What is the proper way to address to a young lady in Myanmar?

Photo: Sasint | Pixabay

Myanmar is a very conservative and traditionalist country. Ok, I know younger generation is different, and more open to modern ideals, but majority of the country is still quite conservative. Majority of people, even among urban young generation are still conservative about tradition and custom compared to youths of neighbouring countries. In addition, there is a Burmese culture of looking down on people who are not conformed to the traditional customs and traditional ways of life. (Ok, it may read more



Get a mobile SIM card in Myanmar

Although call rates within country are quite cheap, data rate are quite expensive. 1 GB of data will usually cost you around 5 US dollars, and the speed is still quite slow, even if you are using 3G or 4G network. At evening times when a lot of people are using social media, speed can be painfully slow and unreliable. All incoming calls and SMS area free of charge.


Living with Electricity Outage in Myanmar

Electricity outage is a regular event in Myanmar. The electricity produced in Myanmar is not enough for domestic use. As a result, even in Yangon which is the largest city in Myanmar, electricity outages are quite common. The outage frequently occurs during the rainy season when hydroelectric turbines can run at full. However, when the dry season approaches, these hydroelectric power plants cannot produce enough electricity, and outages become a daily event. In fact, during summer months and early rainy season, electricity supply has to be rationed. In large cities like Yangon and Mandalay, electricity is supplied in a half day quota (12 hours off, 12 hours on). This can sometimes get worse to the point where power on time is down to 8 hours a day in some months. In smaller towns, the electricity supply can even less than 6 hours a day in some dry months.

If you are a foreign expatriate intending to live in Myanmar, you should be well prepared to deal with constant electricity outage. The following advice will be valuable to you if you are one of the foreigners intending to come and live in Myanmar. This advice is mainly the city of Yangon but it can also be applied to other cities and towns to a certain extent.

1. Back to the ancient times – use candle

Well, this is the easiest way to fight back electricity outage although not the most convenient way. Candles are easy to buy and even if you have other means of supplying your own private electricity, it is wise to keep a pack of candles at your house in case.

2. Use DC-AC Inverter

This is the most convenient and the most cost effective way of supplying your own electricity. You can buy different brands of inverters with different power and function at any electric store in Yangon. They range from small 500 watt inverters up to a few kilowatts units. The more powerful inverters will need a larger capacity battery. If you intend to watch TV and light a few light bulbs at your house, choose the inverter unit with at least one kilowatt (the larger, the better). However, you cannot run air condition using the inverter but you can run one or two fans using the powerful inverter. Choose the inverter with automatic charging and voltage control function as it can also be used as a voltage regulator when the electricity is on.

DC-AC Inverter
DC-AC Inverter

3. Your own power station – Electric generator

This is not the cheapest option. However, when the electricity outage is too frequent, there is not enough time to recharge the inverters so your own electric generator can become quite handy during these times. You can buy different sizes of generators, up to the large capacity ones that can produce enough electric power to run your fridge and a few air conditioned units. Choose the generator depending on your budget and your intended usage.

4. Rent a serviced apartment

Alternatively, you can rent a serviced apartment where electricity is guaranteed (either by special VIP power supply or by own generator). There are only a few serviced apartments available in Yangon and you need to be really quick to get one room as the remaining vacant rooms are quickly filling up.

5. Rent a house in one of the VIP areas

If you are fortunate enough to be able to rent a house in one of the VIP areas, you are guaranteed to have regular uninterrupted supply of electricity 24/7. Ask your agent to find a house in one of these VIP locations. However, prepare to pay high price for a house in these areas. Please remember that even in these areas, there might be occasional outage so always keep a pack of candles and a few pieces of torch light or emergency lights.

Get married to a Myanmar man or lady

For a foreigner trying to get married to a Myanmar lady or man can be quite complicated. Here is the advice from my personal experience, and how we did it. This article give advice on getting married to a Myanmar man or lady. It is quite difficult, due to restrictions in Myanmar law, but entirely possible. (I am married to a Thai lady, and we did it successfully).

(Please see updated information for 2018 at the end of the article)

Many of our visitors asked us information on getting married to a Burmese. Apparently, they find it difficult to find information on getting married to a Burmese. There are no information available on  to a Burmese (guy or girl). I think it is time to give you some information on this issue for those Burmese guys and girls who found difficulty getting married to a foreigner, and those foreign men and ladies want to get married to a Burmese.

Burmese law allows Myanmar citizens to get married to a foreigner. In the past, it used to be easy to get it done. Just head to a local judge and he will marry you. However, since about 20 years ago, local judges refused to do it on the ground that it is difficult to distinguish between real marriage and the human trafficking. Today, no judge or local court would marry a Burmese and a foreigner.

