Coming of age in Cambodia: Young migrants in their transition to adulthood
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Currently, many young Cambodians are moving from the rural areas to the capital city Phnom Penh in search of employment. While their stay in Phnom Penh might be of temporary duration, exposure to an urban culture can still influence their behaviours. Originating from villages where often more traditional values prevail, migrants will have to find out to what extent they cling unto their rural culture or adapt to the urban environment. As they live away from their families, choices have to be made that do not only affect their own lives but their families as well. This study is focused on these young migrants by investigating what the impact of their migration is on their transition to adulthood. During a four month fieldwork data was collected through interviewing migrants in Phnom Penh and rural youth in Battambang province. Research findings show that an important characteristic of adulthood in Cambodia is taking care of the parents. By working in the city, migrants are able to send remittances to their families and thus take care of them. However, by sending remittances many are not able to have personal savings. This forces them to ask their family for help in times of need. By remitting, migrants fulfil the expectations of their parents which allows migrants to rely on their families who serve as a safety net. This safety net is strengthened when migrants uphold rural values such as rules of modesty while living in Phnom Penh. But urban lifestyles might inspire migrants as well as they long for the latest fashion and gadgets. Forming an identity means for every migrant finding out to what extent they can adapt to an urban environment while at the same time being accepted back home. Experiences vary among female and male migrants as male migrants often enjoy greater freedom but lack a clear guide of what is expected from them. Coming of age in Cambodia is experienced in different ways as youth migrate to Phnom Penh.