Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Myanmar cultural anecdotes

Greg and I are now back in Bangkok after 3 weeks in Myanmar.  Looking back on our time there I have to say it was by far the most interesting country we’ve been to. Here are a few observations that might give you an idea of what a trip it was just to walk down the streets.

  • Locals sometimes yell “Hey you!” at foreigners (i.e. us).  It’s a pun – in Burmese “yu” means crazy.  har har.
  • The Burmese are incredibly warm and friendly people.  Sometimes it made it hard to get anywhere in town.  Every block we’d be stopped by a curious person wondering where we were from and what we thought of their country. We were also constantly pausing to say hello to people who would see us and yell whatever words they knew in English, e.g. “Goodbye thank you!”, “Hello! You’re welcome!”, etc.
  • One of the first questions people ask us is; “What is your religion?”  Here religion is intertwined with the culture and everyday life in a totally different way than in the US.  Explaining what it means to be an “atheist” is almost impossible with the language barrier, and answering “we have no religion” is an unknown concept.  They think we are strange indeed.  They are correct.
  • In restaurants you summon the waiter by making kissing noises at him or her with your lips.  This confused me greatly at first.
  • I went running several times.  I have never been such a spectacle in my life.  Everyone I passed yelled something at me in english or burmese.  people pointed me out to their friends and stared open mouthed.  Some laughed.  Groups of people would yell “Run!  Go!  Good!” and give me a thumbs up.  Some would run with me for a little ways before walking back to their group of friends.  So supportive!  I waved to everyone who shouted at me & felt like I was doing my victory lap after winning the gold medal. 
  • Several times in a crowded place a child would hit me (not hard) as they were walking by or being carried near me by their parent.  I wonder if they curious cause they don’t see many foreigners?  They wanted to see if I felt any different than a “normal” (to them) person?
  • I think that in small towns just about every other Burmese male knows how to play the guitar, and everyone, everyone, sings – while walking down the street, while doing laundry, while herding the goats, etc..  In the one bar in the town of Kalaw, there was a group of about 15 guys who went there every night to play and sing their hearts out.  How cool is that! I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that there is electricity only every other day and it cuts out for 5 minutes out of every hour… 
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    May 1, 2007 - Posted by | Myanmar, SE Asia, Travel


  1. Wow – that beats a recent experience I had running in the evening on a Friday night, and having some drunk American punks throw a few beer cans at me. 🙂

    Or…perhaps in American culture that means they are “supportive”?

    That sounds fun — wish I was there to go for a run and feel special that way….how cool!

    Comment by Joe | May 1, 2007 | Reply

  2. Cedric and I are reading your Myanmar posts as we prepare our own trip. We’re so excited now!

    Comment by Jenna | January 2, 2011 | Reply

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