Daily Life in Cambodia

Signs in Cambodia: Signs on Buildings

4 February 2012

There is very little control over any aspect of the quality of life in Phnom Penh or any other city in Cambodia. Partly this comes from a survival attitude. The people who are adults over thirty years old today are survivors of the Khmer Rouge. After Pol Pot they had to rebuild their lives, their cities, their country. All efforts and resources were committed to that and to staying alive. Any sense of aesthetics was supressed. The Khmer Rouge are gone now but hardly any sense of beauty, order, and aesthetics has yet emerged.

Signs on building fronts
The proliferation of signs of all sizes and shapes is a real problem in Cambodia. (Unless, of course, you are the owner of the signs or are collecting rent for a sign attached to your building.) Zoning laws—if any exit--are unlikely to be enforced unless the officials can make some money from it, and signs are everywhere.

Sign on a family-owned business
The neighborhood sign situation is complicated because most business people live in "shophouses," buildings one room wide but three or four stories tall. The ground floor is used for the business (and parking the car and motorcycles at night), and the upper floors are the residence. There is a certain logic in erecting a sign on the front of your property--your business--even though it blocks sunlight and the view from the upper stories.

Erecting a new sign
This picture of a new sign being erected in front of a dwelling illustrates how the sign totally dwarfs the original building.

Once one sign gets established and one flat owner starts making money, it isn't long until practically a whole block of flats is covered with signs.
Covering the block with signs

As business owners get more money and as the business climate becomes more competitive, the spread of signs along a busy street is inevitable.
Signs on the street

The signs then spread not just vertically on one building but horizontally along the street as all the business people put up their own signs.
Multiple signs on a street

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