• Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    Indonesia
    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Nepal!

    Nepal: Phewa Lake. Go Now!

    Nepal
    This landlocked country mixes the cultures of the Indian sub-continent with the high Himalayas. Explore Nepal!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    Mongolia
    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

  • Qatar!

    Qatar: Dhows in Doha Bay. Go Now!

    Qatar
    Although little more than a deserted peninsula, Qatar has a thriving culture based on technology and immigration, with Doha (pictured) taking the lead. Explore Qatar!

  • Kyrgyzstan!

    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    Kyrgyzstan
    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Social Life in Myanmar

Behavior

Burmese Culture - Street Market
Street Market in Mandalay

The Myanmarese are somewhat conservative in most aspects of their lives partially due to their Buddhist faith, which preaches modesty. However, they are growing aware of the world around them as well as the differences in opinions and behaviors. Because of this they are quite curious about various cultures and foreigners so odd behaviors are generally accepted, but they may also be questioned by the curious Myanmarese.

As a visitor, the most important thing to be aware of is that provoking the people or speaking out against the government is frowned upon and may get you in legal trouble so don't initiate conversations on this topic. The people are curious about foreigners and may ask you about yourself, your country, and your government; you are free to speak about these topics, but do not compare your government with theirs in an unfavorably way and do not insult their government in any way. Many locals will speak of the ills of their government, but may also praise recent changes to their country; remember they are telling you this in confidence and you should not use it to provoke the people or turn these conversations into public debates.

Also, be aware that the Muslim minority (found especially in the west) refrains from drinking alcohol and from eating pork products so it is best to avoid these foods when in their presence. The Hindus (also found primarily in the west and the north) believe cattle are sacred so when in their presence avoid eating beef. However, the majority of the population is Buddhist and they have no eating and few other behavioral restrictions outside what is mentioned above.

Dress

Burmese Culture - Local in Bagan
Local in Bagan

The people of Myanmar wear traditional clothing more than other people in the region and this becomes obvious as soon as you enter the country. Although most people wear western shirts, they wear longyi (or sarongs) instead of pants and everyone wears these long cloths wrapped around their waists. The longyi are generally dark in color and they complement the thanakha, which is similar to make-up wore by both men and women. This yellow substance offers protection from the sun, moisture to the face, and beautification for the wearer. Men generally only put this yellow substance on the tip of their noses and a dot on each check, but women wear large amounts of it on each check and on their foreheads. There are also a large number of monks in the country, who wear red robes and shave their heads; women engaged in the monastic life also shave their heads, but wear pink robes.

Despite the local dress, there are few dress restrictions in Myanmar and the visitor is under no obligation or expectation to dress as the locals do. Although few locals wear shorts, there is no discourtesy involved in wearing them as this is a cultural phenomenon, not a religious rule. Of course if you are visiting temples or other sights of particular religious or political importance you may be expected to cover up with long pants and shoulders should be covered at a minimum. Sunbathing naked or women sunbathing topless is never permitted, even on beaches.

This page was last updated: November, 2013