Many a time, foreigners (especially western foreign expats working in Myanmar) will notice that things they ask from Myanmar friends are met with affirmative answers but never materialized. For example, a westerner expat might invite his friend to a dinner party. The Myanmar friend is not free on that day. Normally, a westerner will simply decline to the invitation and tell his friend that he cannot come because he is not free. In case of Myanmar friend, he would probably say yes, even though he knows he cannot come. On the day of the dinner, he is not appearing. He would not also call his foreigner friend that he cannot come. The next day, he will apologize his friend for not being able to come, blah, blah, blah. The foreigner might think that his friend is not trust worthy and not consistent.
Here lies that difference between western culture and Myanmar culture. Myanmar people are usually reluctant to say no, especially to foreigners. (Forget about those annoying taxi drivers and shop keepers. They are the exceptions.) The closer he is to you, the more he may be reluctant to say no. Thus, instead of saying “No”, he will simply choose to be absent, hoping that you might not notice his absence. Or he may choose to call you at last minute when you have prepared everything for the dinner.
This is not only with the foreigners. Many of my friends also act the same with me. Many times, they will say “may be”, “I think I will be free”, “I will try to come”, blah, blah, blah. As a Myanmar myself, I know that he will not come to the appointment.
For westerners not familiar with Myanmar culture and Myanmar way of life, this is a very strange and uncomfortable situation. It may appear to then as Burmese people are unreliable. However, the truth is, it is difficult for a Myanmar to say NO to other people. I personally don’t know how it happens that way, but I myself also find it difficult to say NO many times. It is bad, but it is firmly rooted in the life and culture of Myanmar people.
So next time, if you invite or ask something from your friend, and if he blah, blah, blah, make sure he will really come to the appointment or do what you ask him to do.