Even after you get married, your marriage certificate (actually a marriage contract in Burma) is in Burmese language. It has to be translated into English. You can get a certified notary translation of your marriage certificate into English but the Foreign Office will refuse to certify that notary. You can still use it if your embassy accepts the notary without a certification by the Foreign Office, but some embassies would not.

The best way to get your marriage done is to do it in a foreign country. You can do it either in Thailand or in Singapore. If you are doing it is Thailand, you will need an affidavit of freedom to get married. This has to be endorsed by your embassy. For a Burmese, he can get an affidavit in a court in Myanmar, get it translated into English by a notary public, and then get a certification from the Foreign Office in Myanmar. This can then be endorsed by the Thai Embassy in Yangon or endorsed by the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. Both of you will need this affidavit. Then, go to a nearest amphur (local district administrative office) and get your marriage done. However, please check with the district office you intend to get married before you do anything as the requirements by the office may vary from one office to another. (Currently, Myanmar Foreign Office refuses to endorse the translation of affidavit of being single. Myanmar embassy in Thailand will also refuse to counter endorse, so this option is off at this moment).

Easier one is to get married in Singapore. This is what we have done when we could not do it either in Myanmar or in Thailand. All you need is a valid passport. You can file your marriage application online. However, the applicant (either you or your fiancé) has to be in Singapore at the time of filing for at least 15 days. After the filing, you can leave Singapore as there is 21 days waiting period. You will need two witnesses (either Singaporean or foreigner of at least 21 years of age). You can choose to get married at the ROM (Registry of Marriage) or with a solemnizer in a hotel. However, getting a solemnizer is sometimes difficult. Most Solemnizers only offer their service through recommendation so if you do not have any one to recommend you, you won’t be able to use this option. We were very fortunate to have one who offered her service without recommendation from anyone else. I just phoned her and she agreed to offer her service. There was no charges for her, but we donated some money to her church. Your best bet would be to get married at the ROM. You can get the complete information at Registry of Marriage website.

Update (2018): Someone mentioned me that you can now get married to a Myanmar man/lady legally in Myanmar if you have contact to a correct agent/lawyer. He mentioned there are a few agents’ offices around Sule Pagoda in Yangon, who would arrange to have a legal marriage done with a judge. I am not sure about the authenticity of this claim, but you could probably ask around the lawyer offices around Sule Pagoda. The fees might be quite substantial though. In addition, the marriage contract will be in Burmese, which need to be translated, notarised and endorsed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Until recently, MOFA refused to endorse the marriage certificates with foreigner spouse. This may already have changed now. You should at least try to see if this is true or not. It would probably save both time and money.

Night Life in Yangon

Night life in Yangon, for a foreigner, is quite dry and boring. Even for us who are long time residents of Yangon feel night life in Yangon is becoming more and more boring. There are very few bars and night clubs. Very few restaurants and tea shops open until midnight, due to government restrictions (in the past, many tea shops and restaurants open the whole night, especially in the China Town). Anyway, for those who have money, people still can enjoy a bit of night life, although one will feel it quite boring compared to that in neighbouring Thailand.

Night Market in Chinatown, Yangon, Myanmar
Night Market in Chinatown, Yangon, Myanmar

Original image by Onourownpath.com at Flickr.

For Simple Night

For those who just want to spend their night in a simple way, just head to China town. Even though not officially allowed to open beyond midnight, you can still find bustling night bazaar and roadside food stalls in China town. You can have nice and delicious Chinese food at a cheap price there and observe the local way of life in Chian town. China town in situated in downtown Yangon. Ask taxi driver to bring you to Latha Road, get off there and walk in the streets full of stalls and people.

Bars

There are many bars at hotels like Traders, Sedona, Summit Park View and many other high end hotels. In addition, there are also a few bars outside of these hotels. Especially famous bars are at Grand Mee Ya Htar Resident (on Bo Gyoke Aung San Road, near Trader’s Hotel, and 50th street bar (in 50th Street, downtown Yangon).

Night Clubs

There are a few clubs at Sedona Hotel, Park Royal Hotel, BME (beside Summit Park View Hotel) , Asia Plaza Hotel and Fomer BME(near Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s house). All clubs are red light zones (unofficial) where foreigners can hire  call girls at around US$ 30-50 per night.

Karaoke

There many Karaoke bars in Yangon. Most of them open all night long. Some are family friendly Karaokes but most are for men only. Usually, there are bar girls at these Karaokes who will come and sit with the customers. Most girls will not follow you (they are not strictly call lgirls), but you might be able to make an acquaintance with someone if you are looking for some companion while living in Yangon.

