Home DOs & DON'TS in Myanmar

DOs & DON'TS in Myanmar

Respect of the young for the elders and the affectionate compassion of the elders for the young constitute the basis of an attitude of loving-kindness which embraces all people. Furthermore, there is a nexus of obligations due by the young to the old and the old to the young which bonds all generations of Myanmar. Here, the young pay respect to the old in the form of "Gadaw" with the traditional tray of coconut, bananas, fruits and candle.


The Burmese are a religious people and hold all persons, places or things associated with religion in much veneration. This is true of Buddhists as well as Christians. Since your tour will take you to many places Buddhist and Christian it is necessary to be informed of modes of dress and behaviour which might cause displeasure or surprise and so should be avoided. On the other hand there is much appreciation when a foreign person is seen to be observing the proper from: -

  • Footwear and socks must be removed before entering the pagoda or monastery grounds.
  • Always wear shoulder-and knee covering clothes.
  • Avoid speaking loud and laughing or shouting.
  • Don't sit with your back against a Buddha image.
  • Don't disturb people praying or meditating.
  • Tuck away your feet when you sit on the floor.
  • Don't offer to shake hands with a monk. You can raise your hands with palms pressed together.
  • Don't sit higher than or at a lever with a monk.
In Public Places

There is a simple principle to follow for dress and behavior in public places. What may not be immodesty in your culture may not meet the standards of this culture. What may not be embarrassing to you may be embarrassing to others here. Be as conservative as you can: Dress and act decent, don't hug and kiss. The same principle applies to show of affection. Myanmar couples may hold hands as they walk. A Myanmar saying goes : The perpetrator is not embarrassed, the viewer is.


A person is equipped with emotions and also with the wisdom and means to hold those emotions in check:

  • Don't loose your temper, maintain a pleasant voice and always try to keep smiling.
  • Things have to be done in time. However, things also take time to do: Take a deep breath and be patient.
  • The persons serving you have had a totally different life experience, a different outlook. But as much as within their capacity, they are trying to please you. Try to put yourself in their place and be understanding.
Body Language

The body is the first basis of a person's identity. Touch produces one of the most sensitive of actions or responses. It can be sensuous, friendly, assuring or threatening. The use of various parts of the body conveys messages, obvious or hidden. So be careful about what you do to another's body or to your own. What follows will help you understand what the body says and to avoid bad language:

  • The head may or may not be considered sacred but it is the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered to be subject to aggression and a call for submission. Outside of a unique situation where such touching might be relevant, nobody would willingly accept it. So the first rule of grammar in body language: don't touch anybody on the head.
  • Myanmar woman place much value on modesty. To be touched on any part of the body by any man, especially a foreigner, is considered a violation of that modesty. So don't touch a woman on any part of the body. A Myanmar woman would also prefer not to shake hands, she would prefer to just smile and nod.
  • Keep the feet on the ground, try not to point with your feet.
  • Seek permission on retrieving an article above a person's head.
  • Stepping over a person's stretched our legs when sitting or any part of the body when lying down is resented. In any crowded place, if you have to move and it is impossible without stepping over someone ask permission by smile, nod or gesture.
  • Accept things with both hands, if not possible touch the inner side of your elbow with the other hand when receiving or giving things.
  • In the company of monks or elders never cross your legs.
  • When beckoning someone to come over do not flap your hand in the standard Western "come here" motion; instead turn the hand round so that your palm flaps down towards yourself.
  • A woman should never touch a monk.