Providing Advocacy, Education and Information for former Refugees.

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Burma or (Myanmar)

Burmese

Predominantly: Buddhism

Nay Pyi Taw

January 4th

55 million

882 (2006)   

The ruling military regime in Burma is one of the world’s most oppressive and abusive. Currently, the Burmese government is involved in a military campaign against the largest indigenous ethnic group in Eastern Burma, the Karen. The Karen practice Christianity, whereas Burma is a mostly Buddhist nation. The militarized government has developed plans to eliminate those who do not fit in to what is thought of as being “Burmese.” Many Karen accuse the Burmese government of “ethnic cleansing” due to major counter-insurgency campaigns that have led to widespread mass atrocities against the Karen people. Such atrocities include summary execution, severe torture and rape, as well as forced labor, extortion and displacement. Aid agencies estimate that more than 200,000 Karen have been driven from their homes during the decades of conflict. http://worldwithoutgenocide.org/

Refugees from Burma have been arriving in New Zealand since 2000. However, in recent years, the number of Burmese refugees arriving in New Zealand has dramatically increased.

The culture of Burma has been heavily influenced by Buddhism. The Burmese are models of social politeness. When greeting anyone, use the common expression of kind interest in the Burmese language ”Mingalaba”. It translates loosely to mean “Have an auspicious day.” Like the well-used “Namaste”, this phrase is not reserved for a particular social class or gender, but can even be used with monks and respected elders. Men shake hands but not women.

Congolese are considered courteous and friendly and careful not to offend

The use of eye contact depends on the age of the person. It is not permitted to have direct eye contact with older people of people higher status (e.g. father, teacher, employer etc.)

Objects are held with the right hand or with both hands, never with the left hand alone.  The left hand is reserved for hygiene purposes.

Family and friends often stop by to visit with each other unannounced. However, strangers are expected to make arrangements prior to visiting.  A visitor must never enter a home or sit down unless invited.

Guests are expected to initially decline an offer of food or sharing a meal but should ultimately accept the invite.  Declining an invitation, especially the offer of food, is considered rude. 

The Congolese often judge guests’ sincerity by the way they eat.

Gifts will not be opened in front of the giver

When visiting it is necessary to take a gift

It is always polite to cover the mouth when yawning.

Another part of social respect requires the use of titles before personal names. Anyone seen as wise and helpful can be called “Teacher X (insert name)”; Women of a certain age are often called “Auntie”, and their male counterparts called “Uncle”. If you are unsure how to address someone, it is safe to ask. The Burmese tend to be very understanding of foreigners and will do their best to make you feel at home.

Contact Roctrust for more missing information.

Burmese might have little, but they’ll eagerly share with visitors and guests. Buddhists, especially, find it rude to eat something in front of others without offering it to them first. On the other hand, it’s impolite to decline an offer of such hospitality. If you’re concerned about eating something – whether for bacteria, taste, or lack of repayment – take a small portion. Even a single bite will assure your host that you appreciate the gesture.

Rice is one of the common meals. Meals are shared occasions where each person puts a small amount of food on his or her plate, then eats with a utensil or hand. As a guest, you’ll be offered the first bites and the choicest meats: be careful to leave enough for the remaining diners and don’t take more than you can finish.

The Burmese take great care with all interactions involving their hands. To properly introduce yourself, or offer or accept an item, place one hand firmly under the elbow of the extended arm. This gesture is taken so seriously, even waiters at a restaurant do it before passing your plate!

Buddhists consider the head to be the most sacred part of the human body; down below, feet are held to be the dirtiest. So, while you’ll be expected to remove your shoes whenever you enter an indoor dwelling or private space, be careful not to point your feet at anyone. Touching someone’s head is also an insult.

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