Sri Lankan Culture of Traditions and Etiquette

Sri Lanka, an island nation in South Asia, is a land of rich culture and diverse traditions. The country’s history spans thousands of years, and its culture is influenced by various religions, ethnic groups, and colonial rulers. When visiting Sri Lanka, understanding its customs and traditions is equally important which will enhance your experience and show respect to the local people. In this article, we’ll explore the key aspects of Sri Lankan culture, including traditions, etiquette, and what to expect.

The Importance of Family and Community in Sri Lanka

Family plays a central role in Sri Lankan society. Most people live in extended families, where multiple generations reside together. Family gatherings and events are common, and they strengthen the bond between relatives. Respect for elders is a fundamental value, and young people are expected to care for their aging parents.

Religious Diversity and Practices in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a multi-religious country. Buddhism, practiced by the majority of the population, has a significant influence on the culture. Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity are also practiced. Temples, mosques, and churches are found throughout the island. When visiting religious sites, dress modestly and remove your shoes. Respect the customs and practices, such as not turning your back to a Buddha statue.

Traditional Festivals and Celebrations in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans celebrate many festivals, reflecting the country’s religious diversity. The most important festival is Vesak, celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. During Vesak, streets are decorated with lanterns, and temples hold special ceremonies. Other major festivals include Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Deepavali, and Christmas. Each festival has unique customs, rituals, and traditional foods.

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan cuisine is known for its bold flavors and aromatic spices. Rice and curry are staples, and meals often include a variety of vegetable, meat, and fish dishes. Coconut, chili, and cinnamon are commonly used ingredients. Traditional foods like hoppers, string hoppers, and kottu roti are must-tries. When eating with locals, it’s customary to eat with your right hand.

Dress Code and Etiquette of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans dress modestly, and it’s important for visitors to do the same. Avoid wearing revealing clothing, especially when visiting religious sites or rural areas. Men typically wear sarongs or trousers, while women wear sarees or long skirts. In social settings, greetings often involve a slight bow with hands pressed together, known as the “Ayubowan” gesture.

Language and Communication in Sri Lanka

Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka. English is widely spoken, especially in urban areas and tourist destinations. Learning a few basic phrases in Sinhala or Tamil can go a long way in showing respect and building rapport with locals. Sri Lankans value polite and respectful communication. Avoid raising your voice or showing anger in public.

Sri Lankan Arts and Crafts

Sri Lanka has a vibrant tradition of arts and crafts. Traditional dance forms, such as Kandyan dance, are performed at cultural events and festivals. Handicrafts like pottery, wood carving, and batik are popular souvenirs. Gemstones, particularly sapphires, are a significant part of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and are highly sought after by tourists.

Weddings and Marriage Customs in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan weddings are colorful and elaborate affairs. They often blend traditional and modern elements. In Buddhist and Hindu weddings, rituals and ceremonies are performed to bless the couple. Traditional attire, music, and dance are integral parts of the celebrations. Marriage is seen as a union of families, and arranged marriages are still common.

Sri Lankan Hospitality and Social Norms

Sri Lankans are known for their hospitality. Visitors are often treated as honored guests. When invited to a local’s home, it’s customary to bring a small gift, such as sweets or flowers. Meals are a time for socializing, and sharing food is a common practice. Always show gratitude and respect to your hosts.

Respect for Nature and Wildlife

Sri Lanka is home to diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife. The country places a high value on conservation and environmental protection. Visitors should respect natural habitats and avoid disturbing wildlife. National parks and nature reserves offer opportunities to see elephants, leopards, and a variety of bird species in their natural surroundings.

FAQs about Sri Lankan Culture 

What should I wear when visiting religious sites in Sri Lanka?

Wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Remove your shoes before entering temples and other religious sites.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Sri Lanka?

It’s advisable to drink bottled or filtered water. Avoid drinking tap water or ice made from tap water to prevent stomach issues.

Can I take photographs of people and places?

Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas. Photography may be restricted in certain religious sites.

How should I greet locals in Sri Lanka?

A common greeting is “Ayubowan,” which involves a slight bow with hands pressed together. This gesture is a sign of respect.

What is the local currency, and can I use credit cards?

The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Credit cards are widely accepted in major cities and tourist areas, but it’s good to have some cash for small purchases.

