Culture Shock – The Story of “YES”

Myanmar way of saying yes

Myanmar way of saying yes

I worked for a French Company for over 10 years. When I talked with my boss and other French friends, I used to prompt the conversation with YES, not with “ah ha”, “I see”, “really” etc. like in western way.

After some times they came back and asked me if I have done their requests. I was puzzled. “I have never promised to do that thing for you”, I told them. But you said, “YES a few days ago” they countered.

This kind of incident happened not only to me but also to my other Myanmar friends.

The root of the problem lies in “YES”. Myanmar (Burmese) use the prompting word “YES” when conversing, westerners don’t. For Myanmar (Burmese), YES is not a promise or acceptance. It is simply a way of acknowledging the conversation: a simple way of saying “I hear what you say”.

So when we speak in English, our habit of saying YES in Myanmar (Burmese) is literally translated into English word YES.

We have our own special word when we accept something. It is a cultural difference. Later we had to explain it to our French friends to take our “YES” as a meaningless word.

At that time it was not funny at all; we used to argue heatedly in meetings. That is my story of YES.

Contribution by Ko Ko.

1 comment for “Culture Shock – The Story of “YES”

  1. Myat
    June 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I’m 15 and I’m studying in England. I’m really interested in writing articles and stuffs. I’m thinking I might as well study journalism when I get to a university. So, can you suggest me any advise and whatnots ?

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