Recently, in my course of Culture Practice Business in Asia, I have had a chance to research deeply in the Myanmar. During the research, i have particularly found interested in an aspect of how the etiquette of the country and how it is influenced by Buddhism.
What is etiquette? Etiquette, in a simple word, is a customary code of behaviors in society among members of particular group or society. Notably, the Myanmar etiquette is highly influenced by Buddhism, since almost 90% of Myanmar people practicing that religion, which is one of the biggest religion in the country, reported by Lwin & Lan (2001). As a result, it has helped to create a uniqueness in Myanmar culture.
Since almost 90% Burmese people practices Buddhism in the country, the religion has permeated most of the etiquette of the country. It can also be said that the religion has become the heart of Myanmar culture, thus, some etiquette and customs of the country can be found to influence from the religion. According to (Go-Myanmar n.d), there is some etiquette people need to aware when visiting the country; firstly, in the Myanmar culture, spiritually , it is where you worship your ancestors and Buddha. Therefore, you should never touch somebody on the head, even it is a child since it might cause danger to the child’s well-being. Vietnam in the other hand, the adult usually pat the child’s head to show love and careness, however, it’s strictly prohibited in Myanmar. Moreover, the feet are considered as the dirtiest place on the body in the culture, it should never be used to point or touch at anybody (Go-Myanmar n.d). Therefore, if putting feet on the table in the Western culture can be considered as a gesture to relax, in Myanmar putting feet on the table and showing people the sole of the feet is considered as a huge insult.
As mentioned above, the feet are considered as the dirtiest part in the body. Therefore, when visiting any religious landmarks like a pagoda, shrine, and monastery. Shoes and sock have to be removed before entering these sites (Cabildo L 2017).
Moreover, when coming to the these sites, men and women are asked to wear conservative (Cabildo L 2017). To be more specific, revealing clothing is not allowed, legs and shoulder should be covered during visiting time.
Additionally, the left hand in the culture is considered dirty, since it is often used when going toilet. Therefore, when visiting the temple, visitors must travel clockwise in order to keep the religious landmark next to their right hand (Go-Myanmar n.d).
Although Burmese is one of the most devout Buddhism in the world, they do not impose their belief on visitors, however, they do expect visitors to pay respect to their traditional practices. According to Go-Myanmar (n.d), the following are the thing that people have to consider when interacting with the monk; firstly, when leaving a donation, people are expected to always give with both hands to shows the respect to the monks; secondly, the robe carrying by the monk is such a sacred item that should not be touched by anyone, by touching the robes it is considered disrespectful deed to the monk, lastly, disrupting monks when they praying and meditating can not be tolerated.
By understanding about the etiquette different culture could be useful for my understanding, since it has helped me to get out of my comfort zone and find a new way of thinking, perceptions about the world and another country. I found it useful for me since nowadays globalization is happening in every corner of the world, physically or through the internet, sooner or later I would have a chance to work with people from different culture, Myanmar people perhaps. Moreover, it gradually becomes easy to travel between countries and I am also a travelholic, by understanding about this etiquette of the country, it would not only expand my knowledge about the country but also help to me from offending the host and avoiding putting myself into the embarrassed situation when visiting the country and working with Myanmar people.
Additionally, many problems in the world nowadays tend to happen due to the misunderstanding about the culture. By acknowledging about this understanding, I realize that the belief of ethnocentrism, which is the belief that judge others culture based on the standard and values of one own’s culture (Levine & Campbell 1973), is harmful. With this understanding, I have learned that there is more than one approach to life, also learn that might be the approach of my country, culture, religion is not the best way. Therefore, this helps me not only to understand about people in others country perspective on why others do things they do but also help me to develop the sympathy. Finally, the biggest lesson I have learned is to embrace the diversity of its culture, since it is very amazing to know that how we do the same thing for the same purposes, turn out to be completely different in other culture.
Thank the new insight that I have found during the learning time of Culture Business practices in Asia, I have triggered my curiosity on learning and help me to find this course more interesting and helpful. Moreover, with the insight I have learned, it ‘ll help me to be more confident, empathy when working with people from another culture, especially Myanmar people.
Cabildo L 2017, ”Do’s & Don’ts in Myanmar”, TripSavvy, viewed 6 September 2017, <https://www.tripsavvy.com/dos-and-donts-in-myanmar-1629596>
Go-Myanmar n.d, “CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND ADAPTING TO MYANMAR”, Go-Myanmar, viewed 6 September 2017, <https://www.go-myanmar.com/cultural-differences-and-adapting-to-life-in-myanmar>
Lwin, M. and Lan, L.L., 2001. Myanmar. Thunderbird International Business Review, 43(2), pp.269-288.
Levine, B.B.R.A. and Campbell, D.T., 1973. Ethnocentrism: Theories of Conflict, Ethnic Attitudes, and Group. THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS, 35.