different countries who are not of Cambodian origin. It is important to note that the term itself is not inherently derogatory but rather a neutral descriptor.

Cultural Context

In Cambodian society, the use of the term “Barang” is deeply ingrained and widely accepted. Many locals use it casually and even playfully to refer to foreigners. It is important to understand that in most cases, it is not meant as an insult or to be disrespectful. Instead, it reflects a recognition of cultural differences and serves as a way to differentiate foreigners from locals.

Usage and Interpretation

The usage and interpretation of the term “Barang” can vary depending on the context and tone. While it is generally used freely and without negative intent, it is essential to pay attention to the tone and manner in which it is used. In friendly conversations or casual encounters, locals may use it to identify or get the attention of a foreigner. However, it is important to note that individual interpretation may differ. Some individuals may find the term uncomfortable or object to being labeled solely based on their nationality.

Respectful Communication and Cultural Sensitivity

As a foreigner in Cambodia, it is important to approach the term “Barang” with an open mind and understanding of the local culture. Engaging in respectful communication and demonstrating cultural sensitivity will help foster positive relationships with the local community. It is advisable to engage in open dialogue and establish friendships with locals to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives and to create meaningful connections.


While the term “Barang” is commonly used in Cambodia to refer to foreigners, it is not inherently derogatory. Understanding the cultural context of this term is important for constructive interactions. By approaching the term with sensitivity and open-mindedness, we can foster mutual respect and cultivate enriching experiences while connecting with the vibrant Cambodian community.