Jane in Yangon: "If you love to travel to see nature, travel everywhere in Myanmar!"

  • Jane in Yangon
Interview
Published 2 years ago

Indonesian and married to a Burmese man met in U.S, Jane decided to live in Myanmar with him. From the economical capital, she gives us her vision of this multicultural country and unfortunately too much unknown.

shini4

shini4

Currently writing http://liveinrangoon.blogspot.com/ and http://www.bamalearnburmese.com/

Hi Jane, can you introduce yourself quickly and tell us about your projects in Myanmar?

Hi, I’m Jane, an Indonesian, now living in Yangon. Currently I am working on BAMALearnBurmese.com with the help of some volunteers, and occasionally writing on liveinrangoon.blogspot.com.

Why did you choose to live in Myanmar?

I am married to a Burmese man. We met in U.S. while studying and decided to live here.

How were your first steps in the country ? Was it easy to find accomodations and to integrate burmese society?

We moved to Yangon at the end of year 2013. We live with my husband’s family. Back then, we checked the service apartments price in Yangon. They were above 2,500 USD per month, which, like other houses and offices here: no stable electricity, lack of clean water, slow internet. Wouldn’t be too surprising if foreigners had to pay 3x the price given to locals to rent room, apartment, house, or condo. Even though the people are nice and friendly, if I weren’t with my husband & his family, I doubt I have the patience to live here.

The Karaweik

How can you describe burmese culture?

A large majority of the Myanmar population practices Buddhism. Burmese Buddhist has quite strict rules regarding how to behave towards the monks, how to call the monks, how to offer foods, how to sit, etc. Similar to Indonesians, people here really respect older people, teachers and doctors. I am not very fond of learning new language, but I know I have to learn basic Burmese. I started off with Burmese by Ear by John Okell. Burmese is a tonal language, and it has more vowels than Indonesia language. What I hear as Indonesian one and only “e”, it could be one of 3 different vowels in Burmese!

What does your everyday life look like in Myanmar? I suppose that the burmese rhythm is different?

Wake up early, breakfast, playing with my 3 dogs, housework, browsing internet, sometimes play Dota 2. I used to work from 9am to 8pm in Jakarta with my team, and I kind of miss it.

What are the big differences between burmese food and indonesian food?

A lot of the food here look alike with Indonesian food, but the taste is rather different. Yangon milk tea in tea shop is super sweet for me. I always have to ask them to reduce the sugar (sometimes it is still too sweet!).

Inlay Lake

Do you have a good knowledge about the local job market? What are the most dynamic economic sectors?

Ever since the U.S. started easing sanctions in 2012 after the military junta, Myanmar has been ‘opened up’. Before, you needed to pay 1500 USD for new phone SIM card. Meanwhile, most of the cars were used cars from Japan (due to heavy sanction, it was not easy to import cars), and the price were unbelievably high. Times the price of a new-luxury car you see in the U.S. website with 10 to get that car here, and that is only for a second hand car. Therefore, there was no traffic jam! Back then, the land prices were still relatively normal.

After 2011, foreigners started coming. Properties owners started ‘playing around’ — buy and sell properties. At some point annual rent in Yangon was more expensive than downtown Manhattan (sYangon price at $100 a square foot, compared with less than $75 in downtown Manhattan). And yes, along with that price were not-up-to-standard infrastructures. The infrastructure is much better now. Some foreign companies are coming to Yangon, new manufacturing factories, a lot of construction of hotels and apartments. Business is growing, but kind of slow. People, especially investors, must be waiting for Obama to lift all sanctions against Myanmar! There are a few software houses, startups, and foreign companies. They might have a little vacancies for foreigners, but make sure you sign off everything before you move here!

Restaurants keep popping in and out. Sad to say, but the rent is too high. A lot of them are foreigners come to invest and manage the restaurants. Local manufactured foods and beverages are starting to raise their products standard, but still a bit lagging from it’s neighbor countries. While fresh graduates local employees are normally expecting 200USD per month; expats might negotiate salary a bit lower than that you are receiving in your countries.

Which part of Myanmar do you recommend and why?

Yangon! I am not a fan of traveling. I am a city person and need to be surrounded by things I need. Other cities in Myanmar are still very natural and beautiful. If you love to travel to see nature, travel everywhere in Myanmar! Each state has its own uniqueness.

Pagoda in Yangon

Aung San Suu Kyi, the burmese State Counsellor, is trying to give peace to the country, but conflicts keep going. How do you see this situation, as an expat in Myanmar?

Myanmar has 14 states and regions, some of them have totally different languages (spoken and written language) and culture. If you travel around, you can feel big differences on each city, especially on the infrastructure. People living in the border might feel unjustly treated, so they speak up. Similar thing happens in Indonesia. I don’t think it can be easily resolved. But, as much as I know, people here love Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, as well as Aung San Suu Kyi. Hope for the best.

Any advices for a soon-to-be expatriate in Myanmar?

If you have special needs, especially medicine, bring them from your home country. Hospital is still way lower than international standard. Google and join (expat) Facebook group or forum to see how to live in your destination city. Prepare your visa and accommodation carefully, especially if you plan to stay here for some time. Always bring Myanmar banknotes to pay your bills (including when you pay huge amount of 1 year rent. Even for locals, buying a house is still being paid with bank notes —NOT cards nor bank transfer). Would you like to exchange your U.S. dollars to Myanmar kyat, make sure they are BRAND NEW series banknotes (no fold, no mark, no scratch, no tore). Find out Burmese numbers and basic Burmese conversation to bargain your taxi fare!

Smile and Have fun!