Unlike westerners, Burmese don’t wear shoes or slippers indoor. They don’t wear shoes or slippers on the pagoda. It is important that visitors to Burma should pay proper attention to this custom when visiting Myanmar. To give a rough idea what a foreigner should observe about footwear, we would like to give our readers a few advice.
Burmese usually don’t wear shoes or slippers in their house. Whether wooden floor, carpeted or cement/marble floor, we don’t wear shoes indoor. Thus it is advisable for a foreigner to remove his/her shoes or slippers before entering a house. There is usually a place at the entrance where the visitors could leave their shoes. Leave your shoe or slipper there. You don’t need to remove your socks. It is ok to have your socks on in a Burmese house.
- On pagoda, footwear of any kind is strictly prohibited. No shoes, no slippers, no socks, no stockings, no footwear of any kind. You have to walk BAREFOOT on the pagoda. If you wear socks on the pagoda, Burmese would consider it an insult to their religion. It was a source of intense political movement 90 years ago in British Burma when Europeans were allowed to wear shoes on the pagodas. Surely, you wouldn’t want to remind Burmese of this forgotten event.
- Monasteries: it has two parts, the monastery compound (ground) and the monastery building. Monks are allowed to wear slippers in the monastery ground. For ordinary people, this is a controversy. Some monks believe that people should wear footwear in the monastery compound while others believe they should not wear. It depends on the monastery you are visiting. The best advice is to ask the monk from the monastery you are visiting whether you should remove your shoes or not. In most cases, you can wear your shoes up to the entrance of the monastery building. However, before entering the building, you have to remove your shoes and socks. The monastery building floor is the same as the pagoda floor.
- Shops and restaurants: there is usually no need to remove your shoes.
- Government offices: most of the government offices have cement floor thus no need to take off shoes. However, in some offices, the floor is a wooden one, and many need to take off your shoes (but not always). Look whether there are slippers at the entrance or whether people inside are wearing slippers. If in doubt, ask.
- Private company and business offices: it depends. Some of the company offices, even though they have cement floor, ask the employees and visitors to take off and leave the slippers at the entrance. If you see slippers at the entrance, it means you should also do the same.
Another advice about shoes is to invest in a pair of cheap, light and comfortable slippers. You will find yourself having to take off your shoes several times during your visit to pagodas. Surely, you won’t want to lose your expensive shoes while visiting the pagoda.