Burmese have been described as dignified, kind, gentle, generous, frank, poised, friendly, individualistic, patient, child-like, carefree, open, and informal. They have also been described gossipy, superstitious, secretive, paranoid, boastful and arrogant.

Former President Herbert Hoover once said the Burmese were "the only genuinely happy people in all of Asia." A guidebook from the 1950s described the people of Burma as “generous, gay, friendly and good-humored.”

Because food has traditionally been plentiful and easy to obtain year round, it has been said, Burmese have traditionally not worried about tomorrow, saving and making preparations to avoid a future problem, and sometimes lack a sense of respecting the property of others. Some foreigners have been surprised to find locals stealing fruit from their trees or cutting their flowers to sell as hair ornaments. But at the same time working and a strong work ethic is very important to the Burmese.

The Burmese are very friendly and hospitable. Westerners are often invited in people's homes and called "brother" or "sister." Even though they have nothing local people often don’t let rich tourists pay for meals and drinks.

Young people and children are expected to obey their parents and elder siblings and freedom of expression is not widely practice at home. Older people always play a big role in decisions for younger people, rightly and wrongly. In fact acceptance of difference is not commonly practiced in society at large. People rarely value different opinions and comments either at home or at workplace and a sense of compromise is seldom valued. [Source: Hong Sar Channaibanya, Canberra, Australia May 2010]

A Myanmar government tourism description goes: “We are a gentle, courteous peoples, who are not inclined to deliberately insult foreigners. We overlook and forgive many transgressions by those ignorant of our customs. But there runs in us, a vein of resistance when it comes to our faith and moral values. It may be passive resistance, remaining unmoved, undaunted and undeterred by insults and renunciation by powers stronger than us. We are not blindly defiant but go our own way in our own manner towards goals in the interest of our country and people. And no matter, how tempting the luxuries, the wealth and progress of technology in other lands, only Myanmar is home for most of us and home is best.” [Source: Myanmar Travel Information]

Describing her guide at Pagan, Amanda Jones wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Mr. Aye has a round, aged face and a wide, betel-nut-stained smile. Like many Burmese, he punctuates his speech with giggling, which can be alarming to a Westerner. "Just three years ago, hehehe," he says, "if I'd been seen reading one of Aung San Suu Kyi's books, I would have been taken somewhere by the military, and my family would not know where. I read them all in secret. Not even my family knew. Hehehe." "When you go back to your country," Mr. Aye had told me as I left Bagan, "tell people that we are here waiting and hoping for the best. Burmese always hope for the best. And sometimes the best happens."[Source: Amanda Jones, Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2013]

See Society

Burmeseness and Resourcefulness

According to Lonely Planet: Bamahsan Chin' or Burmese-ness is a standard of behaviour with many rules rooted in the Buddhist religion. One of those many rules, that you might observe in daily life, is the quiet, subtle and indirect behaviour of Burmese people. The hallmarks of bamahsan chin include showing respect for elders, ... Most importantly, bamahsan chin values the quiet, subtle and indirect over the loud.

Although isolated, subjugated and poor, the Myanmar people can be as proud of their country and culture as any nationality you’ll meet. Locals gush over past kings, pwe (festivals), mohinga (noodles with chicken or fish) breakfasts, great temples and, for many, Theravada Buddhism itself. Of course Buddhism here comes with a heavy dosage of bamahsan chinn (Burmeseness) – a Buddhism-influenced complex word describing the gentle personality of many, which includes undying respect for elders, modesty in dress, and a preference for subtlety rather than loudness or directness.

The Burmese are experts at making do with the little that they have. Many World-War II trucks are still operating and amazing things are done with twisted wire. One man told journalist Alexander Frater, "Improvise! Improvise! That is our watchword. In Mandalay, you know, we have craftsmen who are building Land Rovers from Seven-Up tins."

