Don’t ride a motorbike in the city center of Yangon
This is actually a law. Motorbikes are supposedly banned in the main parts of Yangon for safety reasons. This may take some getting used to since most other major hubs in the region allow the use of motorized bikes. Motorbikes and electric scooters can be ridden in townships on the outskirts of Yangon as well as in other cities.
Don’t pat someone on the head
The head is considered the highest, holiest part of the human body in Myanmar. This belief is deeply rooted within Buddhist spirituality and has set the scene for a possible cross-cultural blunder to take place. It’s true that travelers are often granted much more grace should a head be accidentally or unknowingly touched, but it could be considered a sign of disrespect to older generations in particular.
Don’t let your feet do the pointing
Contrary to the head, feet are seen as the lowest, dirtiest part of the body. It’s very rude to point at religious objects, at people, or really at just about anything with your feet in Myanmar – whether that pointing is done unintentionally or not. It’s also thought of as quite rude to point a finger at an image of Buddha, or even in the general direction of a well-known religious site.
Don’t wear shoes or socks in sacred spaces
It’s of utmost importance to respectfully remove socks and shoes or sandals before entering sacred spaces in Myanmar. Many pagodas even have a place to store footwear for a minimal fee. Ancient, less traversed temples such as several found in Bagan don’t offer the most comfortable or safe terrain to go barefooted upon, so use caution when stepping.
Don’t improperly use the image of Buddha
Portraying the image of Buddha in ways deemed inappropriate in Myanmar may result in severe consequences. A good example of what not to do happened in 2015 when a man from New Zealand was jailed for approximately 10 months. His crime? Using a depiction of Buddha wearing headphones in an advertisement. News of this case made international headlines, and serves as a testament to how serious Myanmar takes religious mockery.
Images of Buddha in the form of tattoos should be covered (especially if on the lower extremities), prints resembling Buddha on clothing shouldn’t be worn, and posing inappropriately with a statue of Buddha should never, ever seem like a good idea at the time.