With around 135 recognized ethnic groups, Myanmar preserves the abundance of languages, costumes, and habits which differentiate the country from others, so understanding how to respect Burmese culture is an important topic. Following is an attempt to list out those of the top ways to avoid offending the Burmese culture when you travel to this “Golden Land.”
#1: Practice religious respect in Myanmar
Predominantly, Myanmar is Buddhist, beside some ethnic states that follow Christianity and localized religions. During your travel in both cities and villages, it’s common to meet the crimson-colored robes of monks. Not to mention your spiritual practice, please be mindful to practice the religious respect in Myanmar where the gilded pagodas and temples are all treasures. The typical respectful gestures of respect include:
- Never point your feet at a monk
- Never touch a monk, particularly for women
- Give a monk the most accessible seats in a train or a bus
#2: Remember key body language in Myanmar
A majority of the Burmese are Buddhists who believe that the head is the most divine part of the human body and the feet is considered to be dirtiest. Therefore, it’s a rule to remove your shoes and socks whenever entering a religious site, an indoor dwelling, or a private area. You’ll be even prisoned if entering a pagoda while wearing shoes. Another important body language in Myanmar to remember includes NOT to point the feet at anyone and NOT to touch someone’s head.
#3: Accept the Burmese hospitality
The Burmese have long been known for their friendliness and hospitality, so they are willing to share with guests. Especially, the Buddhists consider it to be quite impolite to eat something before the others without inviting them first. And if you receive offers from the Burmese, just accept such hospitality because it might be an offence to refuse it. But if you’re worried a bit about eating something, consider taking a small portion of food. Just a single bite will be enough to make the hosts pleasant as long as they know their hospitality is appreciated. Often, the guests will be offered the first bites.
#4: Learn how to say Hello and Thank You in the Burmese language
You can show your interest in how to say hello in Burmese by learning the basic expressions. Try speaking in a Burmese way, and you will get in return many smiles. The easiest way to say ‘Hello” sounds like “ming-gah-lah-bahr.” This greeting is widely used, and remember the rule not to touch (also not hug or shake) the others when saying hello to them. Another easiest phrase to say “Thanks” sounds “chay-tzoo-beh.” Knowing these two basics, you will be much better welcomed by the locals who might smile happily when seeing you practice the Burmese tones.
#5: Know how to refer to the toilet in Myanmar
Though the locals might not understand the variations of “bathroom,” “restroom,” “powder room,” “men’s room,” etc., they all get it when you refer to “toilet” and direct you to the correct directions. Hence, it becomes easy when you know the internationally-accepted word. Travel to Myanmar, you also need to be mindful of these following notes:
- Know this term BYOTP (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper). Also, if you need soap and antibacterial hand gel, get them with you.
- Local houses mostly use the squat toilet while the guesthouses and hotels serve the Western-style toilets, and you don’t need to worry about this issue in the cities. Coffee shops provide basic facilities which depend on their target audience and price range.
For your own trip, carry out the Myanmar travel tips above and be confident to visit the “Golden Land” in which the Burmese are very friendly enough to build the friendship.