Category Archives: People

The Sri Lankan Piggy Bank

the sril ankan piggy bankWhen it comes to saving, Sri Lankans have a lower saving rate than other Asian countries. Compare for example the Sri Lankan saving rate of 23%, compared to that of Singapore (53%), and of Malaysia (33%). India and the Philippines also have a higher saving rate of 31%.

Reasons for this could be the low average salary of say 20,000 to 30,000 rps (US138 to US207) per month. However it may be down to the fact that the civil war taught people to look at surviving through the day on a day by day basis where the immediate presence far outweighed thinking of the future. Given that the war ended in 2009, that is only a mere 9 years ago. It may take many more years, and perhaps the next generation to change that mindset.

One thing Sri Lankans do like to do though is party.

When it comes to eating out and drinking with friends, they love to spend to enjoy themselves. Indeed don’t be surprised if they ask you to join in their festivities. Their hospitality is like no other. Whilst this may reduce the savings of some, it must also mean that others are lining their pockets.

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!

The Head Wobble

6311286170_c6229297cf_oWhile visiting a new country is interesting and exciting, moving to one, learning to adapt, and understanding the culture can be challenging. Some things are very obvious and easy to get used to, while there are certain other things… well, you’ll probably never get used to them. (Hint: Rice and Curry. All. The. Time.)

Here’s one thing that is very typical for SriLanka‬, but can be difficult, confusing, or even flat-out weird to a foreigner.

The Head Wobble.

The Head Wobble is one of the first things a foreigner notices in Sri Lanka, and getting used to this can be confusing to say the least. While dealing with tuk-tuk drivers in itself can be frustrating and make you feel as if you’ve lost your mind, the Head Wobble doesn’t make it any easier. Confirmation that the driver knows a certain road or direction is almost always indicated with the Head Wobble, which can be frustrating for a foreigner – it’s not clear if the shake of the head is a ‘no’ or a ‘yes.’ You’re just left there expecting a verbal answer and feel ignored when you don’t get one.

Good Luck