Culture Of Myanmar

The culture of Myanmar is influenced by Buddhism, the Bamar people (the largest group in Myanmar), and neighbour countries such as India, China and Thailand. They are manifested in language, cuisine, music, dance and theatre.

Buddhism mixing with cosmology, Hindu myth and Nat (soul of dead people), worship affect almost to the life here. Here is home of thousands Buddha statues, each of which has its charm. Monks are highly respected in Myanmar. Myanmar is one of the most affected-by-Theravada Buddhist countries in the world.

Burmese Theravada Buddhism historically influenced the art and literature of Myanmar.

We can see that Yama Zatdaw - Myanmar’s National Epic (which is considered as the adaptation of Ramayana) is influenced by Thai, Mon people (First people in the Central Indian peninsula to receive Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka and spread it around) and Indian texts. 

More recently, the British colonization and the Western colonial rule have somehow influenced the culture of the country, including its language and education. The colonial architectural influences are most noticeable in big cities like Yangon. Many ethnic minorities, especially the Karen – live in the Southeast and the Kachin, the Chin - live in the North and Northwest, follow Christianity thanks to the missionaries.

Language of Burma

The official language of Myanmar is Burmese. Burmese is used as the mother tongue of more than 34 million people in the world and is the second language of ethnic minorities in Myanmar. Burmese can be classified into two categories: the "official" type commonly found in texts, newspapers and radio, the second one is more common in everyday conversations. The writing in Burmese is derived from the Mon script.

As soon as you arrive, you will immediately realize that this is a simple, friendly country with sincere and hospitable people. Besides dialect, culture, historical sites; the traditional costume of Myanmar is also an attraction that promises to bring you many exciting Myanmar travel experiences.

The Burmese have the traditional costume for men named Longchy (a tight-fitting sarong wrapped in the middle with a shirt or a Taipon and Thummy - which is quite similar to Lao and Thai skirt - for women. The locals all wear sandals like Laotian. They only wear shoes with European clothes.

Myanmar people have a strange custom: to become a beautiful girl, a five-year-old girl must have a waistband and then it needs multiplying by embroidering until 30 ones.


Unlike women in other countries that use may kinds of cosmetic powder and vanishing cream in makeup, the Myanmar women use Thanaka to cover their face, neck and hands to protect their skin from the sun and for beauty, too. Thanaka is also known as the Elephant Apple Tree, the name of a prominent tree in Central Myanmar, Southern, and Southeast Asia. The trees grow pretty slowly. Especially, they can grow and develop on dry, rocky soil and the areas of water shortage. Therefore, it must take at least 35 years of age to be considered as mature and nutritious enough to use. Thanaka powder has many effects on the skin. The natural ingredients in Thanaka help skin retain moisture. Also, a study from London and Bangkok has shown that Thanaka contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. It also protects the skin from the damage of UV rays from the sun. The Burmese women have trusted Thanaka for daily skin care and protection for more than 2000 years. That makes Thanaka not only a traditional cosmetic but also a part of national culture - an identity that people here are proud to maintain.

Betel and Betal Chewing

Myanmar people keep the tradition of betel chewing. The betel nuts have been kept and appeared everywhere in this country, from rural to urban areas, from elder to youth. Yes, all make chewing betel nut into an evident habit in their daily life.

Regardless of age, gender, they all chew betel nut. Everybody chew betel nuts - even a vendor girl, an old lady, a farmer, young men in their chess tournament... 

Many people joke that Myanmar people are like "red-tooth vampires", but they must be gentle and friendly vampires.

Religions, Beliefs, Festivalsin Myanmar (Burma)

Pagodas and temples are the centre of Burmese culture life, especially in traditional Burmese villages. Monks are respected, while kneeling is a way people express their respects.

You can find the culture of Burmese most clearly expressed in villages, where the local ceremony the festivals throughout the year. The initiation ceremony called Shinbyu importantly marks the maturity of a boy when he starts the life in pagoda even though it is only a short period. Girls also have an ear-piercing ceremony when they reach adulthood. On this ceremony day, you can see the children makeup like the princes and princess. They are welcomed in the streets of splendid before being taken to the temple to be a monk. This event is the most important ceremony here.