After enduring decades of poverty and government oppression, Myanmar's people are known for their resilience, having learned to depend on each other from day to day – especially in times of crisis. “There's no question, people here are of Buddhist and Christian ethic and they have decided, 'We're just gonna do this,'” Tim Costello, president of World Vision-Australia told AP as ordinary Burmese took matters into their own hands after Cyclone Nargis in 2008 when their government failed to step in to offer much help.

Burmese Identity

Hong Sar Channaibanya, a Burmese-born Australian, wrote: “From the age of 13 to 23, for a decade, I lived in Buddhist monastic institutions. I did basic and then higher Buddhist education over this time which gave me a rich knowledge of Burmese culture. I lived with my Mon ethnicity, as a Burmese citizen. People from Burma’s ethnic minorities do not appreciate being identified as “Burmese” and will most likely identify with their own ethnicity , such as Karen, Kachin or Mon. [Source: Hong Sar Channaibanya, Canberra, Australia May 2010 /\]

“It is fundamental to understanding Burma’s cultures to understand the importance of such cultural complexity and most importantly the great ethnic diversity of Burma. “Burmese” is a common term to all people in Burma but each ethnicity preserves their own cultural identity. Each Burmese individual holds unique identity either as a native Burman or other ethnicity. Different ethnicities have their own account of Burmese history and each individual will find their own meaning from these different accounts, according to their own personal history and experience. /\

“Linguists have identified 110 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, and the government recognizes 135 ethn ic groups (referred to as races). The Burmese account for about 68 percent of the population. Other major ethnic groups include the Shan (about four million) , Karen (about three million), Arakanese or Rakhine (about two million), Chinese (over one million), Chin (over one million), Wa (about one million), Mon (about one million), Indians and Bengalis (about on e million), Jingpho (about less than one million), and Palaung (less than one million). With the exception of the Chinese, Indian, and Belgalis, each minorit y group occupies a relatively distinct area. In addition to ethnic diversity it is also important to note the gulf between urban elites and rural people who have very different family practices and attitudes. Society is highly stratified and the rich and poor are classified by their wealth. Educated and uneducated classes are usually seen as two different societies within the one country. /\

“These different classes often have a very limited understanding of each other’s life experience. Burma is a strongly male dominated society in which social and political power has been held predominantly by men for many centuries. Burmese men, kings and presidents, have had great and sometimes absolute power, in the society for thousands of years. /\

“The Buddhist community dominates the general population although other faiths also have long histories in Burma. A large majority of people practice Buddhist traditions at home. Respecting adults or parents is a common attitude of each individual. Preserving the principle of Buddhism is also import ant to each individual. Forgiveness is a core concept and perhaps the best quality of Buddhist Burmese. On the other hand ignorance is regarded as a sin. The Buddhist community’s emphasis on forgiveness and caring for each other in the family and community at large dominate Burma’s society. People live in a collective culture at home with parents who hold great power in family. In comparison, individual rights and choice are core cultural elements in a country like Australia. There is an unfamiliar culture of ‘complaint and disagreement’ on issues that impact on both the individual and family’ matters. This is a large cultural shift for people from Burma.” /\

Burmese Values and the Burmese Personality

Dr. Nyi Win Hman wrote in the Myanmar Times: “Our traditional social values and mores, such as politeness and courtesy in interpersonal relations, are often beneficial for relationships. We also have great respect and a tendency to care for our parents, elders and relatives. The nature of our basic social unit is an extended family, whereas in developed Western societies it is a nuclear family. In general, we also do not express anger and hostility openly in an aggressive manner. We are not as assertive interpersonally as Westerners. We also comply with the “face-saving” social norm and avoid embarrassing others. The Myanmar cultural norm of ah nar hmu is quite stringently practiced. Many cultures like this exist; the nearest example is Thai culture. [Source: Dr Nyi Win Hman, Myanmar Times, December 10, 2012; Dr Nyi Win Hman is a former associate professor of psychology at Yangon University and British-trained clinical psychologist who has worked in Malaysia and Australia and taught in Singapore **]

