Many employers fail to understand the cultural differences of Myanmar maids to their detriment. At the risk of generalization, Myanmar maids have some cultural differences we should be aware of. Of course, there are exceptions depending on the character, personality and background of each Myanmar maid.
Language is a common problem for new Myanmar maids. She may have completed High School and taken a subject in English, but her lack of practice and cultural shyness means that she may appear not to understand you. You can safely assume a K2 level of English (or less) for new Myanmar maids.
Speak slowly and simply
Even American and British do not understand the way Singaporeans speak. So speak slower to your maid and you may have to repeat your requests several times. Use simple words. Constantly clarify and ask if she understands what you are saying. Rephrase your instructions in very simple English if you see that she does not understand your questions or requests.
Culturally, Myanmar maids find it nearly impossible to say “No” to anything. That means she might say “Yes” to everything you say without fully understanding what it means. You do have to be patient with your new maid. Allow her time to understand, think through and confirm your requests.
Conservative and modest
The Myanmar people are conservative and modest in their behavior. You may find it strange initially, when she bows her head down while walking / crossing in front of you. She may speak softly, not look you in the eye and sit in a ‘lower’ position than you.
Try not to raise your voice
Myanmar maids are soft-spoken and they don’t take it too well when you raise your voice or show “aggression” in your voice when you speak to them. Loud voices and shouting will surely make them very uncomfortable.
No multi-tasking please
Not many people can multi-task like Singaporeans. Do not give too many instructions to your maid at the same time. At least in the initial period, explain one task at a time, e.g. ‘this is how I want you to cook’, and focus the day on cooking methods, ingredients, dishes. On another day you can explain your requirements on how you want the house to be cleaned.
Work schedule needed
Myanmar maids not be used to a structured programme of house-keeping. So their work may appear random to you. It is better that you design a daily schedule, and let her know the hours you want her to work, and what you want done and by when. But once instructions are given clearly, they will follow them faithfully.
Lead the way
Show your maid how you want things done. It’s good to start off doing things with her, such as mopping the floor, doing laundry. Apply the simple learning and teaching rules:
- Tell them why
- Show them how
- Get them started
- Keep them going
Words of encouragement
Like employees everywhere, Myanmar maids will appreciate words of praise and encouragement. Be generous with your kind words. Go slow on negative comments or being critical of her work.