Myanmar is a country with many of the most popular festivals in the world.

The festivals here are taken place all year round but mainly focus on the time of March and April, which is the land-idling period. The festivals here are unique and attract more and more people to come here to explore. Being different from many countries in the world, Myanmar welcomes the New Year in April. They start their new year by a water splash festival. They splash water together with the desire of washing away all dirt of the old year and welcoming a luck and happiness new year. If you travel to Myanmar during this special event, you will immerse in the influx of Myanmar people and enjoy a fun time in the splashing water streets.

Similar to the Mid-Autumn festival, the Lighting Festival is taken placed in Oct. It lasts for three days, and people light many lamps, candles, firecrackers to welcome the return of Buddha from Nirvana. Another famous festival is the Independent Festival of Myanmar which is on 4 of January every year.

And there are countless other unique festivals such as the puppet arts festival, Phaung Daw U festival, sticky rice cooking festival (Htamane), or Ko Gyi Kyaw god festival… in this land.

Food, cuisine and eating habits of Burmese

Myanmar people have many interesting eating habits. They eat only two main meals a day, one in the morning at 0900 and one at 05:00 pm, between them is a light lunch. On the food tray for meals, they often have vegetables, shrimp and fish. They believe that they could eat well without shrimp and fish. Myanmar people do not eat rice with chopsticks, fork, or spoon but by the right hand. Burmese usually combine rice into ball-shape for easy to eat. In front of each person is a basin of water for them to wash their right hand before eating because the left hand is only for personal hygiene. If you need to give something to a Burmese, please remember to use your right hand. It is important to note that Buddhists do not eat beef while Muslims do not eat pork.

A traditional meal is quite challenging for tourists as they are waterless. So besides some meals with Myanmar way to explore the local cuisine, trying Vietnamese or Thailand food for days here is a good idea.

Some notes about the culture of the country

Every country has its customs. Before travelling to Myanmar, you could learn some taboos to make the trip great without any not-good impressions for both local people and you.

  • Burmese have names only, no surname. When greeting each other, they often clasp their hands in front of their chest or bow.
  • You should remove your shoes outside before entering the house. Saluting with a smile is a common Burmese custom.
  • Myanmar people love animals in general and birds in particular. Buffaloes are also respected. When we encounter a buffalo on the road, regardless of the old, they will let the buffalo passing first.
  • When visiting temples and pagodas, everyone has to take off the shoes. You should wear long pants (over the knee) and shirt with sleeves, do not show a lot of cleavages.
  • In some certain solemn and sacred areas places in temples and pagodas such as the Buddha Tower and the hall reserved for monks to pray and chant, women will not be allowed to enter. They are also not allowed to touch the sacred objects there. You had better double-check with the local guide to make sure you are in the right position.
  • In Myanmar, only men can become monks. Women are also not allowed to touch or shake hands with monks in any form. You can put a handkerchief on your hands when giving offerings so that your hands will not touch the monks. If you touched him by accident, you should apologize to him immediately.
  • Women here are asked not to sit on the roof of cars or boats... because she would be considered sitting on other people's heads.
  • When you give money, gifts or anything to others, you should give it with your right hand or with both hands to show your respect.
  • If you wear Myanmar traditional costumes, you should wear secretively, using bra (with women), and no show a lot of cleavages.
  • Filming and taking photos is a sensitive issue in Myanmar. This is the most serious trouble for tourists. Please do not take photos or film at any remoted points related to politics, hospitals, security... If you are caught by the police when taking photos, they will ask you to delete the pictures, it would be better to follow and apologize. Do not run away or try to convince it because it will only take your time and make the situation even more difficult..
    Besides, you should ask for permission before taking photos of the local people in local life, too. Normally, nobody likes to be recorded their backward weakness.

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