There are times I want to say this – “Excuse me, but I AM HERE!”
Here’s an observation of how some Khmers usually talk. Note that I am not generalizing all Khmers, but living in Phnom Penh for the past three years have made me acutely aware of how most Khmers converse. At first, I got offended. Who wouldn’t be? I mean I’m right there, I’m humongous, one’s eyesight cannot miss me!! but I still get ignored in conversations. Lol!
A lot of Khmers like talking in third person. For example, all my Khmer relatives know my name, but to date they still refer to me as ‘Chinkee Mama’. Lol! I know it sounds like a brand of noodles, but I’ve learned to live with it. Also, even when you are present and participating in the conversation, they would still refer to you as a third person.
I think they also consider this polite if you refer to yourself in third person. Perhaps this is part of their language or culture. Another reason could be most of them are shy particularly around foreigners. A friend of mine who is also married to a Khmer told me she talks about herself in third person specially when speaking with elders. Example, when she’s about to leave for work, she tells her mother-in-law, ‘ Ma, your son’s wife or your daughter-in-law is now leaving for work.’
So, though at first it piqued me, coz it strikes me as impolite, but its not. So now, I find amusement whenever I’m referred to as a ‘third-person’ I think there are really things that one has to learn specially when dealing with another culture. And I always remind myself now not to be quick to judge.