The other day I asked Nyein about the Burmese handshake and he told me that people do it because they consider it more polite. Some of the Burmese arrivals will shake my hand but will place their left hand under the elbow or forearm of their right while shaking. So I began trying it out on Sunday and have gotten mixed responses. Some consider it normal others don’t even notice and some smile.
Later I was talking to Peng Len about this and he said that to be really polite you not only shake hands as described but you keep your head bowed low and don’t make eye contact. He laughed as he demonstrated such, in an exagerrated way. His daughter, Bibi said they were trained in Asia, that when they got to America, they needed to shake hands firmly while making eye contact. I was talking to Eh Le Say and he said he quit doing the old way of shaking hands at the refugee camp. It is great that many of the Burmese desire to move toward American culture and language. They have had to leave their home and learn to do things in a new way.
I commend Pastor Inthava because he knows many of the Southeast Asian customs and is also trying to learning basic words and greetings in the Burmese languages. And of course a hug is a great greeting in American and the Burmese culture. Whatever we can do to ease this transition for these people is an important gesture of kindness for the people of Burma living in High Point.