At the confluence of the mighty Yangon and Bago Rivers is Yangon, the largest city of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and former capital. British colonial Yangon (Rangoon) of the late 1800s boasted parks, lakes, infrastructure and edifices redolent of London, earning it the moniker "Garden City of the East." The original infrastructure has long since deteriorated and, while crumbling fin de siÃ¨cle architecture dominates the city’s downtown area, many of the old colonial buildings were demolished to make way for modern high-rises and shopping centres. In 2008, a raging cyclone laid waste to more than 75% of the city’s infrastructure.
Getting around Yangon is easy, whether you opt for a taxi, rickshaw or ferry. If you do intend to get to work on time, however, it would be advisable to negotiate a car into your relocation package. On those evenings that you prefer to go out on foot, watch where you are walking; the pavement is often uneven and pitted with holes.
Despite being largely impoverished, Yangon is one of Asia’s safest large cities. It continues to be Burma’s most populated and ethnically diverse city, boasting large South Asian, Chinese and Indian communities. Of the spectrum of religions practiced here, Buddhism is the most widely practiced. Alcohol is therefore tolerated, but is often very expensive. Eating out, on the other hand, is cheap and Yangon boasts a decent range of restaurants.
While Burmese is the most widely spoken language, English is by far the preferred second language. Nevertheless, a handful of local phrases would be well received, as would observation of social norms. Simple gestures, such as holding your elbow while shaking hands or using both hands to give or receive an object, indicate respect.
Expats moving here will be relieved to learn that despite heavy local censorship, you can access foreign TV channels and movies via both the Internet and satellite TV stations, albeit at a very high price. Foreign media is limited, but available, as is Internet access. The health infrastructure here is fairly poor; most opt to fly over to Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia for specialist treatment. Similarly, availability of western goods is limited, so it is worth stocking up on specialty food items during trips abroad.
What is special or unique about your city?
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is an important tourist destination. It is well-known for its thousands of pagodas. Yangon, its capital, has the 2,500 year-old Shwedagon pagoda, the biggest pagoda in the world.
The people who live in Myanmar make up a broad range of cultures with many unique characteristics. While there are many differences between these people, all residents of Myanmar are consistently famous for their hospitality.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Yangon is a beautiful green city, seemingly untouched by modernisation. This rustic charm is unique in today’s developing cities. Visitors to Yangon are immediately impressed by its abundance of trees, parks and lakes, which make it easy to find some tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The slow pace and laid-back attitude of the people may take some getting used to. However, soon enough, the friendly atmosphere will make you feel right at home.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Myanmar remains largely undeveloped and lacks foreign investment, due to sanctions. If the economy opens up, development will be rapid, bringing obvious benefits to the economy and its people. Some, though, say this will make it lose its unique charm.
What is the local language?
Myanmar language (Burmese) is the official language. There are over 100 dialects, but most of Myanmar's people speak Burmese. You will find that English is widely used in the industries and areas frequented by foreigners.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Expats generally do not have problems getting by without knowing the language. English is widely spoken at the expat compounds, which are generally self-contained with facilities. Many of the restaurants and services in Yangon are now also trying to attract foreign customers by offering service in basic English.
If you intend to wander out of Yangon or the main expat areas, it will be wise to hire a guide.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Avoid discussing politics and learn the local culture and customs. Buddhism is a way of life in Myanmar and should be respected at all times. As in the rest of Asia, elders are also treated with utmost respect.
Please contact Crown Yangon for more information on cultural awareness.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
There are two distinct seasons: wet and dry. Both have extremes at the peak of the seasons, i.e., very wet and very hot, respectively.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Yangon is a pleasant, safe city. However, the infrastructure is badly in need of investment. Therefore, patience is required when getting around.