“Because of social values like those mentioned above, we tend to submit to authoritarian measures when these are imposed on us by culturally sanctioned figures, such as those who are of a higher socioeconomic status. This more or less total submission in all matters to those who are of higher socioeconomic status is not always beneficial for the individual concerned, and when relating to those in authority we most probably need to be more “individualistic” and assertive. **

“Past anthropological and social psychological research has also shown that Myanmar people often tend to be quite “personalistic”; meaning, we tend to be much more personal than impersonal in social interactions. For example, we tend to take things more personally than they should otherwise be. Instead, we should view and deal with others more impartially and objectively rather than in a personal manner. It would be of greater benefit to both parties if we resorted to reason and logic rather than a personal basis in interpersonal relationships. **

“Moreover, because of the cultural values that we have been instilled with as result of being a traditional agricultural society we tend to be rather “tribalistic” in our outlook. Thus, we tend to be more loyal, caring and attached for example, to people from our place of birth (village, town or geographic region) than to other people. Being loyal and caring is good but if we favour one person over another based on tribalism then it is obviously unfair. We also tend not to speak out or express our true thinking and feelings when it is important to do so in an interpersonal context. Instead, we tend to suppress or repress too much. When this occurs over a long period of time cumulatively, it can burst out in unnecessary aggression or even violence. In fact, there is some suggestive research that seems to imply that high rates of homicide in a traditional society setting may be the result partly of such psychological suppression. **

Democratic Values and the Burmese Personality

Dr. Nyi Win Hman wrote in the Myanmar Times: “Now we come to issues more to do with modern democratic government and civil society, which are described here in no particular order. Of course, existence of the “rule of law” is one of the most fundamental and basic tenets for a democratic society. Another is ‘transparency” in relation to both the state and private sectors in all decisions and activities. Transparency often allows citizens of a democracy to exert control over their government, reducing government corruption, bribery and other malfeasance. These are often very difficult principles and values to put into practice and as a result we need to educate ourselves and learn to practice these values. Related to these issues is “openness” and “trust”, with the latter following from the former. [Source: Dr Nyi Win Hman, Myanmar Times, December 10, 2012 **]

“Another issue is “accountability”, which has many meanings in terms of ethics and governance. It is also used to mean answerability, blameworthiness and liability. In terms of governance, it is concerned with the problems in the state as well as private sectors. Accountability is also the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies in regard to administration, governance, and implementation. **

“The other important principle is “egalitarianism”, which maintains that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status. This principle can be extremely difficult to acquire and practice unless a particular society has such a social ideology or tradition. This means that one should treat any and every individual with respect and dignity irrespective of gender, socioeconomic and ethnic status, and so on. There should be no discrimination based on race, gender and religion and everyone should be treated equally as human beings. It is emphasised again that those of us who understand such principles should educate and impart them to those who are unaware or uninitiated in these values and practices. **

Similarly, “equity”, or “fairness”, is also another important principle that should exist in a civil society. Equity should apply in all sectors of society and in every human and social service. These principles are of course more relevant to those in authority, as it is they who are in charge and in a position of responsibility in policy making, implementation and provision of services. Another principle is “inclusiveness”, which means that we should not exclude other people and discriminate or harbour prejudice based on ethnic, religious or cultural background. This is especially important in a country like ours, as we are said to be one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. There is great diversity in our country in terms of ethnicity, language, cultural practices and so on so we should be inclusive in our thinking and act accordingly with regard to our diverse circumstances. **

Ana and Face in Burma

Burmese society operates on ana , a characteristic or feeling that has no English equivalent. It is characterized by a hesitation, reluctance or avoidance, to perform an action based on the fear that it will offend someone or cause someone to lose face, or become embarrassed. Also, there is the concept of hpon ; from Sanskrit bhaga), which translates to "power". It is used as an explanation for the varying degrees of ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender differences between people in a society. Hpon refers to the cumulative result of past deeds, an idea that power or social position comes from merit earned in previous lives. This idea is used to justify the prevalent view that women are less equal than men, who are considered to have more hpon.

