In Myanmar, if you want to be seen polite, you should be able to use proper title when you address somebody. Burmese use appropriate titles and pronouns when addressing each other. When you are talking to an elderly male, you should put “U” (pronounce Oo) in front of his name. Thus, Mr. Ba becomes U Ba. This is also true if the person you are addressing is a government official or somebody of high social status. When addressing an elderly female or a female official, address her with “Daw” in front of her name. (E.g. Daw Mya). When talking to a male of the same age and social status, you should put “Ko” in front of his name. (Ko Mya). If a female of the same age, use “Ma” instead. (Ma Mya). To a younger male, you can either use “Ko” or “Maung”. (Ko Mya or Maung Mya). To a female of younger age, use “Ma” also. (Ma Mya). To address children, use “Maung” for a boy and “Ma” for a girl.
You should also be able to use proper pronouns when talking to Myanmar people. When talking with an elderly person, call him “Oo” or “Oo Lay”, which laterally mean Uncle. To call an elderly, use “A Ba” or if he is too old, use “A Phoe”, meaning grandpa. To call an older woman, use “A Daw” (Aunty). For an elderly woman, use “A Phwar” (grandma). To call another person of the same age, you can simply use his name. if he is older (just a few years), call him “A Ko” (elder brother). If he is younger, you can call him “Nyi Lay” (younger brother). For a woman who is only a few years older than you, use “A Ma” (elder sister), and for a younger one, “Nyi Ma” (younger sister) is appropriate.
Burmese people sometimes use “Sayar” to address a government official or a superior in work place. Sayar literally means teacher. We also call our teachers sayar. With a doctor, either use sayar or doctor. If you know how to use proper title and proper pronouns when addressing Burmese people, people will be really impressed with you. Moreover, they will think you are really polite.
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2 thoughts on “Myanmar Etiquette – How to properly address a person in Myanmar”
When I left Myanmar after 5 years service, I was called U Khin Maung Gyi. How would I translate that to my son who asks what it means?
Not all Myanmar names have meaning as a whole. Yours is one of those, but I’ll try to translate it as close as possible.
Khin = Friendly
Maung = similar to Mr.
Gyi = Big
So, you can translate your Burmese name as: Big Friendly Guy (that’s the approximate translation)