Updated: Sep 4
One of the first questions I get asked when I mention that I plan on going back to Cambodia is: why? Why would you move to Cambodia? A valid enough question, especially for those who remember why I left to begin with. It’s often an especially surprising choice for those who currently live outside of the United States and view living in the U.S. as a goal, or as an improvement to living in a third world country. It’s true that the United States offers a higher standard of living compared to many places, and that even the poorest conditions here often pale in comparison to global poverty standards. To understate that privilege would be remiss. However, this doesn’t mean that living in the United States is necessarily easy. In fact, one could even argue that the American Dream itself has long been dead, and if so, why continue working in a system that will not allow you to move up in the world, or to ever be free to enjoy life?
The same can be said of many places, from Canada to South Africa, to Australia. And yet, despite the lack of vertical class mobility (that is, the ability to move between economic and social classes, such as by moving from working class to middle class), few seem to consider the option of simply living somewhere else. Eleven percent of Americans have never left the state they were born in, while fourty percent have never left the United States; similarly, 190 million Europeans have never been abroad, despite the ease of travel to nearby countries. While there are plenty of beautiful and opportunity-rich places to live, my top suggestion is to try your luck in Cambodia, and here’s why:
1. Low Cost Of Living
($5 meal of the day at Lonestar Bar, includes beer, burger and fries)
While we would all like the ability to live life without constantly worrying about bills and expenses, the simple truth is that money is a requirement to living, and that an increase of money means an increase in happiness. A study by Matthew Killingsworth at the University of Pennsylvania found that “...wellbeing did, in fact, increase along with income, up to and well beyond earning $75,000 a year. What’s more, the researchers found that happiness really only plateaus as income increases — above roughly $100,000 a year — for people who were already somewhat unhappy to begin with.” According to Numbeo.com, the average cost of living for a single person is $653, with a family of four topping out at $2,296. With entire houses for rent in the city center for $200, and apartments or rooms for even cheaper, it’s no wonder that the average English teaching salary ($1,200-$1,400, depending on experience) can cover an exuberant lifestyle. One of my favorite litmus tests for determining the cost of living is the cost of beer, which is typically one dollar here. Internet and travel are also cheap, to the extent that most expats rely exclusively on tuk-tuk, or rickshaws instead of braving the streets themselves.
2. Employment flexibility
As a result of the low cost of living, Cambodia offers extreme flexibility in employment. Don’t like your job? It’s easy to walk off and find another, especially given that visas are not tied to specific job offers. English teaching is one of the easiest jobs to acquire, and often has low expectations; having foreign teachers is a sign of prestige, and so appearances are valued more than teaching ability. Having a bachelor's degree or a TEFL/TESOL certificate, both of which are easy to get through online courses, makes one even more valuable a candidate, and can score gigs with some of the more westernized schools. Teaching is certainly not for everyone though, and if you are able to enter the country with a bit of savings, it is possible to find other work through self employment. The rich music and art scene is always welcoming of newcomers, so if you’ve ever had a hankering to try artistry as a career, here is the place. Other positions are often advertised on Facebook groups, or by word of mouth; plenty of which are open to both degree holders and working class individuals.
3. Easy to come, easy to go
As someone who has traveled through both Asia and Europe, I’ve come to realize that visas are often the most difficult barrier to overcome. Less so with an EU or American passport, but still a frustration due to the bureaucracy and doublespeak that hide what exactly is needed of you. Cambodia is one of the easiest countries to enter, not just for tourism, but for work. There is no need to have anything more than a booked hotel, and your passport to apply for an e-visa, or a visa on arrival; that's all you need to start looking for work!
4. There’s no harm in trying
(View from apartment window)
My first stint in Cambodia was decided on a whim. I was interested in teaching internationally, even though my bachelors was not yet completed. After listing my information on a TEFL site, I got an interview and then a job offer. I had just turned twenty one at the time, and had lived on my own for about three years by that point; long enough to know what the cost of living was like, and how much I relied on my car and current jobs to stay afloat. I had my parents hold onto my car and motorcycle, sold most of my other things, and took the plunge. A few months later, I decided to head home for a bit, and had lost little more than time and a few apartment deposits but had gained a load of experience in exchange. I decided to return for the reasons I listed above, and don’t regret it a bit. Cambodia is a land of opportunity for anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone, with a host of benefits for those who feel stuck in the corporate (or working class) grind.
Cambodia beckons with its alluring prospects for a fulfilling and rewarding life beyond the constraints of traditional societal expectations. From its low cost of living to the abundant employment opportunities and the ease of entry, this vibrant country offers a fresh start for those seeking a change. By embracing the adventure of living in Cambodia, individuals can experience a more affordable lifestyle, where their hard-earned money can stretch further and contribute to a higher quality of life. The flexibility in employment allows for the exploration of diverse career paths and the chance to pursue artistic endeavors in a welcoming community. So why not take the leap and consider making Cambodia your new home? It is an invitation to step out of your comfort zone and embark on a transformative journey filled with opportunities for personal growth, cultural immersion, and a renewed sense of freedom. Take the chance to break free from the grind and embrace the untapped potential that Cambodia has to offer. Your next chapter awaits!