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 not be the culture only dominant in Myanmar, but believe me, you might be looked down for acting different from the crowd in Myanmar). Many young Myanmar ladies may feel uncomfortable when a foreigner talk to them in an intimate way, especially in public. Something normal in Western culture may seem inappropriate in Myanmar. You need to know how to address and talk to young ladies in Myanmar if you do not want to offend the locals, or don’t want your lady friend to be looked down by others.
First thing that you should definitely not do in any circumstance is to hold the lady (well, except if she is your girlfriend). I know in western culture, people hold each other as a way of greeting, when we meet each other after a long period of absence, or if we are not going to be seeing each other for a long period. However, in Myanmar culture, ladies do not hold men as a way of greeting. (Myanmar lady only holds her boyfriend, so if you want to hold a Myanmar lady, make sure you are her boyfriend! Even if she is your girlfriend, you should not hold her (or kiss her) in public. Don’t forget that Myanmar is a very conservative country.
Not only holding a lady is a definite no, no, you should also not touch any part of a lady. You shouldn’t touch or hold a lady’s hand in Myanmar. Myanmar ladies only hold their boyfriends’ hand. Of course, if you are her boyfriend, you can hold her hands anytime you want, even in public. So, don’t touch any part of the lady in Myanmar.
When you talk to a lady, address her as “Nyi Ma” if she is younger, and “A-Ma” if she is older. If you use her name, put “Ma” in front of her name for younger ladies, and “Daw” in front of her name if she is older. Also, use “Daw” if she is a government official or a senior staff in your company. It show respect to the lady by using a proper honourifics when addressing them. You will be regarded highly in their eyes as well as in the eyes of the public.
When talking, show appropriate respect appropriate to their age and social standing. In Myanmar, women are given as much respect as men, and it is their social standing, and not gender that determines their position in the society. Wives of government officials should also be given appropriate respect, sometimes even more respect than their husbands. Many women in Myanmar also holds high ranking positions in the government. Under no circumstances should you say any words that is disrespectful to women in general.
If you just mind these, you would be OK in Myanmar when communicating with ladies. Don’t forget that even young ladies deserve respect.