Lonely Planet claims that the French had a saying that went:

The Vietnamese plant rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow.

Did any Frenchman circa the colonial era ever say or write such a thing? If so, what/who was the original source of this saying?

Or did Lonely Planet (or someone else) simply make it up in the recent past (I first came across this quote in the 2005 edition of Lonely Planet Laos)? Briefly Googling, I can find only recent mentions of this quote with no original sources.

  • 2
    I have a feeling this violates our notability requirements- it doesn't really seem significant to me. What's your interest in it? Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 16:04
  • 2
    @PointlessSpike: What does my personal interest have to do with anything? Lonely Planet, the world's best known travel guide book series, has repeatedly published this claim in consecutive editions of its Laos books. Is that not enough?
    – user17967
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 9:53
  • Well, not if nobody cares. We critique things like "was 9/11 orchestrated by the US government" or "are there really fistfights in the Ukrainian parliament" and that kind of thing. Getting answers to these questions improves our understanding of the world we live in. Getting an answer to this question is going to have no benefit to 99.9% of the population. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 10:01
  • @PointlessSpike The question is clearly notable, as a notable source (Lonely Planet) was cited as per this answer. Feel free to downvote if you don't find the question interesting, but I disagree that this question deserves to be closed.
    – March Ho
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 10:21
  • I have no doubt the source is notable, but I'm not sure the existence of a saying is. That was why I asked his interest- I was trying to determine if there was something about it that made it significant. I won't downvote or flag because others clearly do find it interesting. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


The claim is that the French summed up the cultural difference with a saying that translates to the given expression.

To demonstrate that is true, I just need to find a large number of examples of people saying that in French.

Challenge accepted!

Le Vietnamien fait pousser le riz, le Cambodgien regarde le riz pousser, le Laotien se couche par terre pour écouter pousser le riz

Le Vietnamien fait pousser le riz, le Cambodgien regarde le riz pousser, le Lao se couche par terre pour écouter pousser le riz.

Je finis par un "dicton" que m a dis un jour un laotien à Vientiane:

Le Vietnamien fait pousser le riz

Le cambodgien regarde pousser le riz

Le Laotien ecoute pousser le riz....

This is an extended version:

« Le vietnamien plante le riz, le cambodgien le regarde pousser, le lao l'écoute pousser, le thaïlandais le coupe, le chinois le vend ! »

Pour illustrer le titre de cet article voici un dicton local : " le Vietnamien plante le riz, le Cambodgien le regarde pousser, et le Laotien l'écoute..."

Par exemple, les colons français avaient coutume de dire "Les Vietnamiens plantent le riz, les Cambodgiens le regarde pousser et les Laotiens l'écoutent."

None of these prove it is an old saying, and doing an etymological search for the origins is beyond the scope of the claim, but this is sufficient to show the French do have a saying.

  • After the OP's clarification post (which improves the question), this answer is now invalid.
    – March Ho
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 20:41
  • @MarchHo The Last link is of a book from 2001 which is 4 years earlier then the Lonely planet the OP gives. Which means Lonely planet didn't come up with it.
    – Lyrion
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 9:54
  • 1
    @Lyrion None of the examples cited are from France's colonial era.
    – March Ho
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 9:58

You must log in to answer this question.