It’s wonderful to go to a new place and find yourself with an adopted family. Long-time expats and global wanderers will understand how a local family deciding to take you on as one of their own can do wonders for adaptation, understanding, and overall happiness.
I can say that apart from my biological family in Canada, I also have adopted Mexican, Ecuadorian, and Japanese families. I consider them my first go-to people and those that allowed me to join them and feel like I’m at home. After over two years in Cambodia, I now have a Cambodian family.
Sovann and Bopha are my landlords and live across the street from me in Siem Reap. The first time I met Sovann was quite serious. We were negotiating a year-long rental contract and both of us wanted to make sure we were getting a fair deal. I remember afterwards asking my former colleague who came with me whether Sovann was going to be a nice guy. He told me that Sovann seemed like a good Cambodian man and that if I were kind and respectful, he would likely help me out with anything. It was a dead-on prediction. After I moved in, Sovann introduced me to his family, including his wife Bopha, and their four children.
Sovann and Bopha are very entrepreneurial and are business geniuses. In just over a year, I’ve seen them take business to the sky. Sovann used to manage the most prestigious hotel in Siem Reap. Now he has one of the most popular supermarkets in the city. Bopha has worked mostly in international wholesale product sales, getting all the brie, perrier, muesli, and other exotic products into Cambodia for my, and everyone else’s, consumption. They are an incredible couple and a dynamic team. I’ve seen them actually working in competition with each other at rival companies, and they absolutely love to challenge each other and finish the day off with a celebratory dinner with their kids who are rooting them on.
And now, literally, I am watching them turn their traditional home into a palace as they plan to transform their space into boutique accommodations to help fill the gap of the overflowing number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat. Given their hospitality and their natural disposition as incredibly generous hosts, I can only imagine a huge success waiting to happen.
Soon after I was moved in, I came home to see a party happening across the street at their house. They called me over and introduced me to their friends. I tried Bopha’s incredible Cambodian, Thai, Italian dishes and drank into the early morning with them. This became a regular routine, every time learning more about them and feeling closer and closer to the family. Bopha worked so hard every time entertaining guests and cooking feasts fit for royalty. I thought I better take a turn and try to host them. They started coming over sometimes as I’d try to put something makeshift together in the kitchen. I’d say that “tonight I am Bopha, you just sit down and I’ll do everything”. My dinners were never as delicious and we’d often end up ordering some delivery to supplement my overly western tastes that couldn’t compete with Cambodian fare – but every time has been a great time together.
The family has really taken me in as one of their own. If I’m sick, they help. If I need anything in the house, they have it for me. If I need some help to get something done here, they are on it. They welcome me and any friends of mine warmly into their home. I’ve learnt so much more about Cambodian family values, generosity, and the country through them. Again in my life, in my adopted country of residence, I feel so lucky to have found my Cambodian family.