Category Archives: Etiquette

The Showerhead Next To The Toilet That’s Not Actually For Showering

The Showerhead Next To The Toilet That’s Not Actually For Showering


Walking into a restroom in Sri Lanka can be a bit confusing for a newcomer. First off, depending on whether you are in a fancy hotel or a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, there might not be any toilet paper.

Instead there’s a scaled-down version of a showerhead next to the toilet. As tempting as it may be, it is definitely not meant for washing your hair.

Correct usage of this contraption will forever be a mystery to foreigners: it’s not exactly something you can walk up to a person and ask, but its the same as a bidet in Europe.

After a while, you will realise that this works just as well as toilet paper. It will just be a little more, uh… wet.

However in all tourist hotels if you prefer toilet paper and there doesn’t appear to be any, just ask.

So the rule of thumb is check beforehand.

Speaking with the locals

Speaking with the locals

Sinhalese  known natively as Sinhala is the native language of the Sinhalese people, who make up the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, numbering about 16 million.

Sinhalese is also spoken as a second language by other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, totalling about four million. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages.

Sinhalese is written using the Sinhalese script, which is one of the Brahmic scripts, a descendant of the ancient Indian Brahmi script closely related to the Kadamba alphabet.

Sinhalese is one of the official and national languages of Sri Lanka. Sinhalese, along with Pali, played a major role in the development of Theravada Buddhist literature.

Here’s just a few words that you can use, that I’m sure will impress the locals:

  • Machang – mate (around the island you will come across a bar chain called Machang)
  • Aiyo – Oh No!
  • Lassanai – beautiful
  • Dickie – trunk of a car
  • Keling keling – straight on (very handy when you are in a tuktuk)
  • Wama – turn left
  • Dacuna – turn right
  • Colour lights – traffic lights
  • Slippers – flip flops
  • Paining – pain (for example: My arm is paining)
  • Hari hari – ok

Enjoy speaking to the locals, they will love your attempt!

The Famous Bottle of Smirnoff

1471904_544419895642529_447747922_nThis is something a visitor to Sri Lanka will most likely see while riding a tuk tuk. The scenario will probably look like this:

You’re stuck in traffic and, like most days at any given time, it’s hot, and you can see a traffic policeman up ahead directing the traffic. The tuk tuk driver reaches for a bottle of Smirnoff or another famous alcoholic brand. Screws the cork off and starts chugging straight out of the bottle.

You’ll probably wonder what’s going on. While you try convincing yourself that it’s not actually hard liquor he’s chugging out in the open.

Turns out, there’s no need to worry: drinking water out of glass bottles is, one could say, just as common as the mosquitoes.

If you work in an office, you’ll definitely spot multiple people with vodka and wine bottles at their desks. And while being drunk on the job might fit the exotic country label. It is definitely not acceptable in Sri Lanka.

They’re simply giving the finger to plastic and reusing glass bottles for drinking water.

Or in fact it has moved on from this as in some offices it’s seen as a bit of a status symbol to those drinking out of bottles like Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire or Glenfiddick are seen as high earners.

Culture Shock Sri Lanka

10306182_625949334156251_784079371064773130_nWhen visiting a Sri Lankan home

Always take your shoes off (or make an attempt to) when you enter someone’s home. Sri Lankans never walk around at home with shoes on.

Its very common to see rows of shoes or flip flops (which by the way are called “slippers” in Sri Lanka) lined up outside the front door.

Also it’s not polite to point the soles of your feet at people. If you’re sitting on the floor, go cross legged or put your feet flat on the floor.

You will almost always be offered tea, and likely something to eat. By the way the tea will be the most sweetest thing you will ever drink in your life. It’s normal for Sri Lankan’s to have tea with 5 or 6 spoon fulls of sugar in. When you ask, “please no sugar”, firstly you get get a funny look and secondly they will put some in, anyway just for good measures.

It’s wise to accept this gesture as a sign of interest.  If you don’t want something, you will be asked a number of times – again, this is just to show hospitality.  You may need to be firm in refusing.

As you may have guessed by now, it’s considered polite to accept second helpings. A clean plate will be interpreted as a sign that you’re still hungry. Showing interest in a particular food, or in the food on someone else’s plate, may result in them giving it to you (learned from experience!).

People often have a siesta between 1.30-4pm, for between 1-3 hours. If you’re invited for lunch, you may be expected to leave promptly afterwards.


Always take something when you visit a Sri Lankan home. Biscuits or a very small souvenir from home (such as a couple of pens or postcards) will be much appreciated. However, don’t expect people to mention or open the gifts, or even to say thank you. It’s not the done thing.

Give and receive with both hands to show respect.

The Sri Lankan Umbrella Thing

7-23-2016 5-00-47 PMSri Lankans like using umbrellas, and that’s just a fact.

You’ll see people walking around with umbrellas trying to shield themselves from the strong sun, and you’ll see them trying to hold onto them in the heavy wind and rain.

But the third and most fascinating one is young couples hanging out under umbrellas. With the umbrella over their heads creating privacy and a sense of personal space, young men and women innocently touch each other’s shoulders or hold hands.

You might not get the appeal since it doesn’t really afford much privacy, but it’s actually strangely cute!