Same, same, but different.

They are not like us. In fact, I hope they never are.

For some weeks since first arriving in Cambodia there has been one question that has plagued me – what is it that makes Cambodian people smile? After intensive internal debate, as well as listening to the thoughts of tourists and locals, there are a great many truths we can learn from these happy, humble beings.

What flows through them is undoubtedly the same blood as you and I, and yet, what flows from them is something altogether different.

Whether through the horrors of their past, Buddhist influence or having 80 per cent of their population living in rural areas, the Khmer people of Cambodia breed the perfect conditions for happiness.

What seems altogether unobvious to begin with, becomes abundantly apparent after some weeks driving, walking, riding and exploring the breathtaking countryside, villages and even cities.

These people are never alone.

Their hearts run rich with love, for their greatest obligation is not to live a life for themselves, but for their family and wider community.

Every dollar they earn, every seed they sow and every meal they eat – it is all shared – sometimes with a few, other times with a lot.

And this is in essence what sustains their smile.

For “happiness”, as Christopher McCandless famously wrote on his lonely deathbed, is “only real when shared”.

Whether five people stacked on a motorbike (the record I saw), a grandson nervously massaging his grandmother while awaiting surgery, or families simply sitting all day by the roadside, together, hoping to sell enough to sustain them – these are the images of a society connected.

While we the West may laugh and label this ‘poverty’, or a ‘developing nation’ in order to maintain some sense of power; ultimately, we are doing little other than feeding that which continues to make us ‘unhappy’ – our ego.

Arguably elements of their kindness are born through necessity, but if this is what it takes to live happily then take my money, take my possessions and give me nothing but love, relationships and a roof, tarp or sheet of metal to sleep under, for this will make me rich beyond my wildest dreams.

And in my lack, what I need will become obvious, as the clouds of consumerism, idea that ‘success = wealth’ and proving myself to others, slowly fade away.


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’


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