Face is an important concept in Myanmar. Never criticize someone. It is taken as a personal insult. Yes can mean No as giving a negative answer can cause a loss of face

In Asia, it has been said that "face is more important than truth or justice" and losing face is often an individual’s greatest fear. Face is essentially respect in a community and is a crucial underpinning of society. Loss of that respect threatens the relations of individuals with almost everyone in his or her world and is hard to get back once lost and thus is avoided at all costs.

”Face” is equated with honor. Maintaining dignity and avoiding embarrassment is at the heart of maintaining face. Some people describe the West as a guilt-based society where people's behavior is dictated by their personal hang-ups. In Asian societies, on the other hand, are often described as shame-based society, in which behavior is often defined by fear of losing face. It is considered very bad taste to publically criticize a person since it results in a loss of face within the community. Necessary criticisms and suggestions should be made in way the that no one is blamed and shame is not cast upon any individual.

Southeast Asians consider it rude to say "no" directly. They often say something like "maybe," "I am busy," or even "yes" when they really mean "no," or convey a no answer in way that foreigners don't understand. This behavior sometimes causes confusion with Westerners who like a "yes" or "no" answer, and who tend to believe there is a possibility of a "yes" unless they are told "no" straight out.

Displays of Anger

One of the defining qualities of Southeast Asian people is the fact that they rarely show strong emotion in public. You’ll find that it takes quite a lot to make a Burmese lose his/her temper and if they do it is a very serious matter. If you’ve done something to make a Burmese person lose their temper with you I suggest you immediately attempt to either diffuse the situation or remove yourself from the situation. To a Burmese losing your temper, or rather outwardly showing any display of anger, is considered crude and extremely bad manners. [Source: September 12, 2010]

This frame of mind is sometimes difficult for westerners because open displays of anger are viewed very differently in the west. Open confrontation is not only accepted, but can be considered desirable in some situations. In the west people who conceal their emotions are often considered underhanded or somehow not to be trusted. We base our readings of people on how they react in various situations. A cold and detached demeanor gives us nothing to “read” a person by and thus leads to a perception that the person has something to hide, distrust and a tendency to avoid that person.

As an example, the typical response of a westerner to poor service or poor performance would be to confront the offending person and look for some type of correction. The feeling would be that not only will we have the situation corrected for ourselves, but would hopefully prevent future occurrences of the same problem. Not so for a Burmese person in the same situation. The likely Burmese response to any mistake or perceived problem is not a confrontation, but rather to shrug off the problem or annoyance.

Ah Nar De

The word “Ahnarde” is a very common Myanmar word. It typifies a Myanmar emotional behaviour. Breaking it up “ah” signifies force or strength, “nar” denotes going limp or lame and “de” is a colloquial form of a sentence final. Stringing it together it would mean a force that goes limp or lame. Otherwise stated it conveys the idea of not having the heart or strength to do or say something that might impinge on the feelings of others. Briefly put it would stand for one’s unwillingness to intrude or interfere. [Source: Hla Thein, May 3, 1998 >>]

When a Myanmar feels ahnarde then he or she would deliberately withhold himself/herself from expressing or physically committing something that might hurt the feelings of others. With this in view he or she would keep away, show forbearance and give ground to the other person. His psychological posture does not conform, so to speak, to the don?t take no? for an answer type. A Myanmar tries to be gentle, courteous and considerate of others. He is influenced by the 38 codes of mangala sutta-the marvellous Myanmar beatitudes. >>

A Myanmar feels ahnarde to do this or to do that. He generally gives way to the whims and fancies of others than to his own. That was why some foreigners look upon a Myanmar as being reserved, shy and even backward. The sense of ahnarde is ingrained in a Myanmar and he feels reluctant to pull his weight even at the eleventh hour. In fine, a Myanmar is a true Benthamite. He does not want to step on someone else’s toes. >>

Significance of ahnarde though untranslatable exactly into English is partly explained in The Soul of a People written by H. Fielding Hall. He noted: A remarkable trait of the Burmese character is their unwillingness to interfere in other people’s affairs. Whether it arises from their religion of self culture or no, I cannot say, but it is in full keeping with it. Everyman’s acts and thoughts are his own affairs, think the Burmans. Each man is free to go his own way, to think his own thoughts, to act his own acts, as long as he does not too much annoy his neighbours. Each man is responsible for himself and for himself alone, and there is no need for him to try and be a guardian also to his fellows . . . Of all the Lovable qualities of the Burmese - and they are many - there are none greater than these - their light heartedness and their tolerance .

