Since I watched Pulp Fiction, I started to look for the “little difference” in foreign countries. In my favorite dialogue (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pkq_eBHXJ4) John Travolta as Vincent Vega is talking about his life in Europe. He says: “But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is? It’s the little differences.” For example: They call a quarter pounder at McDonald’s a “Royal with cheese”.
In Myanmar and all over Asia, there are vivid, “big” differences everywhere, but most of them a well-known from documentaries, books and pictures. But there are also the little differences. For example: instead of a Big Mac Indian McDonalds sells a Chicken Maharaja Mac.
Myanmar is full of little differences. It starts with the traffic: they used to drive on the left side, but from one day to another they changed it (in 1970). And now they drive on the right, but the majority of drivers still sit on the right. The funny reason: former President Ne Win had a dream about it. The not so funny consequence: they have more accidents all over the country.
Another example: motorbikes are forbidden in Yangon. I just a heard the story that one day a guy was driving alongside a generals car, pointing with his finger like he is holding a gun to the head of the general. Since that day the general was so afraid of assassination that he forbade all motorbikes in the city. Although Yangon isn’t the capital anymore. They move the capital in 2005 to Naypyidaw, a town in the middle of the country and a town that wasn’t on any map before. There are different theories why the generals did this: from security-reasons to superstition.
It’s possible to continue with the list: they sell gasoline in Whiskey-bottles, they only accept dollar bills which a very clean and not creased, they don’t have a family name.
Two french guys made a funny movie about it: “Burma: The Dictatorship of the Absurd” (http://www.happy-world.com/en). It’s worth a look!
Caspar Schlenk. December 23rd, 2012