With more than 135 ethnic groups calling Myanmar home (or Burma as old name), this historically volatile country owns a patchwork of traditions, customs, and languages. Ethnic groups fall under Shan, Bamar, Kayin, Mon, Kayan, Kachin, Chin, as well as Rakhine.
Most of Burmese are Buddhist, which put a unifying effect on this Southeast Asia country as the religion plays an important role in daily life of the locals. Buddhist men are expected to take the robe twice in their life, monks are revered and the dress is expected to be modest. Shorts, if worn, should reach the knee and shoulders should be covered. Though Millennials are starting to challenge this standard of dress, everyone still covers up when visiting religious sites. The rest of the population is Hindu, Muslim, Christian or animist.
Regardless of religion, many Burmese mixes their religious beliefs with nat (spirit) worship and are deeply superstitious. Most villages have a nat sin, or shrine, to honour the village’s guardian nat, and you’ll likely see car mirrors adorned with red and white cloths, which are believed to offer nat protection. Astrology is commonly used to find a partner and choose important dates, like weddings, funerals and celebratory events.
About three-quarters of the population live in the country, where poverty is still common and labour is arduous. Families are large and tend to live in thatched huts that lack running water and electricity. Despite these hardships, many country-dwelling Burmese are hospitable, content and quick to call new friends ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.