What to Do When Traveling in Myanmar

Traveling to Myanmar, you will find Myanmar people friendly and warm in your meetings with them. To be invited into their home is to have established a special relationship which is secure enough for them to introduce their family to you. It is a relationship which is strong enough to overcome their anxiety that they may not be offering the level and quality of food and service which you should receive as their guest.

Taking off the shoes

Should you or should you not take off your shoes while visiting a family in Burma trips? Look for several clues. If the floor is cement or terrazzo and the hosts are wearing slippers, you can keep your shoes on. If the floor is wood parquet and polished and the hosts are barefoot, you should take off your shoes even though you are told you may keep them on. In any case, it is nice to feel the touch of the polished wooden floor to your bare feet.

Take the seat indicated

The host would already have worked out how the guests and members of the family should be seated. Therefore, take the seat that is indicated to you. It may be the best seat in the parlor but don’t be embarrassed. The host has wanted it that way.
So also be at the dining table. Take the seat indicated though it may be at the head of the table. Myanmar people have no rule that the host and hostess should occupy the head seats. They prefer that the guest of honor sits there.

Not necessary to shake hands

You may offer to shake hands with the host. You have probably shaken hands at your previous meetings. You would not be held amiss if you do not extend your hand to the lady of the house. A nod, a smile, and a greeting, nei kaun: thala: would do very nicely and she would be glad not having to shake your hand.

Accept things with your right hand

The right hand is the one used for all worthy acts. The left hand is held to be not so clean. When things are offered to you, they are offered with the right hand or both hands. It is impolite to hand things over with the left hand. On the same principle, things should be accepted with the right hand or both hands as the case may be.

Don’t try eating with your fingers

They know you are not comfortable eating with your fingers. So they have laid out spoon and fork for you. And however more the host and hostess would enjoy their food eating with the fingers, they are using spoon and fork to keep you company. Occasionally, a few at the table may be using their fingers. Don’t volunteer to join them if you are really not used to eating with your fingers. You will only make a mess and not enjoy the meal. And after the meal, there is the job of washing your hands clean of the cooking oil, which calls for several successive basins of water. Keep to the spoon and fork.

Let the oldest be served first

As the guest, the hostess will serve you first. However, if there are older people at the table suggest that they will be served first. The question will be settled and your courtesy appreciated.