Be Careful

Most important thing is, don’t get drunk and don’t fight. When you call some girls to your hotel room, always keep passports, travel documents, money and any valuable thing safely under lock and key. There are a few cases where valuables are stolen. Remember one thing – prostitution is illegal in Myanmar.

Finding a house maid in Yangon

For foreigners to Myanmar, hiring a house maid is an important thing to do in Myanmar. Not only the house maid should be a skilled one, she should also be reliable and honest. Hiring a house maid in Myanmar is not as straight forward as you migh think, as there are no formal agencies to handle such kind of things. However, there are some informations available for you that would aid you in finding a good house maid in Myanmar.

The following suggestion and information assume that you are living in Yangon (Rangoon) and trying to find a house maid in Yangon.

General Information

First of all it’s difficult to find a house maid and more difficult to find a good one. However, for foreigners, since they can pay more (than locals) they tends to get qualify maids. Ethnic maids are among the highest scored because of their personality (fair skin, decent looking), sincerity, loyalty and cleverness. It is better to keep several single tasking maids; one for cook, one for cleaning and one for babysitting.But if your family size is small, let’s say maximum 3, you can keep a multi tasking maid who do both cooking and cleaning but you have to pay more than single tasking one.

Mostly, hiring a maid is done through contacts by means of mouth to mouth advertising. But there are some Christian missions or churches acting like agent service to help the ladies from remote areas to get a job as house maids. There are some private brokers also but they are not much reliable. The best way to get a maid is through contacts from people (driver, maid, cooks, etc) who are currently working at other foreigner friend’s houses. There are some maids who have been working for foreigners for many years that they are well qualified. Some of them can even cook European, Western foods & Japanese foods and communicable in English.

Fees/salary

For well qualified cooks, salary is over US$ 100 per month up to US$ 300 per month. For experienced maid (cleaning & washing) salary is around US$ 50 to 80 per month. You can get an inexperienced maid at around US$ 30 to 40 per month. The salary of maids for locals is much lower than above but foreigners have to pay more naturally (as they are expected to have more money). You can pay the salary of the maids either in FEC or equivalent Kyat.

Hiring Tips

Try to search one through your contacts (colleagues, their driver, etc) and community services (like Christian missions). You can also try local employment agencies but you will be bind by contract and service charge. However, it is usually the easiest way. Make sure you really know the source of your contacts to get reliable maids because there are always bad people on earth. There is no standard for terms and conditions for work, everything is by negotiation. Make sure both of you agree upon terms and conditions of work before hiring.

Make sure you give fair quality of life as they are your staffs, not servants. There are also government organizations who are watching for abuses of maids. Lastly, don’t be too mean if you want experienced maid. You will get what you paid for.

This post is contributed by our guest contributor Myo Thaw.

Living in Yangon (Rangoon) as an expatriate

Karaweik, Yangon

Jeff B left a guest book entry in our guest book asking about living in Yangon (Rangoon) as a foreigner. We believe this is a question many foreigners coming and living to work in Yangon want to know. The following is a brief advice for living in Yangon as an expatriate.

Accommodation

This will usually be provided by your organization so there is no need to worry. However, if you need to hire a serviced apartment, there are only a few options. It is better to ask your organization to arrange the accommodation, as the serviced apartments are usually fully booked.

Transportation

Public transportation is very poor in Yangon. Your organization should provide you a car for your personal use. Otherwise, you will have to rely on taxis. Try to know the usual taxi fares as taxis in Myanmar are not metered and the price can be high especially for visitors and foreigners. Most of the taxis do not open air-condition. If your organization provides you a car, you can get a local driving license if you could show the license authority your international driving license.

Shopping

You can buy some imported products at City Mart Supermarket which has around 10+ outlets in Yangon. You can find many imported products that are adequate for most of your daily needs, but the products available are not as extensive as in other countries. And the prices of the imported products are about 50 percent more expensive than that in neighboring Thailand.

