It is basic etiquette to call a person using Mr and Ms. In Myanmar, Mr and Ms have different variations based on seniority and age. Let's learn to speak Burmese from the basics of addressing each other.
U – Adult males (from younger to their seniors)
Daw – Adult females (from younger to their seniors)
Ko – Younger males (most commonly used)
Ma – Younger females (most commonly used)
If you are not familiar with the name, you can just use as follows:
U/U Lay/Ba Gyi - uncle
Aunty/Daw Daw/Daw Gyi - aunt
A Ko/A Ko Gyi - big brother
Maung Lay - younger brother
A Ma Gyi/A Ma/Ma Ma - older sister
Nyi Ma Lay - younger sister
Let us follow Ma Su as she meets different people and notice how she addresses them.
Ma Su sells dried flower buds. She says it is good for health when eaten with honey. But today is her holiday so she plans to go to the market, meet her friend and visit the pagoda.
She goes to the market early in the morning and sees U Aung with beautiful coconut flower buds.
Ma Su calls him U/U Lay/Ba Gyi - uncle.
She comes back home with the groceries and sees Daw Ni washing the silk threads in boiling water preparing to dye them.
Ma Su calls her Aunty/Daw Daw/Daw Gyi - aunt.
She then visits Ko Tun at the lacquerware store. He's working hard drawing very carefully on the lacquer.
She calls him A Ko/A Ko Gyi - big brother.
Later on her way to the pagoda, she bumps into Maung Ye who is amused by the bubbles that appear as he blows through the cut leaf's stem.
Ma Su calls him Maung Lay - younger brother.
Ma Su arrives at the Pagoda and sees Ma Pan Pan selling the jasmine flowers to offer to the Buddha.
Ma Pan Pan shouts A Ma Gyi/A Ma/Ma Ma - older sister.
Ma Su calls her back Nyi Ma Lay - younger sister.
Learn to Speak Burmese and start addressing the locals the right way.
Next time you hail a cab, call the cab driver A Ko Gyi.
Next time you buy flowers in the wet market, call seller A Ma.
Next time you meet a senior person but you don't know the name, politely address him as U or her as Aunty.
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