Serious business

Etiquette Advisor: Tips for doing business in Myanmar

DESMOND SO, founder of the East-West Institute of Applied Etiquette, shares his best business tips for getting along in Myanmar. Illustrations by A YIP

Myammar Etiquette


Myanmar’s business attire is conservative. Both men and women may pair Western clothes with a traditional longyi (similar to a sarong). Uniquely, in Myanmar shoes are removed not only at home but also in the office and even some stores. So shoes that don’t require lacing are recommended.

Myammar Etiquette


The traditional word meaning ‘hello’ is mengalaba. Men should shake hands with women only when the woman offers her hand. Otherwise, a small bow and warm smile are appropriate. Myanmar is a former British colony, so English is still spoken in the major cities.

Myammar Etiquette


Building personal rapport is important and, given the likely differences between your country and Myanmar, there should be no problem finding things to talk about. Negotiations are thorough and time-consuming, requiring multiple meetings and exhaustive attention to detail.

Myammar Etiquette

Business Cards

Show respect by reading and storing business cards carefully. Two hands are not necessary for giving and receiving, although it is not uncommon because of the large number of Chinese who do business there. Show respect with your own cards by printing them in English and Burmese.

Myammar Etiquette

Faux Pas

When dining, wait for the eldest person to begin eating before you start. Given the prevalence of Buddhism, do not point with your feet or show your soles to people or religious artefacts. Don’t take pictures of women bathing in the open, pregnant women and meditating monks.


Discover More

Cathay Travell Book


Discovery online brings together all the inspirational travel writing from our two inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad. Be sure to look out for the print editions when you next fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
Discovery Book Silkroad Book