Communication

It is difficult to get a fixed land line phone in Myanmar unless it is already pre-installed in the house you rent. If you want to be connected, you need to buy a prepaid SIM card at US$ 20 a card. The calling rate is quite expensive and currently, there is no mean of topping up the credit or air time. That means after one month, you will have to buy a new SIM card and a new number. If you want the same number, you have to buy a post paid SIM card which is difficult to get, and at a cost of US$ 1500 per card. The price of GSM and CDMA mobile SIM cards has dropping down since the new government take power in 2011. Currently, the GSM SIM cards are sold at 200,000 kyats per card while CDMA cards are sold at 1,500 Kyats per card. However, 1,500 kyats per card CDMA cards are sold in a lottery system where applicants are chosen in a lottery. It is now fairly easy to buy a SIM card in Myanmar, and mobile coverage has also been much improved with most towns along Yangon and Mandalay highway are covered by mobile network. In addition, several large and small towns in states and regions are also covered by mobile network. You can also use internet with the mobile phone, although the speed is painfully slow. International calling rates remain high in Myanmar.

For latest update on getting a mobile GSM SIM card, voice and data charges and voice/data packages on offer, please refer to our article Getting a GSM SIM card in Myanmar.

GSM mobile phones (SIM Cards) can be hired at a rate of 45,000 kyat (US$ 40 – 45) per month. This is from someone who is lucky enough to get a subscriber line. The rent is paid in advanced for 6 months to one year, with a deposit of 200,000 kyat (US$ 190). The above fee is only for hiring the SIM card. You will have to pay for the phone bills by yourself.

Update: Now CDMA 800MHz hand phones can be available with around 520,000ks only. It use prepaid card system just like in other countries. This is new system developed by the colloboration of Elite Tech(a member of Htoo Group) and MPT.

They have issued more than 100,000 mobiles already and more 150,000 will be issued. However, the catch is, it can be used only in the city it is ment for. However, there are some news that they are going to open up for roaming around relevant cities.

And now mobile phone prices are falling down that GSM price is only around 1.3 million kyats.

As CDMA hand phones are abundant, a year’s hiring costs can cover for buying a new CDMA mobile; many people are returning their hired phones and buying new CDMA phones.

And phone hiring price is coming down that a GSM phone cost around 30000~35000 ks/month(previously 40000~45000ks) and CDMA800 costs around 25000ks/month. (Thanks Myo for this information update)

Update 2011: Government announced plan for 200,000 additional GSM SIM cards at 500,000 kyat per SIM (about US$ 500) in 2011. However, it is not clear there will be appropriate upgrade to already congested current GSM network. If there is no upgrade of current GSM network, expect congestion, poor signal and difficulty connecting and making calls with the GSM phones.

Government has called tender from foreign and local private companies to submit application for mobile operator license and it is expected that within a few year’s time, the mobile coverage and network would improved dramatically.

Internet

Forget about getting a broadband internet access at your home. It is quite difficult expensive and rather slow. Maximum is 2.5 Mbps, which is hilariously slow for an ADSL line. However, it is easy to find an internet cafe around you. The cost is usually between 400 to 600 kyat an hour. To use Gmail and Yahoo mail in Myanmar, you need to use a proxy. 

Eating

There are a number of good Burmese restaurants in Yangon. And the price is cheap also. There are also quite a large number of good Chinese restaurants in Yangon. For western food, you can head to a few restaurants at the hotels and around Inya Lake. Search in the local directory for the listing and also ask your colleagues for a good restaurant. Don’t expect much from the western food in Yangon.

Night life

Night life in Yangon is nearly non-existence. There are a few pubs and half a dozen night clubs in Yangon.

Entertainment

There are a few cinema halls in Yangon that show local, western and Indian movies. Usually, western movies are old movies (one or two years ago). Not much to expect. However, you can buy pirated VCDs and DVDs at very cheap prices on the streets of Yangon.

There are two TV channels in Burma, both of them own and run by the government. In Yangon, you can subscribe to the local paid TV channel which also airs some of the foreign channels such as CNN, Discovery, MTV and other movie and sports channels. If you are willing to pay more, you can install a UBC satellite dish and subscribe monthly.

Electricity

Most of the time, electricity is cut off, unless you happen to live in a VIP area. Always have candle and flash lights as well as emergency lights at your home. People in Yangon usually have either electric generators or battery inverters to use during the electricity outage.

Water

Water is provided by the municipality of Yangon. This is ok for general use and cooking as it is quiet clean and safe. For drinking purpose, it is better to use bottled water. You can also install water purifiers at your house.

House Maid

It is difficult to get a good and reliable maid nowadays in Myanmar. Most of them don’t want o stay with the foreigners and they tend to change house within a few months. You can contact the Christian Missions as they run service for Karen maids.

Health Care

Government hospitals in Myanmar have a very poor service. Most of the time, people rely on private hospitals and clinics. You can contact one of these private hospitals for book for the appointment. Most of the time, you will be charged in US dollar. The two most famous clinics in Yangon are Asia Royal Clinic (01-538055),

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