Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is a country that is nestled between China and India, and one of the largest countries on the Southeast Asia peninsula. Nearly 50% of the landscape is covered in thick and natural forest which helps to create a perfect ecotourism experience for the travellers on the Myanmar travel packages. Plus, this country has long stretches of coastline and a warm climate. Also, Myanmar has put in a lot of effort to promote itself as a unique travel destination, which makes it possible for the traveller to discover first-hand the local culture and customs.
Courtesy and respect for the country’s religion and traditions is expected in Myanmar. Modest dress is expected in public places which is most important when visiting sacred sites. So for the tourists on the Myanmar tours visiting the religious buildings it is essential to remove footwear and cover the knees and shoulders. The upper part of the body, the head is seen as sacred and will be seen as offensive to pat anyone (even children) on this area. A common aspect of social standing relates to age with the elders regarded as very important people.
Also, it isn’t always appropriate to take photos without first getting permission and certain places like harbours, ports and airports can have extra restrictions in place.
The official language is Myanmar (Burmese) although there are over one hundred dialects spoken throughout the country (spoken by the different national races). The use of English is quite common in business settings and spoken by many of the elderly people in the larger towns.
The alphabet is made up of various symbols to help with indicating the tone and 33 letters (consonants) which consists of 12 central vowels (although this increases to 21 vowels with sequential extensions).
The majority of the people in Myanmar follow Theravada Buddhism, which is in the region of 90% of the population, which is then followed by Christianity at 4.5%, Islam at 3.5%, Hinduism at 0.5%, Spiritualism at 1%, and an estimated 0.5% for the other minority religions that are followed in the country.
Myanmar has an estimated 135 ethnic groups in the country (latest official count) with the majority comprising of the Bamar or Burmese people with nearly 68% of the population. Other popular groups include the Rakhine, Mon, Kaya, Kachin (Jinghpaw), Shan, Kayin, and Chin. Many of these people are located is isolated mountainous regions and speak their own languages. Plus, they can live traditionally and respect their own cultures. The local people hold a variety of celebrations and feasts throughout the course of the year which relate to cultural activities. While it is possible for tourists on the Myanmar family tour to visit these festivals, they are held more for the reason of their religion and culture, than being an attraction.
A typical Myanmar household can hold up to three generations. Even if family members aren’t sharing the same property, there is the likelihood they live closely and will make regular visits. The children are taught to participate in family and share from a young age. It is common for cousins and siblings to be sharing the same bedroom. Traditionally, the children are involved in most social events – although this will exclude funerals. The children in the rural areas are often asked to help in the fields or help out with small errands. The younger generation is always expected to obey and respect not only their parents, but also their elders and teachers. In later life, the grown children would be expected to help with taking care of their elderly parents.
Men and women
With the Buddhist religion, men are seen to have a higher status than the women. Also, with the local people believing in reincarnation, a women hopes to return and be reborn as a man in their next life. In a marriage, the husband has a spiritual status and regarded as the head of the household.
When out in public, the men are left to take the lead with the women walking a few steps behind their fathers or husbands. But, within the confines of their home, the wife takes on the responsibility of managing the family budget, and may even run their own business.
Women aren’t permitted to enter all areas of temples, pagodas, or other religious buildings. For instance, this can include the middle platform at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Even with the hierarchy related to Buddhism, women in Myanmar still have a good degree of self-confidence which relates to their ongoing tradition of independence. In relation to inheritance, both men and women have equal rights. Plus, they dominate areas like markets, and many work in professional industries, such as scientists, teachers, writers, lawyers, dentists and doctors. Enrolment in universities is similar between male and female students.
The local Myanmar people give great importance on following the rules of proper etiquette. Any signs of excessive emotion (by love or by anger) displayed in public are frowned on and shouldn’t be carried out on the Myanmar holidays. The people of high status, such as the elders and monks must be treated and addressed with courtesy. So, for instance, passing an object over the head of a seated elder is seen as rude. Respect is shown to teachers, parents and grandparents on formal occasions by kneeling down with elbows and forehead touching the ground. Also, when meeting a monk or passing a pagoda, it is respectful to put the palms together as a sign of respect. The Myanmar people aren’t the type to inconvenient or impose on other people, and are very sensitive in this regard.
The Myanmar people that live in the countryside are more likely to be superstitions and therefore make sure of clairvoyance or astrology to help face a significant decision. There are a variety of reasons to experience bad luck associated with superstition, such as washing the hair shortly after a funeral, leaving broken glass in the home, or leaving shoes or slippers upside-down. Other local traditions to ward off evil are to carry the hairs from an elephant’s tail.