Authors: Eitra Myo & May Myat Thu
Myanmar is a country with unique identities in social cultures and the cultures will affect companies when doing business in Myanmar. Below are the general practices of Myanmar’s business culture you need to know before entering into Myanmar’s market.
Relationship Oriented OR Trust
Relationships and trusts are much valued in Myanmar and they are considerably important in Myanmar’s business culture. Many local traditional businesses are family-owned businesses that are run by family members and peers based on commitment and honesty. A local third party introduction is sometimes required to start building up relationships between the local businesses and foreign companies. With a relationship-based culture, Myanmar people are not accustomed to decline or reject others openly and easily, which therefore requires follow-ups and additional clarifications.
Politics & Religion
Political discussion in public was a taboo before the political reforms in Myanmar. With the practice of Presidency and Democratic government since 2011, there are more freedom in political activities and discussions. However, based on the crisis at the West of Myanmar, religion can be a sensitive issue when conducting business activities.
Holiday and Working Hours
There are about 20 public holidays in Myanmar’s annual holiday calendar where most of it are for religion purposes. The New Year celebration falls on April with 5 consecutive off-days. There are no compensating off-days for some holidays that fall on the weekends.
Official working hour is eight hours per day, mostly, from 9 am to 5 pm. Most local businesses open on alternative Saturdays or half-day on Saturdays.
Gifts and Corruption
Hospitality and friendliness are the unique characteristics of Myanmar people and these are often shown by giving gifts or favors in return. Gifts represent gratitude and respect to the receiving party. It is a custom to send gifts to business partners on important seasonal celebrations.
Nonetheless, gifts with very high values are not recommended in order to avoid awkward situations which could happen to receivers and to avoid high probability of corruptions. Anti-corruption is currently one of the government’s top priorities to fight against bribery and corruptions especially between business relations with the government. Myanmar now has guidelines for gifting to government professionals to reduce bribery.
Burmese is the official language of the country. English is not widely used in general public. However, business meetings are communicated in English when required.
Other Business Cultures
Respecting elders and seniority is the strong tradition both in social and business environments in Myanmar.
Physical gestures are also a point to take note. Pointing with one’s feet is considered to be a rude gesture. Folding arms while talking may be perceived as a rude or bossy manner in other countries but in Myanmar, folding one’s arms whilst talking to another person is a sign of respect to that person.
If you wish to know more general or legal information about investing/setting up company in Myanmar, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Vanessa Ng, COO
+65 6535 8100
Eitra Myo, Legal Manager
May Myat Thu, Corporate Affairs Executive
Written by: Eitra Myo & May Myat Thu