With its 135 recognized ethnic groups living within its borders, Myanmar is a true mixing pot. This makes it quite easy to offend someone from a different culture. To avoid offending someone on your holiday in this amazingly beautiful country, read up on some things that the people of the country formerly known as Burma find offensive and disrespectful.
A part of Myanmar’s social respect ritual is the usage of titles before personal names. If someone is wise and helpful, you can give them the title of “Teacher;” for instance Teacher XY (XY representing their personal name.) Names like “General” carry less admiration than those that reference education, due to the history of strict military control.
Women of a certain age are called “Auntie”, and their male counterparts “Uncle”. The Burmese tend to be very understanding of foreigners and will do their best to make you feel comfortable, so if you’re not sure how to address someone feel free to ask.
Body Language Insults And Gestures
Buddhists consider the head to be the most sacred part of the human body and feet are considered the dirtiest.
Touching someone’s head is an insult, and so is pointing your feet at them. You will also be expected to remove your shoes whenever you enter an indoor dwelling or private space.
To properly introduce yourself, or to offer or accept an item, you should place one hand firmly under the elbow of the extended arm. Waiters at restaurants do even do this before passing you your plate.
Although Burmese women enjoy a little bit more freedom than those in other Asian countries, they are still expected to behave accordingly to a certain “gender appropriate” behavior. You will rarely see a woman drinking alcohol, especially in public.
Western women are allowed to do so in moderation. Also, only men can ride on the tops of buses and boats and many Buddhist temples prohibit women from entering particular rooms or areas.
When greeting someone, you can use the common expression “Mingalaba”. Its meaning can be translated loosely to “Have an advantageous day.” Like the well-used “Namaste”, this phrase is not reserved for a particular social class or gender, and can even be used with monks and respected elders.
The belief in clean and unclean body parts will also dictate what you wash and where you wash it. You should not wash your hands after a meal under the same faucet where you clean your feet.