In Politics, Personality and Nation Building Lucian W Pye probed into the psychology of the Myanmar. On ahnarde Professor Pye remarked as follows: In any fluid situation there is likely to be an extremely vigorous quest for awza. Indeed stable social life would be quite impossible if it were not for some important restraints that prevent the development of uninhibited quests for awza. The most important of these is another distinctive and fundamental Burmese concept, the feeling of ah-nar-de, which cannot be translated into a single English expression. Ah-nar-de is an emotion that wells up inside a Burmese, paralysing his will, in particular preventing him from pushing his ownself-interest and compelling him to hold back and accede to the demands of others . . . Apparently the Burmese feel that the considerations of ah-nar-de are appropriate in any situation in which one?s interests might conflict with those of others or in which one might feel some sense of obligation or indebtedness to another ... In Burmese character there seems to be a constant struggle between a quest for awza and the pull of ah- nar-de. Within the individual Burmese the conflict between the two is often very strong; no one can have awza without giving impression that he is capable of feeling ah-nar-de while on the other hand anyone who seems excessively susceptible to the restraints of ah-nar-de cannot expect to command awza or, for that matter even a modicum of respect.?

Over four decades ago Miss Sarah Mcinteer Bekker, an American student wrote a doctoral thesis on the subject of ahnarde. The full title of her thesis is “The Burmese Concept of Anade : Its Function and Meaning in Interpersonal Relations”. The degree of Ph.D was awarded to her when she submitted it to the George Washington University in December 1963. I learn that she did her field work in Myanmar before her thesis submission.

Respect Towards Elders

Age is still considered synonymous with experience and wisdom, hence venerated. Parents and teachers are second only to the Three Jewels yadana thoun ba), together making up the Five Boundless Beneficence ananda nga ba), and are paid obeisance (called gadaw) at special times of the year such as Thingyan, beginning and end of Buddhist Lent, and usually parents before one leaves on a journey. Elders are served first at meals, and in their absence a spoonful of rice is put aside first in the pot as a token of respect u cha) before serving the meal. Young people would avoid sitting on a higher level than the elders or passing in front of them unless unavoidable, and then only treading softly with a slight bow. Things would be passed to the elders using both hands together. Men may cross their legs sitting on a chair or a mat but women generally would not. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Children are taught to walk quietly around old people and are expected to run errands for them and do what old people ask them. Children are taught from young 'to venerate one's elders, to respect one's peers, and to be kind to the young and weak' kyeethu go yothei, ywedu go layza, ngethu go thana). Parents are believed to be solely responsible for their children's behaviour as reflected by the expressions: mi ma hsonma, hpa ma hsonma undisciplined either by mother or by father) and ami youk tau hnoukkyan, ahpa youk tau ko amu-aya kyan (bad language from bad mother, bad body-language from bad father). Saying "thank you" however is not Burmese custom between friends and within the family.

Buddhism and Nation Psyche in Myanmar

Buddhism and the peaceful ideology it advocates pervades every aspect of Burmese life and the religion perhaps has more of a hold on Myanmar than any nation in the world. The people for the most part are easygoing, friendly and tolerant. And most families have at least one son who has shaved his head, donned maroon robes of a Buddhist monk, and wandered the country begging for meals and praying at temples. Even the country's retired strongman leader, Ne Win, spends much of his time studying Buddhist scriptures. Karma is called Kan in Burmese

