Friendly, educated and hospitable are the characters of the people of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan culture has long been influenced by the heritage of Theravada Buddhism. And the religion's legacy is particularly strong in Sri Lanka's southern and central regions. The ancient Yaksha and Naga tribes Civilized before 300 B.C. using agriculture and irrigation, believed in Buddhism in early 2nd Century B.C.

South Indian cultural influences are especially pronounced in the northernmost reaches of the country. The history of colonial occupation has also left a mark on Sri Lanka's identity, with Portuguese, Dutch, and British elements having intermingled with various traditional facets of Sri Lankan diverse culture like its Natural Heritage.

Sri Lankans are known as the Smiling People throughout the world. Sri Lankans enjoy a unique life style that's humble, artistic, entertaining & touching. The intimate connection between Society and Buddhism as well as traditional forms of Art, Dance and Music are the fusion of the Sri Lanka Culture

In the early 19th century The British rule introduced democracy, modern education (Destroying the centuries old established “Piriven Education” – Education system established in Buddhist Temples carried out by educated Monks), legal and commercial agriculture system.

Sri Lanka now is a mirror of its own ancient and modern cultures diverse from it's cities to far villages across the tiny island. The main religions of Sri Lanka are Buddhism and Hinduism which both have large influences on political, cultural, and social life.

Today Social Diversity of Sri Lankans can be explained as people involved in software engineering International markets as well as traditional farmers using baffolas for to work in the paddy fields. The contemporary Sri Lankan society is fast emerging as an inclusive tolerant social entity. Ethnic identity and religious convictions are accepted as essential yet not overarching, stratified social compartments. Social equality and equal access to opportunity has reduced caste distinctions to near extinction among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims of Sri Lanka.

Yet, glaring income disparities have served to create class differences on the basis of relative affluence and access to knowledge on the basis of acquired language skills especially in English.

Sinhala (also called Sinhalese or Singhalese) is the mother tongue of the Sinhalese ethnic group which is the largest in Sri Lanka (approx. 70%). It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Sinhalese are faced with an imminent threat of extinction in the world. Sinhala is spoken by about 16 million people in Sri Lanka, about 13 million of who are native speakers. It is one of the constitutionally-recognized official languages of Sri Lanka, along with Tamil. The growth rate of Sinhalese race was deliberately reduced in 1950’s & 60’s by introducing a western economic concept of 2 children in a family to cope with economic constrains.

This has resulted in bringing down the percentage of native Sinhalese race in the country to 70% at present, as other migrated races such as Tamils & Muslims did not accept this 2 children in a family concept.

The country has a rich artistic tradition, with distinct creative forms that encompass music, dance, and the visual arts. Sri Lankan culture is internationally associated with cricket, a distinct cuisine, an indigenous holistic medicine practice, religious iconography such as the Buddhist flag, and exports such as tea, cinnamon, and gemstones, as well as a robust tourism industry.

The architecture of Sri Lanka displays a rich variety of architectural forms and styles. Buddhism had a significant influence on Sri Lankan architecture, since it was introduced to the island in 3rd Century BCE.[5] However techniques and styles developed in Europe and Asia have also played a major role in the architecture of Sri Lanka.

Many forms of Sri Lankan arts and crafts take inspiration from the Island's long and lasting Buddhist culture which in turn has absorbed and adopted countless regional and local traditions. In most instances Sri Lankan art originates from religious beliefs, and is represented in many forms such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. One of the most notable aspects of Sri Lankan art are caves and temple paintings, such as the frescoes found at Sigiriya, and religious paintings found in temples in Dambulla and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Other popular forms of art have been influenced by both natives as well as foreign settlers. For example, traditional wooden handicrafts and clay pottery are found around the hilly regions while Portuguese-inspired lacework and Indonesian-inspired Batik are also notable.

Social Recognition

The recognition of an individual and the social status accorded is of extreme importance to Sri Lankans. Criticism in public implies an attempt to diminish dignity. Sri Lankans are conscious of protecting their social space among peers. They concede some latitude in recognizing hierarchal authority as that of the father as head of the family, the boss in office, the teacher in school and the physician in the village. Sri Lankans strive hard to be hospitable, friendly and helpful. Instead of displeasing the guest they may often give a vague or non-committal reply to a query that requires a negative or less pleasing response.

