Myanmar CultureBurmese Culture
Generally speaking, Myanmar culture (Burmese culture) means Buddhist culture, and is not identical with the modern geographical unity. The Buddhist culture of old Burma, however wide its general influence may have spread, was originally a product of the vast river basin of the Ayeyarwady, with an extension south-eastwards along the coast to the delta of the Salween river.
The Myanmar people pride themselves on proper etiquette. Public displays of excessive emotion, whether prompted by anger or by love, are frowned on. Elders and others of a higher status, such as monks, should be addressed and treated with courtesy. It is considered rude, for instance, to pass things over the heads of seated elders. To show respect to grandparents, parents, and teachers on formal occasions, the Myanmar kneel down with their foreheads and elbows touching the ground. When passing a pagoda or meeting a monk, they put their palms together in a gesture of reverence.
Myanmar people are also very sensitive about imposing on, or inconveniencing, other people. The fear of embarrassing others is called anade (Ah-nar-Deh). If you asked a Myanmar guest what drink you could serve him or her, your guest would probably say, "Anything is fine," to avoid embarrassing you by asking for something you might not have.
Men and Women
In Buddhism, men have a higher status than women - Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and a woman has to hope that, in her next life, she is reborn as a man.
The husband is considered the spiritual head of the Myanmar household because of his hpon (PONE), or spiritual status. In public, women let men take the lead, often walking behind their husbands or fathers. At home, however, a husband usually hands his earnings over to the wife, who manages the family budget and often runs her own small business, too.
Women are excluded from certain areas of religious buildings, such as the middle platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Despite the hierarchy of Buddhism, however Myanmar women have a quiet self-confidence that comes from a tradition of independence. Women also have equal rights of inheritance with men. They dominate the market as traders of goods or food vendors. Today, there are many women in professional occupations, too, working as doctors, dentists, lawyers, writers, teachers, and scientists. At universities in Myanmar, female enrollment equals that of males.
Myanmar households often consist of three generations. If family members do no live in the same house, they usually live near each other and visit often. Children learn to share and to participate in family life at an early age. Siblings and cousins often share bedrooms. Children take part in all social occasions, apart from funerals. In rural areas, they often run small errands for adults or help out in the fields. All children are expected to respect and obey not only their parents but all their elders. They are also expected to take care of their aged parents.