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Outside Influence in Burma


By Preston Price

    If there are two primary influential cultures in Burma, I would have to say that it is India and Britain.  In “Heart of Burma,” Maura Stephen’s gives a brief overview of Burma’s history and states that Burma was ruled by the British as part of India during its colonial period.  I knew that Britain had colonized both India and Burma, but I had no idea that Burma was ruled as part of India.  This makes sense as to why Burma has had major influences from both countries up to this very day.  I took notice of these influences in a multitude of forms.

    The most apparent observation relating to India’s impact on the Burmese culture would have to be the people.  I definitely noticed a difference in the physical appearances of the people from that of Vietnam.  People were generally darker, and I could even see the presence of Indian Individuals in the Burmese society.  In explaining this, I mean that not everyone appeared to be of Oriental descent.  I also met a cab driver who claimed to be from Pakistan.  Although this is not India, India is located between Pakistan and Burma, suggesting that there is or has been some degree of migration from this region west of Burma towards Burma.  The article “Overview fo South Asian Diaspora” points out that in the last quarter of the 19th century Indians migrated to Myanmar to work on plantations and work menial jobs.  This further suggests that migrations from areas west of Burma towards Burma have taken place, regardless of how recent.

    I had two experiences that made me realize the level to which Britain has helped shape modern Burma.  First of all, I was very surprised with the amount of English that the locals spoke.  Even the little children selling stuff on the streets spoke just as good or better English than any other children I have encountered in any of the other countries.  Secondly, I went on a hot air balloon ride, which was amazing by the way, and I found out that the two captains and business owners were British.  These two guys told me that a great deal of British companies have invested in Myanmar throughout history, and continue to do so today.  In conclusion, I would have to say that the cultures of Britain and India are two of the most influential in shaping the unique culture of Myanmar.

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