Myanmar (Burmese) Culture

Naming

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  • There are no first names or surnames in Burmese culture. Rather, names are usually two to three syllables long, with spaces in between. These words are to be taken as a whole, e.g. Aye Ngwe or Khin Zaw Win.
  • As there is not a cultural custom of passing down last names, the names of members of families often have no resemblance to each other.
  • Burmese people may be confused by Western naming conventions and may have to say that the last syllable of their name is their surname for administrative purposes.
  • Some Burmese adopt a Westernised name in Australia. They may keep one of their original first names as a middle name, but essentially adopt a new name and format it in the Western way. This new name is only used in Western and international contexts; they revert to their original name when returning to Myanmar.
  • Traditionally, each component of someone’s name starts with a letter that corresponds to the person’s time and date of birth. For example, there are Burmese letters that correspond with Monday that will be used if the child is born on that day.
  • Some families consult an astrologer to choose an appropriate name for their child.
  • Most components in a name have a pleasant meaning: e.g. Hla (pretty) or Aung (successful).
  • Nicknames are common in Burmese culture. They may be an abbreviation of the original name or a word that describes the person’s character.
  • For the Chin people, parents become known as “father of  ___” or “mother of __” after they’ve had a child. Their nicknames and actual names become used less.
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Myanmar (Burma)
  • Population
    56,890,418
    [July 2016 est.]
    Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS. This can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.
  • Languages
    Burmese [Official]
    Shan (Tai)
    Karen languages (Karenic)
    Kachin (Jingpho)
    Chin languages (Kukish)
    Mon
    English
    There are over 100 languages and dialects spoken by minority groups.
  • Religions
    Buddhist (87.9%)
    Christian (6.2%)
    Muslim (4.3%)
    Animist (0.8%)
    Hindu (0.5%)
    Other (0.2%)
    None (0.1%)
    [2014 est.]
    Note: The religion estimate is based on the 2014 national census, including an estimate for the non-enumerated population of Rakhine State, which is assumed to mainly affiliate with the Islamic faith.
  • Ethnicities
    Burman (Bamar) (68%)
    Shan (9%)
    Karen (7%)
    Rakhine (4%)
    Chinese (3%)
    Indian (2%)
    Mon (2%)
    Other (5%)
    Note: there are over 135 indigenous ethnic groups in Burma
  • Australians with Burmese Ancestry
    49,204 [2016 census]
Burmese in Australia
  • Population
    32,655
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Myanmar.
  • Average Age
    41
  • Gender
    Male (48.5%)
    Female (51.5%)
  • Religion
    Buddhism (30.1%)
    Baptist Christianity (26.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (20.6%)
    Islam (5.2%)
    Other (17.4%)
  • Ancestry
    Burmese (46.8%)
    Karen (14.0%)
    Chinese (8.8%)
    English (6.9%)
    Other (23.5%)
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Burmese (47.8%)
    English (19.1%)
    Karen (16.2%)
    Burmese and Related Languages, ndf. (3.6%)
    Other (13.3%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 60.4% speak English fluently.
  • Diaspora
    Western Australia (34.3%)
    Victoria (25.8%)
    New South Wales (23.7%)
    Queensland (8.7%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (43.4%)
    2001-2006 (13.1%)
    2007-2011 (40.2%)
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