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People & Culture of Myanmar

Myanmar Information

The Burmese culture is very different to the western interpretation of lifeand politesse. Have a read below about different aspects and facets of life in Burma. It's fascinating, gentle and very spiritually alive.


 

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Language

Myanmar (Burmese) is the country's official language, though English is spoken in large towns and by elderly folk. There are also many languages and dialects among the 135 different national races.

The modern alphabet consists of 33 letters (consonants) and 12 basic vowels (sequential extensions result in 21 vowels) which are combined with various symbols (4 in basic, 11 in total consonant combination symbols) to indicate the tones.

Population and People

Myanmar is a union of over 100 national races with their own languages and dialects, The major races are Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Kayin, Mon and Rakhine.

Myanmar embraces all the national races. The population of Myanmar is 51 million with the Bamar, the majority race making up about 70%.

Religion

Buddhism is the predominant religion of Myanmar and Theravada Buddhism is embraced by about 80% of the population. The local temple is central to every community, and is also a traditional place of education.

Every male person is expected to temporarily don the monk's robes at least once in his lifetime usually as a young man. There is freedom of worship for other religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism.

Neat and respectful dress should be worn in all religious shrines. It is not considered polite to visit religious monuments in shorts, miniskirts or hot pants. Though shoes can be worn in temple compounds, they should be removed before entering the chapel of the principal Buddha image.

Indeed, all Buddha images are regarded as sacred, regardless of size, age or position, and should all be shown due respect. Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by a woman, or accept anything from a woman's hand.

Social

Names are preceded by a number of different titles. Ko is the general title for an adult male. U (pronounced oo) precedes an older or well-respected man's name, while Aung is used for younger men. A woman's name is preceded by Daw. A handshake is considered an acceptable form of greeting.

Shoes are usually removed before entering a traditional home, though this may no longer be expected in modern city residences. Displaying the soles of the feet is considered offensive, as is pointing feet at people or objects or touching people on the head. Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. Small presents are acceptable and appreciated, although never expected.

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