Today I was thinking about what I miss about my home country.  When I moved here I thought I would miss a lot of things, but, a few years down the track, I realise that there are only a few things that I really miss.  Of course I miss family and friends, but these days its so easy to keep in contact that I often talk to them more frequently since I moved here than I did when I lived closer.  But most of the things I thought I’d miss I really don’t.  

On the other hand I am often surprised by what I do miss.  Most of the things I find myself missing are things I didn’t really care about when I was living back home, and certainly never imagined myself missing them.  Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Phnom Penh and in a lot of ways I find living here more enjoyable than my home country.  But there are a few things I really miss.  Like…

1.  Price Tags
While I love market shopping, and I have gotten used to bargaining (I still don’t enjoy it), I really miss price tags.  I miss being able to peruse a store checking the tags as I go, immediately knowing whether something is in my budget or good value, or whether I should keep walking. 

Image from here

2.  Footpaths

I love walking.  A lot of the time I would rather walk somewhere than take a car or motorbike.  However Phnom Penh has only a few footpaths in the very centre of the city, and most of these are scattered with obstructions.  Head out to the suburbs and there is nothing, so you are forced to negotiate dusty streets, and, at least in our neighbourhood, pot-holes, while trying to avoid being knocked over by the other road users, breathing in fumes and dust.  All while being asked every 20 metres whether you would like a tuk-tuk or a moto.  I used to live an easy walk from a great market, but I never walked because it was just so unpleasant.

3.  Shopping Malls
Image from here

This is one thing I never thought I’d miss.  I didn’t even like shopping malls in Australia, choosing instead to frequent shopping strips.  And, to be fair, there are shopping malls in Phnom Penh.  But, I miss being able to go to a big shopping mall and know that no matter what was on my shopping list I would be able to find it there, all under one roof.  I’m not sure whether the shopping malls here fulfill the needs of locals, but I know for me I invariably have to go to 3 or 4 places just to do my normal grocery shopping.  If I want something out of the ordinary I may have to try another 3 or 4 places before finding it.  After subscribing to forums about Phnom Penh, I know that I am not the only one who struggles to find everyday items.

4.  Public Transport

Image from here

This is kind of in the same line as Number 1, but I really miss trains and buses.  True motodups and tuk-tuks take you from door-to-door and will stop for 10 minutes and wait for you while you grab some last minute groceries on your way home. (Try asking your bus driver to do that!)  But sometimes I just want to jump on a bus, pay my fare and be done with it, no hassles bargaining on the street to get the right price and no wondering whether the driver actually knows where you are going.

Image from here

5.  Blending In

This is probably what I miss most of all.  The sense of anonymity that most of us take for granted in our home countries.  Here, wherever I go, I am noticed.  Children cry out, “Hello, hello”, I overhear people’s conversations turn to the activities of the barung (foreigner).  Tuk-tuk drivers and motos emerge from all directions.  Our neighbours look into our window to watch me in the kitchen, cooking or washing up.  I miss walking down the street and knowing that nobody else could care less.

Back to Blogs  |