The Khmer LOVE to cheers their beers. I'm never entirely sure why they are cheers'ing all of the time (on average once a minute,) but it appears to be for all and any excuse. No matter what, you can and are expected to cheers your beer/drink even if you don't understand why or seems to be for no particular reason.
To cheers, you raise your glass or can, smile widely, look at everyone in the eye, and yell 'Chul Mouy!' (pronounced like ch-uhl m-oy) and inevitably, at least one person will join in, but usually everyone at the table joins in. If you don't cheers, it can be seen as disrespectful or like you aren't paying attention. The more drunk you all get, the more beer gets sloshed around on yourself and the table and others. The more cheers'ing that's happening, the better the party is going.
As you can see in the photo, many different cheers are happening all at once. You can cheers to someone individually and then you (usually) have to finish your entire drink. Or, you can cheers the entire table and all cans come to the middle of the table, usually resulting in chairs falling over and food going all over the table.
If someone doesn't have a beer, you politely wait until someone (usually someone's son or wife) brings more beers and then you can cheers and drink. Not waiting can make someone feel like they aren't part of the group. This means that you are rarely ever without a drink or two in front of you, otherwise a cheers might be delayed, or even worse, you're too drunk to notice someone doesn't have a drink in front and you cheers without them.
Having a great night of food and drinks with a Khmer party is always a fun and whirlwind experience. So far during my nearly 5 months in Cambodia, I have never been expected to pay for my drinks or food when invited to a table. I always offer, of course, but it's always politely declined, then met with a cheers.
You walk away feeling like you have just made new best friends and have entered a family, without knowing over half their names or being able to understand very much of the conversation. Even better, it's usually quite early in the evening so you get to bed by 10:00PM after chugging a litre of water and wake up feeling not as bad as you thought you would. I would say it's near impossible to leave a party early, especially since beers appear in front of you without you noticing.
Next time you're out with y our friends, don't forget to cheers! It instantly raises the mood and camaraderie of the table.
ជល់មួយ (chôl muŏy)!