5 Interesting Facts About Burmese Culture
Myanmar is the interesting destination for travelers who love authentic culture. Before you come into the country, it is better to learn a few things about this mystical country. This helps you to get an idea of what the place is like and gives a better insight into its unique customs and culture. Go with us to find 5 interesting facts about Burmese culture you will see in Myanmar.
Table of Contents
Men wear skirts – The very first Burmese culture shock
When you come to Myanmar, you easily see men wearing skirts walking on the street. It is very normal in this country as this is a kind of traditional costume, longyi. Longyi is just a sheet of cloth which is about two meters in length and 80 centimeters wide. The cloth is often sewn into a cylindrical shape, running down to the feet. It is worn by wrapping around the waist and knotting in front
Longyi of each gender is distinguished by designs, colors and decorations. Men’s longyi is more simple with plain dark colors or decorated by check or stripe patterns. Women’s longyi is more colorful, decorated with different kinds of patterns: floral, zigzag,…
Both men and women wear longyi in daily life: doing housework, farming, riding motorbike or even playing sports. For them, wearing longyi gets many benefits. It is comfortable and suitable for hot country as Myanmar. It is easy to take in and off when necessary. Besides, it is also functioning as it can be used as rain coat or sun skirts.
Thanakha – Myanmar’s natural sunscreen
Another unique thing which attracts visitors in Myanmar is the yellowish paste covering the faces of local people, from children to adults. It is thanaka, a traditional cosmetic of Burmese people. It has existed since ancient times and is commonly used until today.
The paste is made from Thanaka tree’s bark, slow-growing tree that thrives in the arid central parts of Myanmar. The bark is grinded against a flat and wet circular stone to create the paste, then apply it on to the face.
Local people believe thanaka helps to protect their skin under the sun, smooth their skin and even against acne. Also, it can make the skin cooler under hot temperature. As a result, Burmese people, mainly women and children often apply Thanaka on the cheeks, nose, forehead and neck to protect skin as well as improve skin’s beauty.
On the special occasions and festivals, Myanmar people often wear thanaka as a traditional ritual.
If visitors come Myanmar for the first time, they may be scared of red stains on the floors which look like blood. But the truth is not so! That is a habit of betel chewing of local people.
Burmese people love chewing betel very much. They chew betel every time and everywhere, like a snack. They believe that chewing betel will help them stay awake. It is equivalent to drinking 6 cups of coffee. Today, this habit is still popular from rural to urban areas.
The betel nut is not eaten by itself. It is wrapped in a green betel leaf filled with a thin layer of lime and sprinkled of tobacco. Betelnut has a similar effect as caffeine, and stains teeth red. Chewers store betel nut between their gum and cheek, much like chewing tobacco, and then spit as they chew.
Coming to Myanmar, visitors will find stands serving it, including betel nut and seasoned betel every street corners.
Use Right handed car in the Right handed country
Although Myanmar is newly opened to the world, visitors may be surprising by seeing a lot of cars on the streets, especially in Yangon City. However, many of them are used cars which were imported from other countries such as Japan and Thailand. Myanmar government allows to import any types of vehicle, whether it is right-hand or left-hand driving. Roughly 90 percent of imported motor vehicles use right hand drive, with steering wheel on the right side. It is not exceptional if vehicles move on the left side of road. However, it is not what happening in Myanmar.
As a former British colony, Burmese people used to drive on the left side of the road using right-hand drive vehicles. In 1970, the direction of traffic changed from left to right but the steering cars didn’t. It means that cars are on the right side of road and drivers are also on the right, with a better view of the kerb than the traffic. So, people just rely on honks and passenger guidance when merging into a lane.
With this fact, Myanmar has tried to limited the imports to only left-hand drive vehicles. But it seems to be not easy as people prefer right-hand drive ones. Therefore, both of them still exist together until now.
Homeland of the long neck tribe
Long neck women are very famous all over the world for wearing many brass coils around their necks. But not many people know that Myanmar is homeland of this tribe. Many people believe that they come from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Long neck people are known as Kayan, one of a number of sub-groups of Myanmar’s Red Karen people (Karenni). They live in small region in Myanmar called Loikaw, in Kayah State. In native language of Shan state in Myanmar, they are called Padaung. However, they prefer to identify themselves as Kayan.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the conflict with the military regime in Myanmar forced Kayan tribes to flee to the Thai border area. Since then, they have been living Karen villages around Chiang Mai, which are basically refugee camps. The refugee camps then became a tourist site, self-sufficient on tourist revenue and do not need financial assistance.
There are few legends of the tradition even among the Kayans. An ancient legend tells that once upon a time, a tribe leader had a dream that on a Wednesday when his daughter was given birth, a tiger came to attack the villages and break all their necks. Since then, he decided that all children born on Wednesday have to wear necklace. After that, the tiger didn’t come anymore. They believed that the necklaces bring magic. Another theory said the rings helped protect women from men in rival tribes by lessening the women’s beauty. Today, people believe that the longer their neck, the more beautiful the woman are. Kayans wear the golden coils as an accessory.
This long neck tribe has about 7000 people nowadays. When the girls are at 5 or 6 years old, they start to wear the necklaces. The more laces are worn, the longer their necks are. A female adult may have up to 35 necklaces. The women never take the laces off because they become their essential part.