Cambodia // Food and drink //

Beer girls and taxi girls


Cambodia’s beer girls will approach you almost before you’ve sat down in a Cambodian restaurant. Smartly dressed in uniforms colour-coded according to which brand of beer they’re promoting, they rely on commissions based on the amount of beer they manage to sell, and will keep opening bottles or cans and topping up your glass, hoping to get you to drink more. You don’t pay them for the beer, as the cost is added to your bill at the end by counting up the empties. Beer girls will often drink with Cambodian men to up their consumption, but that’s generally as far as it goes, as the beer companies make sure the women get home safely afterwards.

Although things are more relaxed than they used to be, “decent” Cambodian women neither go to bars nor drink alcohol – indeed it’s only relatively recently that they’ve begun to venture out to restaurants – so, while beer girls are somewhat looked down upon, the taxi girls who frequent the karaoke parlours and nightclubs are beyond the pale. Usually from very poor families, they have a role akin to that of hostess, dance partner and sometimes call girl rolled into one. If you invite them to join you at your table or dance with you, the charge will be added to your bill at the end of the evening, as will the cost of their drinks.

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