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Doing business in Burma

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Many countries in Asia are in the ascendant, in economical terms. A country which has a great deal of potential, but which is not immediately considered, is Burma (also referred to as Myanmar). The country has a population of 65 million as well as everything it needs to become a flourishing economy. The business culture, however, is very different to that of the United Kingdom. In this article, we give you some tips for doing business in Burma.

Network culture and confidence

The business culture in Burma is entirely focussed on a network. It is therefore not advisable to be too direct. It can even be the case that you will not be expected to go too deeply into the subject of business at the first couple of meetings. Leave it to the person to whom you are speaking to take the initiative when it comes to going deeper into the subject. A lot is also handled by intermediaries. Make sure that you don’t underestimate these middlemen but instead handle them with respect. It is also important for them to involve you in various events so that they can get to know you better. Business relationships are based entirely on trust.

Physical contact

One of the most important things to realise is that the inhabitants of Burma are not used to physical contact. A handshake is quite naturally appropriate when meeting someone, but patting someone on the back, putting an arm around someone, or touching someone while laughing is inadvisable.

Honour, family, and business culture

The inhabitants of Burma are very proud. The most important thing they have is their pride. Consequently, the worst thing that can happen to someone is to have their pride affronted. Make sure that you are not the cause of any loss of face for your potential business partner. Make sure that you always meet agreements, arrive on time, and never make jokes at the cost of another. A mistake here can irrevocably damage negotiations. Family is also very important. Always ask politely how the family is doing in general terms as this will be greatly appreciated in Burma. Furthermore, a company is often regarded by people as family. The boss is therefore often regarded as a father figure. It is quite possible that business and private life for people in Burma are intertwined. This may be difficult for people who are used to keeping their professional and private lives strictly separate and it demands some flexibility.

The language in Burma

The official language in Burma is Burmese (called the Myanmar language in the country’s constitution), a language which is related to Tibetan and Chinese. Chinese and English are also spoken by minorities.
Language can represent a considerable barrier during discussions however. We can provide you with excellent service in respect of the translation of your business documents. Whether you need a PowerPoint presentation, a business card, or a contract translated, we will arrange it for you. Should you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with our project managers to discuss the options. They will be happy to help you.

Anitha Johny
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