September 1, 2017



Photo credit:

Why are individuals fleeing from Burma/Myanmar?

Burma (or Myanmar since 1989) has suffered a civil war for decades and the government is a military dictatorship.  Refugees are fleeing the country because of persecution and violence.  Ethnic minorities have been affected the most.

Primary language(s) in Burma/Myanmar

(Statistics from “The World Factbook” on CIA website)

Burmese (official)

Hakha Chin

Karen (3 variations)

Religions in Burma/Myanmar

(Statistics from

80.1% Buddhist

7.8% Christian

5.8% Folk Religions

4.0% Muslim

<1% Other Religions

Guidelines for Interacting with Burmese Refugees

What are some cultural differences?

  • Direct eye contact may be impolite.
  • Refugees may refuse an invitation at first as a matter of respect, and then accept modestly.
  • Family members may not share the same last name.

What are some resettlement considerations?

  • Burmese refugees come from several ethnic groups, with entirely separate cultures and languages.  This makes interpretation difficult.  In the U.S. (and Columbus), refugees usually belong to the Karen and Chin ethnic groups.
  • Refugees may prefer to be referred to as a member of their specific minority ethnic group because “Burmese” can refer to the Burman majority ethnic group in Bhutan.
  • Individuals may be unfamiliar with Western medicine.
  • Parents are unfamiliar with the idea of formal daycare and may feel uncomfortable sending their kids to a daycare center.

Common Phrases  (Hakha Chin)


  • Hello: Biakchawnhnak
  • Welcome: Conglawmhnak
  • How are you?: Na dam maw?
  • Response: Ka dam.
  • Yes: A si
  • No: Asilo

*This collection of information is neither perfect nor comprehensive.  Each culture is unique and cultural norms are diverse even among individuals from the same culture.  Additionally, the refugees from the following places are diverse, as is easy to see in the guidelines in this report.

Translate »