Greeting and relationships

The response you receive from a Sri Lankan will depend on his/her age and perhaps ethnicity. The common greeting you may encounter is “Ayubowan” in Sinhala which means “may you be blessed with long life” or “Vanakkam” in Tamil which implies the identical wish expressed in Sinhala. The greeting is with palms clasped as in a prayer with a thinly discernible nod by your equal and a more obvious bow of the head and shoulders by the service oriented indicative of courtesy. In informal settings you may also hear "kuhomadu" (How do you do?).

The younger generation will readily shake hands when you take stroll during those hours when curiosity compels you to make friends on your Sri Lanka Vacation. But many Sri Lankan women will refrain from physical contact with a man outside their family so always wait to see if a woman extends her hand or not.

When addressing people you should always use the appropriate title followed by the surname. Always wait for the other party to move to a first name basis.

  • Maintaining face is important for all communication.

  • Do not put people in awkward positions or under pressure. Never openly criticize people.

  • Sri Lankans are very non-confrontational in their communication style and it is important to try and read between the lines. They may say one thing but mean another and it is up to the listener to work out the message.

  • Watch for long pauses, avoidance of eye contact or blatant tactics of evasion.

Gift Giving Etiquette

In Sri Lanka gifts are usually given at birthdays and religions holidays. As a rule gifts are not usually lavish or expensive but symbolic.

As with other etiquette pointers about Sri Lanka there will be differences due to the ethnic/religious diversity of the country but here are some general gifts giving etiquette rules:

  • Avoid flowers - they are used in mourning.
  • Only give alcohol if you are sure the recipient drinks.
  • White or black are the colours of funerals and mourning.
  • If the recipient is Muslim avoid pig products, alcohol or any foodstuffs that contain meat (unless "halal")
  • Hindus should not be given gifts made of leather. .
  • Give and receive gifts with two hands. To demonstrate graciousness, some Sri Lankans will touch their right forearm with their left hand while offering the gift with their right hand.
  • Gifts are generally not opened when received.
  • Any gift received should be reciprocated.

Dining Etiquette

  • Sri Lankans enjoy coming together at meal time as a family or with friends.
  • If you are invited somewhere at 7pm to eat it is likely you may wait a few hours before the food arrives, Wait to be shown your seat. There is often a protocol to be followed.
  • You may be asked if you would like to wash your hands before and after sitting down to a meal. You should take up the offer. Because Sri Lankans eat by hand. Using fork & spoon is not practices at homes.
  • Depending on the situation you may be served food on to your plate or be expected to serve yourself.
  • Keep elbows off the table.
  • Use your right hands to eat.
  • Use bread or small balls of rice to scoop food off your plate.
  • You may be offered or served second helpings. If you do not want more and it has already been put on your plate, there is no need to eat it.

Business Meetings

  • As relationships are so important for business it is always wise to invest time in relationship-building conversations at the start of any meetings.
  • The Sri Lankans will want to feel at ease with you and at least have a small bit of background about you before they will feel comfortable doing business or discussing business with you.
  • In fact a first meeting with a company should be approached as purely a relationship building exercise.
  • Prior to a meeting it may be worthwhile sending some background information on your company, the attendees and an agenda for the meeting.
  • Meetings may be interrupted by other business but this should not be interpreted as rude in any way.
  • Initial meetings will usually take place with middle ranking personnel who gather information to present to the decision maker. Getting to the decision maker through them is based on establishing good rapport and having a solid proposal.
  • Remember only the top level person at a company will usually make decisions so be patient and do your best to meet the person face-to-face.


Foods in Sri Lanka can be hot or very mild or can be combination being very much a question of individual preference. Sri Lankan food is unique for their Culture. Many Sinhala food items are derived from Chena cultivation.Sri Lankan cuisine plays a vital role in the islanders’ life from the most auspicious Sinhala/ Hindu New Year to normal day-to-day practices. They make milk rice and special sweets with coconut milk, floor and Honey at cultural festivals. It is recognized as one of the sixty- four types of art, “Siu Seta kalawa”. The curries come in many verities of colors and flavors blended in Sri Lankan Hot Spices has a great ayurvedic value when used in curries.

Most of the Sri Lankans eat vegetables. With a large community of farmers the Rice and curry is the main food in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka curries are known for their fiery hot spicy flavors and coconut milk is very distinct feature of Sri Lankan cuisine that different regions of country specialize in different types of dishes. The specialty in Sri Lankan food is that same food is differently made in different regions. Dishes from the North region of Sri Lanka have distinct south Indian flavors.

