25 Fun Facts about Myanmar

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

Myanmar (pronounced MEE-an-mar) is a country in southeast Asia that shares borders with China, India, Laos, Bangladesh and Thailand. It was formerly known as Burma. I gathered these fun facts throughout my time traveling in Myanmar, either by something I witnessed or something I learned from a local Burmese person. Enjoy!

1. Myanmar was known as Burma until 1989 when the military junta renamed the country Myanmar. The capital, Rangoon, was also renamed to Yangon.

2. Although the national language is Burmese, most people DO speak English as well. (Which is awesome for us travelers!)

Photo by Exotic Voyages ©

3. You will see nearly all Burmese people wearing Thanaka, which is yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is mostly used for beauty and cosmetic reasons, but it also helps cools skin, prevents sun damage, clears up acne, and can even reduce fevers and headaches when ingested.

4. 89% of the Myanmar population is Buddhist.

5. Every boy is required to be a monk for at least 7 days. For women it's optional. Many parents encourage their sons to stay and be a monk longer than the required 7 days because it is seen as honorable and is well-respected in Burmese culture.

6. Nearly all houses will have Buddhist sculptures or an altar where they pray. In Buddhist culture, you must never sleep with your feet towards the Buddha. So in all Burmese homes, their heads face the Buddha when they lay down.

Photo by Thahara ©

7. The most popular form of dress is a longyi. A longyi is a sheet of cloth widely worn in Burma. It is approximately 2 meters long, and the cloth is often sewn into a cylindrical shape. It is worn around the waist, running down to the feet. The difference between the longyi for males and females is the pattern and how the knot is tied. Men allow their knot to hang out the front, whereas women tuck it inside.

8. Once you marry a man, you must leave your village and move to his village.

9. When you get married your parents typically build you a house and give you a buffalo. Buffalos are seen as wealth in Burmese culture and it is extremely important to have one for farming purposes.

10. If you grow your crops with chemical enhancements, you must pay a large tax to the government. This allows the government to try and encourage farmers to keep produce organic.

Primary school in a village along my trek

11. If you live in a village, you only go to primary school (5-11 years old) then you work on the farm. This is because there are no junior high schools or high schools in the villages (only in the cities), and they can’t afford to live in the city or commute there every day.

12. Attending a university costs 1000 MMK for 1 year (about $0.66 USD), but most village kids are still unable to go because living in the city is expensive. If kids are lucky enough to go, usually they must have 20 kids in 1 room sleeping on the floor in order to afford to live in the city.

13. People in the village get married around 19-20 years old. Once you're married, the women work out on the farm and the men stay home and cook.

14. People in the city get married around 30 years old because they finish university and get a job first before they settle down.

15. Many people live in bamboo houses because they are very cheap to build. However, they are not that durable, so they need to be rebuilt every 5 years. If you can afford a brick house you are considered well-off.

16. Most cars in Myanmar have been imported from Japan where vehicles are right-hand drive. However, traffic in Myanmar also drives on the right-hand side, so vehicles should really be left-hand drive.

17. Myanmar is one of only three countries not to adopt the metric system of measurement. (Liberia and the US are the other two)

Hanging trash bags on a public bus

18. On all public buses they have random garbage bags hanging, so you can easily grab one to put your trash into or take it with you!

19. The Burmese chew a lot of betel quids, considered an equivalent to tea, coffee or tobacco. Betel stains the teeth and gums a reddish-orange color and causes oral cancer. Also, the leaves cause their mouths to water & then people spit this out onto the floor causing red stains along the street.

20. In traditional villages, the monastery is the centre of cultural life.

21. Myanmar is home to about 135 ethnic groups, including a multitude of hill tribes- each with their own culture. The Burmese government groups them into 8 major national ethnic races.

Photo by Travmedia ©

22. The Water Festival, also known as Thingyan, is one of the biggest festivals in the country. Thousands take to the streets for a huge water fight to celebrate the Burmese New Year every April.

23. People, especially women, tend to carry things on their heads rather than using their hands.

24. Myanmar is one of the few countries in the world that has their time set on a 30 minute interval. Their official time zone is GMT +6.30. Most countries adjust their clock to correspond with the loss or gain of a whole hour. (For example, Myanmar is 13.5 hours ahead of the time in Los Angeles)

25. If you want to get the waiter's attention in a teahouse or restaurant, you need to make loud kissing noises to grab their attention. The noise is not technically a kiss, but more a sucking sound into your mouth which sounds like a kiss.

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