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A guide for expats in Myanmar: When Global Meets Local

AUTHOR: SAN LIN TUN, Myanmar Times, 18 MAR 2019

Photo - San Lin Tun

Photo – San Lin Tun

The book has created a buzz in the expat and literary community in Yangon even before its launching, so when Hana Bui finally launched her book “When Global Meets Local” last week curious crowd gathered at Pansuria in downtown Yangon to see what it was all about.   

The author, wearing a formal Myanmar outfit – a short sleeve blouse and a sarong – played a good hostess, hobnobbing with the guests and obligingly signed copies. 

As the country has increasingly opened its doors to foreigners after over half a century of isolation, it’s just natural for the locals and the visitors to go into some kind of culture shock, or some kind of misunderstandings as they began interacting with each other. 

The visitors rely on the international standards while the locals try so hard to understand and meet their standards within their own ways and limitations. 


Photo - San Lin Tun

Photo – San Lin Tun

Hana pointed out that the key is to try to understand each other’s differences, which will lead to the easing of tension that would lead to the benefit for both parties. 

The author is an expat living in Yangon for the past six years. She even has a Myanmar name, which she pronounced in Vietnamese drawl. During her stay in the country, she has recognized the hard crack expat-local relationship in every communicative field or business field.

She is an intercultural trainer and an author. She has worked in human resources services  in Myanmar. She did an MA degree on Globalization and Communication at University of Leicester, England.

Hana observed that both the locals and the foreigners feel frustrated or petulant, trying to overcome deadlock situations. One side breaks the agreement easily without thinking of the results; the other side puts more pressure on the other side, making matters more complex and complicated. It seems that there is no convergence point.

Hana has tried to understand the traits of locals, and expats and found ways to bridge the gap of understanding between expats and locals to be more feasible in their relationship and communication.

‘Anadeh is the consideration of others not wanting to hurt others’ feelings or not wanting to offend or embarrass.’ – Hana Bui

In her book, “When Global Meets Local” she has pointed out the facts which are instrumental in working with locals and expressing and addressing as expats, with support of case studies in the respective fields.

She understands that these are cultural issues but not cross-cultural leadership. For her survey, she met over 100 expats in Myanmar and 50 local professionals who answered her questionnaire.  

During the launching of her book, Hana shared with the audience her experience in living in Yangon and in working with the locals. She read out an extract from the Chapter 5 of her book, with the title:  “To Succeed in the workplace – Communicating When Yes is No”. 

People often say “Yes,” because they are hesitant to say “No” here. If you ask, “Do you like this option?” Instead of saying “No,” they may answer “ I am still thinking” or “ Maybe” or “I am not sure.”

In some cases like asking for clarification, some feel reluctant to ask back to explain them again. Instead, they hide their bewilderment behind the shell of Anadeh.


Photo - San Lin Tun

Photo – San Lin Tun

Hana found that and defined the meaning of Anadeh in this way:

Anadeh is why such things happen.Anadeh is the consideration of others not wanting to hurt other/s feelings or not wanting to offend or embarrass or disappoint others, which includes saving faces.

The methods she describes in her book are useful to the expats, informative and practical.  Hana emphasized building trust between two parties would ensure better relationship and communication. 

Once she asked more than fifty local HR heads and professionals “What should an expat do to work more effectively in Myanmar” the answer is repeated again and again “Respect the locals”.

San Lin Tun is a freelance Myanmar-English writer of essays, poetry, short story and novel.

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