Hong Sar Channaibanya, a Burmese-born Australian, wrote: “The Buddhist community dominates the general population although other faiths also have long histories in Burma. A large majority of people practice Buddhist traditions at home. Respecting adults or parents is a common attitude of each individual. Preserving the principle of Buddhism is also import ant to each individual. Forgiveness is a core concept and perhaps the best quality of Buddhist Burmese. On the other hand ignorance is regarded as a sin. The Buddhist community’s emphasis on forgiveness and caring for each other in the family and community at large dominate Burma’s society. People live in a collective culture at home with parents who hold great power in family. In comparison, individual rights and choice are core cultural elements in a country like Australia. There is an unfamiliar culture of ‘complaint and disagreement’ on issues that impact on both the individual and family’ matters. This is a large cultural shift for people from Burma.” /\ [Source: Hong Sar Channaibanya, Canberra, Australia May 2010]

See Buddhism, Merit, Being Filial, Defilement,

Forgiveness in Myanmar

Mark Magnier wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Willingness to forgive — seemingly incomprehensible to many outsiders — if not always forget, is shared by thousands of dissidents and student leaders released from prisons or invited back to Myanmar. This flexibility on both sides offers hope the country can move more quickly toward national reconciliation, avoiding a settling of scores and crippling divisions seen in other countries struggling to emerge from decades of totalitarian rule. "It's amazing; I can't fully understand it," said Matt F. Smith, Southeast Asia researcher with Human Rights Watch. "It is definitely a fascinating phenomenon to see people back and showing no bitterness." [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2012 >><<]

“One explanation often given for this wary cooperation of former enemies after decades of repression and suffering is Buddhism, the religion followed by about 90 percent of Myanmar's population, with its emphasis on tolerance and forgiveness. Buddhism's Theravada school followed here can be hard-line relative to the practice of Buddhism elsewhere:Buddhist monks here have led the campaign to deport Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar, including some who have threatened to abandon their monasteries and join the army to "protect" the country by force if Muslims gain more rights. Even so, the religion has generally been seen as a calming influence. "The Burmese are deeply religious," said Morten Pedersen, senior lecturer with the Australian Defense Force Academy. "Sure, Buddhists are responsible for killing a lot of people, but you can't just write off its importance." >><<

“Other more practical factors may also be at work. Some say government opponents learned their lesson after 1990, when they won a multiparty election and couldn't resist crowing, including a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party who suggested the generals might face a Nuremburg-style trial. Alarmed, the military refused to accept the results and instead instituted a massive crackdown. Taking a slower, non-vindictive approach offers better odds that nascent reforms can take root, critics said, reducing the risk of a military backlash. "If you fight directly against them, they'll shoot. We tried that in 1988," said Kyaw Yin Myint, editor of the Kumudra Journal in Yangon. "Sure, we're angry inside, we're humans. But you must be more clever." >><<

“Though there are many good things about forgiveness, some cautioned against taking it too far. "Buddhism tends to forgive things," said Suu Nget, a Mandalay-based writer blacklisted by the regime. "But if you get too cozy, you can forget your principles and become a traitor to your ideals." >><<

Ways of Love in Myanmar

According to “As devout Buddhists, most of Myanmar people take to heart the teachings of the Buddha in their daily lives. Among those teachings, metta or loving-kindness plays an important role and the Buddha Himself was the greatest practitioner of loving-kindness in the whole world. It was out of this immense love toward all creatures and living beings that He had resolved to become a Buddha at the beginning of a series of existences so that He could help them get out of their vicious circles. In one of His sermons, the Buddha exhorted His followers to regard all living creatures as the only son of one's own. Because of this particular teaching of the Buddha that Myanmar people have come to acquire such positive characteristics as being kindhearted, helpful, sympathetic, benevolent, tolerant and forgiving. [Source: /\/]

“However, you may be taken by surprise if you are informed of the exact number of ways (or rays) of love nominally existent among Myanmar people. Sometimes, they might mention the 528 or 1,500 ways of love in the Myanmar tradition. People mention the 528 ways of love to indicate pure, selfless, platonic love between two human beings, and the 1,500 ways refer to love of a passionate and selfish nature especially between man and woman. /\/

“Although both numbers are generally talked about as love, only the 528 way is the real loving-kindness while the 1,500 way is not genuine love but only base passion and lust looked upon as defilements in Buddhism. These exact numbers originated in Buddhist scriptures. The scriptures divide people, mind and matter, direction, type of love and defilement into different categories and add them up or multiply them with each other.” /\/

Fear and Smiles in Myanmar

Burmese are also known for the desire to laugh, but under the military government it was said they laughed much less than they used to. Explaining his friendly grin one man told the New York Times, “We are happy to see you. If we were not happy, we would not be showing you this real smile. We would should show you another face.”