Dishes from the South region of Sri Lanka can be Spicy, Hot or Mild. The meals of the southern region of Sri Lanka are known for their variety and fishing village though the coastal strip. Ambulthiyal a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges “Goraka” paste.

Certain types of fish Balaya , Kelawalla are native to Southern seas. “Lunu dehi” (lime pickle) and jaadi (Pikled fish) are food items made from methods of preserving since they could dry them in sun during rainless days.

Western region of Sri Lanka has foreign influence much more than other regions. Many items made using wheat flour always had made Sri Lankan dishes foreign. Many of Sri Lanka's urban areas are host to American fast food corporations and many of the younger generation have started to take a liking to this new style of cuisine although it is rejected by many, particularly the more traditional elder members of the community.

Since upper western coastal region is dry, fish is dried with salt as a preservative. This is called “Karawala” (dry fish).

Spices such as Cloves, Cardamoms, nutmeg and pepper are found in abundance throughout Kandy and Matale District in Central region of Sri Lanka. Eastern province constitutes three major ethnic groups. Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil, hena cultivation, Game meat from nearby forests and dry Weather have influenced many food items.

Staple diet of Sri Lanka is ‘Rice and curry’ the word ‘curry’ covering a multitude of dishes which are made according to different methods of cooking from Soups, meat, Sea food, Lentils, Vegetables, Sambols, Mallums, Phies to Achcharus. A typical Sri Lankan meal consists of a "main curry" (fish, chicken, or mutton), as well as several other curries made with vegetable and lentils. Side-dishes include pickles, chutneys and "sambols" which can sometimes be fiery hot. The most famous of these is the coconut sambol, made of scraped coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried Maldivian fish and lime juice. This is ground to a paste and eaten with rice, as it gives zest to the meal and is believed to increase appetite. In addition to sambols, Sri Lankans eat "mallung", chopped leaves mixed with grated coconut and red onions. Coconut milk is found in most Sri Lankan dishes and it gives the cuisine its unique flavor.

Curd and Treacle and Sweetmeats made from Rice flour and palm treacle, jiggery along with various types of fruits are additions to the meal as the dessert. The Palm, Coconut, Kithul, Palmyra from which the treacle is made will vary accordingly. Sri Lankans also like several juicy sweetmeats like Kavum, kokis, Halape, Thalaguli and Wattalapam etc. Sri Lankans also like to have drinks like tea and coffee.

A very popular alcoholic drink is toddy or arrack, both made from palm tree sap.

Sri Lankans also eat hoppers (Aappa, Aappam), which can be found anywhere in Sri Lanka.

Another well-known rice dish is kiribath, meaning milk rice.

Sri Lanka has long been renowned for its spices. The best known is cinnamon which is native to Sri Lanka. In the 15th and 16th centuries, spice and ivory traders from all over the world brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. Lamprais rice boiled in stock with a special curry, accompanied byfrikkadels (meatballs), all of which is then wrapped in a banana leaf and baked as a Dutch-influenced Sri Lankan dish. Dutch and Portuguese sweets also continue to be popular. British influences include roast beef and roast chicken. Also, the influences of the Indian cooking methods and food have played a major role in what Sri Lankans eat.

Sri Lankans use spices liberally in their dishes and typically do not follow an exact recipe: thus, every cook's curry will taste slightly different. Furthermore, people from different regions of the island (for instance, hill-country dwellers versus coastal dwellers) traditionally cook in different ways. Sri Lankan cuisine is known to be among the world's spiciest, due to the high use of different varieties of chili peppers referred to as amu miris (Green chilli), kochchi miris, and maalu miris" (capsicum) and in Tamil Milakaai, among others. It is generally accepted for tourists to request that the food is cooked with a lower chili content to cater for the more sensitive Western palette. Food cooked for public occasions typically uses less chili than food cooked at homes, where the food is cooked with the chili content preferable to the occupants.

Tea culture

Being one of the largest producers of tea in the world, Sri Lankans drink a lot of tea. There are many tea factories around mountainous areas. Many Sri Lankans drink at least three cups a day. Sri Lanka is also one of the best tea-producing countries in the world and the Royal Family of the United Kingdom has been known to drink Ceylon tea. Tea is served whenever a guest comes to a house, it is served at festivals and gatherings or just for breakfast.

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