Myanmar (also known as Burma) is an extremely ethnically-diverse nation with 135 distinct ethnic groups officially recognised by the Burmese Government. The national language of Myanmar is recognised as Myanmar Language, or more commonly known as Burmese. This is also the first language of most if not all Myanmar maids. Although there is no official state religion, there are almost 90% of Burmese practising Buddhism. Majority of the Myanmar maids in Singapore do practice Buddhism as well.
Traditionally in Myanmar culture, women had high social status and they were well respected. However, following several decades of male-dominated rule under the military regime, this status has been undermined somewhat. Now the country is free and democratic, women are regaining their former influence and becoming more and more important in the social system. It is slightly different when comes to family life, the roles of males and females are less defined and equality is often achieved in many families. This could be the reason that drives women to seek better income outside of their country to support their family because they feel obligated to do so.
Burmese society operates on ana, a characteristic or feeling that has no English equivalent. It is characterised by hesitation, reluctance or avoidance, to perform an action based on the fear that it will offend someone or cause someone to be embarrassed. That is why people often characterise a Burmese to be “shy” or introvert. In fact, they are displaying such traits out of respect and good manner. In return, we should too, treat our Myanmar maid with politeness out of courtesy.
There is one taboo to the Burmese that the employers need to pay attention to, that is touching their head. In their belief, the head is the highest point of the body and should not be simply touched by other people. On the contrary, feet are regarded as “lowest”, carrying the meaning of “unclean”. Therefore, it is rude to point your feet at your Myanmar maid.
Depending on which part of the country a maid is coming from, you may find her having a slower pace of living. Many Myanmar maids’ hometowns are small villages with agriculture being the main industry and they have a day and night difference from the bustling city like Singapore. However, many maids who come to Singapore will be able to adapt to the lifestyle here and pick up the pace of living pretty quickly.
Differ from the Chinese Buddhist, Burmese celebrate their Buddhist New Year around mid-April. If your schedule allows, a day off on this special occasion for your Myanmar maid would probably be greatly appreciated. You can even treat her with the local’s favourite dish, tea leaf salad to make her feel like home!
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