People working with refugees from Myanmar were given the following advise: “Mental health issues and mental illnesses are viewed as “karma” by the many Burmese and little action is taken to remedy mental health problems. Refugees from Burma have been living in opposition to the ruling government for 20 years, many being forced into labor camps, forced relocation, loss and/or destruction of property, rape, and killing of family members. A study conducted by the CDC (2004) on Burmese refugees living in a refugee camp in Thailand found that “culture-specific symptoms such as “numbness,” “thinking too much” or feeling “hot under the skin” were common.” These symptoms related to a Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) . In the above study by the CDC 59 percent of the refugees reported that they talk to family or friends to make themselves feel better

Burmese Jokes

1) Rumours have been flying in Rangoon that the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar has been detained for wearing worn-out longyi (sarong) and brand new eingyi (shirt) to a market as a way of showing satirical defiance against the ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (PSDC). But when DVB contacted him, Zarganar said that the rumours are not true as ‘the worn-out sarong and brand new shirt’ joke is an old one, but a new joke has emerged and many people think that it was written by him and the authorities sent him to prison. “That joke is quite good. I like it too,” said Zarganar when asked how the new joke goes. “There are two people (talking to one another): ‘Hey (my friend), do you know U Phyu who lives near our house died yesterday?’ (said the first man). ‘How come he is dead?’ (asked the second). ‘He died from electric shock’. ‘You are pulling my leg! How come he died from electric shock while there has been no electricity supply?’ ‘He got a shock when he touched the (state-run) newspaper.’ ‘How could that be?’ ‘You are all saying there is no electricity etc., but there have been many (reports of) electricity supplies in the newspaper. That’s why he died from electric shock by touching the paper’. Even I didn’t know that one. I felt disappointed that I didn’t crack that joke first.” [Source: , October 24, 2006]

2) Three guys from Myanmar and three guys from Singapore are travelling by train to a soccer match at the World Cup. At the station, the three guys from Singapore buy a ticket each and watch as the others from Myanmar buy just one ticket for them all. "How are the three of you going to travel on only one ticket?" asks one of the men from Singapore. "Watch and learn," answers one from Myanmar. They all board the train. The men from Singapore take their respective seats but all three from Myanmar cram into a toilet and close the door behind them. Shortly after the train departs, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the toilet door and says, "Ticket please. " The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on. The men from Singapore see this and agree it was quite a clever idea. So after the game, they decide to copy the Myanmar style on the return trip and save some money. When they get to the station, they buy one ticket for three on the return trip. To their astonishment, the men from Myanmar don't buy ticket at all!!! "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed man from Singapore. "Watch and learn," answers another from Myanmar. When they board the train the three men from Singapore cram into one toilet and soon after those from Myanmar cram into another nearby toilet. The train departs. Shortly afterwards, one of the men from Myanmar leaves the toilet and walks over to the toilet where the men from Singapore are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The man from Myanmar takes the ticket and goes back into his toilet !!!

3) A businessman gets in an elevator. A blonde inside greets him with a smile and says, "T-G-I-F!" The businessman returns the smile and responds, "S-H-I-T." The blonde, puzzled, smiles her biggest smile and repeats as sweetly as possible, "T-G-I-F!" The businessman shoots back, with a quizzical expression, "S-H-I-T." The blonde, frustrated, decides to explain things. "T-G-I-F. Thank Goodness It's Friday--get it?" The man grins. "Sorry, Honey; It's Thursday."

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy,,, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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