Dos and Don’ts in Myanmar

Myanmar people are very friendly and helpful to the visitors. Although they are kind and patient with visitors, they expect the visitors to respect their culture and follow their rules especially when it comes to religious places.

 

At religious sites

Remove your shoes and socks before entering pagodas or monasteries. Cover your shoulders, knees when you go to religious sites. Do not wear spaghetti blouse or tee-shirts too indented on the shoulders or the sides. Do not wear short skirts or pants.

Do not sit on the Buddha statues or statue of monks to take photos. Treat Buddha and monk statues with respect. When you sit in front of statues or shrines, tuck your feet under yourself and never sit with your legs outstretches facing Buddha. Do not sit higher than a monk or statue of Buddha.

Do not disturb the people praying or meditation. Speak softly at the religious sites.

Leave a donation whenever possible. Keep notes of 50, 100, 200, 500 kyats.

Do not touch monks even their robe. Never offer food to monks after 12 noon. Do not give money to monks (few follow this rule nowadays). After offering food, do not ask monks if they like food or food is good. Do not walk in the shadow of a monk.

 

Taking photos

Ask before you take the photos of people as some people can be very shy. In some ethnic culture, taking photographs of pregnant women is not allowed. So, please ask before you take pictures.

Many locals are happy to be photographed. Some would love to look at their photos in your digital camera display screen.

Do not take the photos of women having shower.

 

Manner

Never touch anybody’s head especially the elders.

Hand shake is not always necessary. Do not touch women or initiate hand shake to women except she initiates first.

Do not kiss in public.

Do not point things with your feet even if the thing is on the floor. It’s considered very rude.

Accept and give things with right hand.

Most of Myanmar people do not wear shoes at home and so, take of your shoes before entering a private house except when the owners indicates to wear.

Do not step over the path of someone as it’s considered rude.

Smile to people and you will get a lot of smiles back.

Calling with your finger up means calling for a challenge.

 

Speaking

Say ‘Mingalarpar’ as a greeting when you meet someone. ‘Mingalarpar’ means ‘Auspicious to you’.

When addressing people, use ‘U’ in front of the names of elder men and ‘Ko’ for younger men. Use ’Daw’ in front of the names of elder women and ‘Ma’ for younger women. ‘U/Ko’ means ‘Mr’ and ‘Daw/Ma’ means ‘Mrs/Ms’.

Speak slowly and clearly.

In Myanmar, nodding head means ‘yes’ and shaking head means ‘no’.

Do not point fingers straight into face.

 

Eating

If you are invited to join having food, let the eldest to be served first.

If you eat out, eat only in decent restaurants for hygiene reason.

Always eat thoroughly cooked food.

Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.

If you eat fruit, make sure you wash them thoroughly with clean water. Better eat the fruit that you can peel the skin.

Do not drink tap water.

Drink bottle water or soft drinks that haven’t been opened yet.

Avoid ice.

Ensure your water filter has a chemical barrier, such as iodine and a pore size of less than 4 microns.

Iodine, the best chemical purifier, should not be used in pregnant women or those with thyroid problem.

Boiling is the most efficient method of purifying water.

Myanmar food are complained to be oily. If you want to eat Myanmar food, try decent restaurants in Yangon where they cook Myanmar food according to international standards.

There are Western style restaurants/bars and Asian restaurants in most of the cities.

 

Shopping

When buying gems, splutters or any expensive souvenirs, make sure it comes with an export permit. Do not buy antiques as this will cause Myanmar lose its heritage. Instead, buy more modern arts and crafts which will benefit local artisans.

Buy arts from authorized dealers only and get a certified receipt.

Never buy products that could have come from illegal poaching. Help protect Myanmar’s wildlife.

Spread money around. Do not buy all of your needs or all souvenirs from one source.

Buy handicrafts directly from the artisans.

 

Donating, Giving Gifts, Charity & Direct-Aid Volunteerism

Not to encourage the culture of begging or dependency of children on tourists, we discourage giving money or gifts directly to children or random people. If you decide to help a begging family, ask what they need and accompany them to markets or shops to buy food or things they need.

The best is donating directly to school, monasteries, clinic or village’s leaders. Ask what they are lacking and buy what they need.

There are some NGOs and INGOs advertising the opportunities for volunteerism.

Patronise socially responsible businesses that support charitable causes.