Myanmar Etiquette – General Rules

Myanmar is a country of people with deep rooted custom and religion. For a westerner visiting Myanmar, there are a number of things that they need to observe. Some of the Myanmar etiquette rules may be strange for westerners. However, if you follow some simple rules, your stay in Myanmar will be happier. Myanmar (Burmese) people are very friendly and helpful, especially towards visitors. Respecting Myanmar (Burmese) culture, custom and etiquette rules will gain respect and friendship from Myanmar people. The followings are some of the general rules that you should always bear in mind in front of Myanmar people.

  • Myanmar (Burmese) people have different view on upper and lower parts of the body. Upper part is considered sacred while lower part is considered inferior to the upper part, even considered dirty. Therefore, never mix the things you use for your upper part with that of the lower part. For example, towel used for the lower part should never be mixed with the upper part, especially the one used for the head and the one for the feet.
  • Never raise your underwear above your head. This is considered very rude.
  • Never clean your feet in the basin you used to clean your hands and face.
  • Never use the water from the drinking pot to wash your feet. Myanmar people will consider this an insult.
  • Never put your feet on the pillow used for the head, or sit on the pillow for the head.
  • Never use your feet to point to a thing or a place. This is an insult for a Myanmar (Burmese).
  • Never touch a person’s hair, head or cheek, even if you consider it as a friendly gesture. Myanmar people would not consider it friendly, and will think you are rude.
  • Don’t touch any part of a┬álady’s body. You might end up in a police station.
  • Don’t cough, sneeze or blow your nose in the dining table. Other people will be offended.
  • Don’t point your feet towards Buddha’s image, elder person or any sacred place. Better not to point your feet to anybody at all.

If you observe these simple rules, you will avoid most of the problems and embarrassments while you are in Myanmar (Burma).

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8 comments for “Myanmar Etiquette – General Rules

  1. khin lay nwe
    January 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    How about business dining etiquettes in Myanmar?

  2. Michael Greulich
    May 23, 2012 at 6:55 am

    What is appropriate feminine dress for a single woman attending a Myanmar wedding reception in the US family restaurant?

    • May 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      If it is in US I think you can wear the same dress as for other US weddings.

  3. Daisy
    August 21, 2012 at 1:22 am

    When you say not to point your feet toward specific things, does that mean in general like standing with your feet pointing one way or if you are pointing at a thing to direct attention like you would with your hand?

    • August 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Pointing at things with your feet is definite NO NO. Even putting your feet towards somebody is a rude behaviour, especially elders. Beware of this cultural thing. Burmese are very sensitive about this issue.

      • Daisy
        August 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        I appreciate this information.

  4. sophia
    January 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

    If you are standing and talking with some one should you make your feet like duck feet and have tour toes point out past the person or keep your feet together and point them sideways away from the person?

    • January 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

      If you are standing there is no problem. Only if you are sitting, make sure you do not point your feet towards somebody.

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