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10 Helpful Phrases for your Holiday in Myanmar

The best way to get to know the people of a country is to share a common language. Sometimes this is just a smile. But if you can learn a few basic phrases you will not only have an easier time getting around but you will also get a warmer response from the locals. In Myanmar, most locals know a bit of English but being able to utter some words to locals in their own language is always well received. In previous articles, we told you about our favorite places to meet locals, so to expand on that here are below 10 useful phrases to help you really connect with the friendly people of Myanmar:

Myanmar People1. Hello – Mingalabar (pronounced “Min-ga-la-ba”).

Literally translated, ‘Mingalarbar’ means ‘its a blessing’ and is the first word used to greet a person- local or foreign! As you know, the first contact is always very important so a warm “hello” or ‘Mingalarabar’ guarantees a friendly reception.

2. Nice to meet you – Twe-ya-da wun-tha-ba-deh.

A bit more difficult to remember…or to pronounce! Your pronunciation may cause some laughter, but your efforts will always be greeted with grateful smiles.

3. Thank you – Cè-zú tin-ba-deh (pronounced “Dje-zu-te-mah-dae”).

A simple ‘thanks’ always goes a long way! But do not be intimidated by its length- You will probably hear several variations like the “Dje-zu-bae”. Feel free to use this as it is not rude and very common. If you are in a formal situation, add a ‘speaker pronoun’ to the end: Shin for ladies or kamya for men (ie- “Dje-zu-te-ma-le-shin” (for women) and “Dje-zu-te-male-kamya” (for men). If this is all a bit too much, simply use ‘No worries’-  Ya Ba De

4. Excuse me – Ta-sait-lout (pronounced “Tae-sae-lo”)

…now that you catch their attention, the hardest part is getting them to understand what you want! The next phrase will probably come on handy…
Note: if you mean to apologize, you will then say “sorry sorry”. It is important to say it twice as saying “sorry” only once can be considered as rude and you do not want them to be more upset!

5. I don’t understand – Na ma leh (ba) bu.

You tried your best; at this point, you should switch to English and sign language. They will likely laugh and be helpful if you use this phrase- moving your hands in a ‘what?’ direction also helps!

Tea shop and beer stations are great places to meet local people. Here are a few sentences you may want to try:

6. Do you have….? – …..shie la.

Burmese language puts the words ‘have’ after the noun. So if you want fried rice, instead of saying ‘Do you have fried rice’, you would say ‘htamin kyaw shie la?’. It is more than probable though that you will point at something on the menu and they will tell you “Mashibu” which literally means ‘no have’.

7. You may not always get a menu if you sit at a beer station. Here are some helpful words to make sure you won’t starve: rice = hta-min; noodle = khout-swel (pronounced “ko-swe”), water = ye, beer = beer (that one is easy!), tea = lahpet-yeh (pronounced “lae-pe ye”).

Myanmar Local Market

8. How much? – beh lauq leh (pronounced “bae lawt lae”).

It is nice to be able to ask it in Myanmar language, but it is even better to understand the answer! Combine the following numbers with yahundred and taungthousand to bargain without fear of losing face.: 1 (te), 2 (hne), 3 (tho), 4 (le), 5 (nga), 6 (chauk), 7 (kun hnint), 8 (chi), 9 (koh), 10 (tese) (for example: 1 000 = “taung” and 2500 = “hna taung, nga ya”).

9. No spicy – A sah masa bu (literally: Spicey don’t eat).

A huge part of traveling is eating- so we highly suggest to try it all! Myanmar has some delicious specialties inspired by other Asian countries cuisine, but Myanmar people do love their spices. Even though you are an adventurer, your stomach may not be made of steel. Do not forget to specify “No spicy” as it can save you some digestion trouble for later.

10. The bill, please – Shi-mae

…which, contrary to some countries, will never be a source of unpleasant surprise! Of course, if you cannot remember you can always use the ‘international sign language’ of pretending to sign a paper in the air.

You are now ready to delve in to the local culture and enjoy your holiday in Myanmar!



Our Myanmar Travel Tips: Best Places to meet Locals in Yangon

A Local Bus Experience

From Street Food to Fine Dining in Yangon – Part 1: Beer Stations and Barbecues


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