As characters of people differ from one individual to another, it would not be easily describe and stereotype the character of the Cambodians. Nevertheless, it is possible to see and catch the dominant features which reflects the general character of the whole group.
During the french domination, some Frenchmen used to say that Cambodians tended to be "lazy". Following the accession of the country to independence in 1953, the Cambodian government multiplied efforts to erase this image, urging the people to show they are the fruits of Angkorian ancestors, that they are willing and able to do better, and they are not "lazy" as they were noted by the French.
In fact, the Cambodians are generally gentle, sympathetic, polite, and reluctant to show anger or displeasure in a direct manner. Deeply religious, they tend to be more conservative and to have few ambitions to improve life in the material sense. Humble and submissive, they prefer usually to suffer in silence rather than to open their hearts to a stranger. And because they are Buddhists, they tend to be resigned to their fate and not to be aggressive.
They are known as a smiling people for they always smile. Their smile usually reflects their kind feelings, their sweet character, their good hearts, and the good life they are living. But their smile could also means their politeness or a desire to please, and does not usually mean the things it means here.
Another feature generally qualified as characteristic of Cambodians is that they, especially men, tend to hold a grudge when they feel they have been humiliated or have suffered a loss of face, and the bitterness grows stronger if this happens in public. In this case it is difficult for them to forgive, for they never forget the shock, unless an apology is made.
Shyness is another dominant characteristic to them. It's sometimes associated with a kind of reserve, leading to the impression that they lack education or are not polite. Some of them are so shy they don't even feel comfortable in saying hello spontaneously, or expressing thanks in a proper way, but rather keep themselves in a very low, low profile. That does not mean they forget a good deed they have received. As the matter of fact, they are deeply sentimental; they keep their sentiments of gratitude in their hearts and will allow them if an opportunity arises. During the Japanese occupation of Cambodia, all the French community were sent to jail by the Japanese authorities. The Cambodian unexpectly came to the help of their former rulers at the risk and peril of their lives.
They are also very frank and sometimes show openly what they think and this makes people believe they are not flexible. Actually, for many of them, a thing must be black or white with nothing in between. This feature is especially true for the people of the rural areas.
In short, the Cambodians are generally characterized as very happy, very cheerful, and very affectionate. They have a relaxed manner of their approach to life, and tend to love to sing and dance. They are perhaps slow and passive, but have excellent dispositions and show you they are industrious. Once you get their confidence, they will become very loyal to you.