Eat with locals – an unforgettable experience
I didn’t just want to get to know the country, but also the people. Travel takes you to other places and cultures, but what matters is people. When we first came to Cambodia 15 years ago, many locals still spoke French, and we could not speak a word of Khmer. But my wife had business partners in Phnom Penh, and through them we came into contact with local families. We were able to visit them at home and eat with them. Our guide helped us with translations. I will never forget the first time I eat with locals, having my lunch on the floor. I had no idea how to eat properly. Our host family explained to me with hand movements that I can also add the rice to the soup.
Learning how to eat with locals
15 years later I was back in Cambodia, this time in Siem Reap, to live here. We had lived in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and I found many new friends there. In all countries, it has always been important to me to understand how people live.
When I arrived in Cambodia, I quickly got in touch with my neighbors. They live in small apartments that consist of a room with a bathroom and are about 40 square meters in size. In it lives a whole family. The men went to work in the morning, the women stayed at home. I asked them if they work too. Most said they needed to stay home, take care of the kids and cook food.
Support for families
I thought: If you cook anyway, why not make money with it? Let people eat with locals and pay for it. A friend brought me into contact with Sorida, with whom I started Dine With The Locals. Our first hosts were my neighbors. I thought to myself: They have beautiful houses, they are great at cooking and they are lovely people. They couldn’t speak English, but that only made it more authentic. I invited friends to test dinners and they were thrilled. “We would never have access to a local family,” she said. Precisely because everything was not perfectly prepared, they enjoyed it. I always enjoyed cooking with friends myself. Cooking is one of the essential cultural activities. A culture is also defined by the food.
Activities beyond cooking
Today we have 15 hosts across Cambodia and two in Vietnam where travelers can eat with locals. We are still looking for new families, soon also in Laos. I visit most of them myself, cook together, explain our concept. We want to offer our guests more than just food. You will learn how to dance Aspara, what modern artists do, how to make a souvenir pendant from coconut palm leaves or what herbs and plants are used for cooking.
Our guests make an experience that I’ve always appreciated traveling: getting in touch with people and making contact, learning new things and making new friends.