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Memorable and enjoyable 15 days in Sri Lanka with Green Holidays The green holidays organised our whole trip to Sri Lanka according to our suggestions and requirements. We had a perfect, peaceful and enjoyable 15 days holiday. Pradeep and Rashmi booked the accommodation, vehicle for travel and the the driver/guide within a very short time. They were very prompt in responding to our messages and accommodating our last minute changes. The hotels they booked were comfortable, check in was so smooth and the service was good. We were able to do much more than we anticipated because of their coordination. Our guide/driver Romesh was very polite, trustworthy and punctual. We travelled with Romesh from Colombo to Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kandy and Galle in his car without any incidents and reached safely at the airport on time for our return flight. We thank Pradeep, Jay, Rashmi and Romesh for making our trip a pleasant and an enjoyable one.
Emmanuel P
Emmanuel P
Travel in peace and with Personal contact of Green Holidays We used the services of Green Holiday for our stay in Sri Lanka. They arranged the complete tour picking us up at the Bandaranayaka Airport and taking us to Jaffna, Batticaloa, Bentota, Colombo and Kandy including Ella. Green Holiday provided us with a Chauffeur/ tour guide ( Upul) who knew so much about SriLanka and its History and personally took care of our safety and was with us to ensure our check in at the hotels was flawless. Upul is a honest trustworthy person to rely on and was very caring. Thanks to Green Holidays for providing a knowledgeable person to be with us throughout the trip. We had the pleasure of dealing with Pradeep who planned out our trip to our liking with several changes requested by us and was available on the phone anytime 24/7 to discuss and review options. Rashmi from Green Holidays was our local contact in case of any emergency or for information once we were in in Sri Lanka. We were glad to have the assurance of a personal contact while on vacation. Green Holidays has earned our trust to make our vacation relaxing and trouble free. We recommend Green Holidays as a reliable trustworthy company to book your vacation packages. Their team worked vigorously to ensure our vacation is pleasant, memorable and safe.
Koushik S
Koushik S
We had such an amazing trip and we are back with lots of lovely memories. Thanks to Green Holiday for arranging a wonde We had been to Srilanka for 5 days and we did have such a fantastic trip. The whole place was very clean and the natural look was just fantastic
Sam B
Sam B
Great driver, great Organisation My boyfriend and i took a two week holiday on sri lanka. One week on road, one week beach holiday. Apart from a little mishap at the start when our arrival time was wrongly put at 09.30 instead of 05.30. However all it took was a quick phone to Dilan our driver who rushed to pick us up immediately. Due to delays on the way here and a little visa issue (always double check your passport numbers twice people) we arrived in the arrival hall at 07.30…once we had called the adventure began at 08.15. Dilan was an absolute godsend. Kept us entertained with facts about the areas we were visiting, made good conversation during our long journeys and got us there safe and sound every time. Dilan would also help us plan out our day and was honest enough when something was either gonna be a rushjob or whenever he felt we weren’t gonna get the best bang for our buck at a certain attraction. which we really appreciated, since we had completely missjudged the traffic and the distances on this journey. He also helped us handle check-ins and check-out and as we later found out when we made excursions of our own, he also kept pesky scammers away whenever we went to visit a place on foot. As for the rest of the trip everything went incredibly smoothly. Hotel staff were super friendly with us and safaris and other tour providers were informed well in advance so that we would literaly rock up, get into another car or jeep or were handed over to a local guide and be on our way right away. So long story short, we would like to thank Green Holiday and Dilan for making our trip the adventure of a lifetime and wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone traveling in sri lanka.
Robert P
Robert P
Skvělá zkušenost Naše zkušenost s touto společnosti byla skvělá. Náš pruvodce Upul byl velmi ochotný,trpělivý a vzdělaný. O historii Srí Lanky jsme se od nej dozvěděli snad úplně vše . Ten člověk znal odpověď úplně na vše opravdu úžasný průvodce a skvělý řidič. Mohu jen doporučit
Hana K
Hana K
Absolutely reliable company with best guides. First of all, this company we used for arranging our whole vacation in Sri Lanka worked just perfect. We had no issue whatsoever. For travelling around the island for several days we had a guide Upul. He just was the best! Not only he was driving us around safe, he also knew about history, gave us all the explanations in a very interesting way. He took us in many great, beautiful and even fun places, always stood by our side, guiding us through crowds to the most interesting points and telling us all the information - about history, religions, politics, traditions, nature, you name it. Upul was truly able to answer any question we had. On top of that, he was always smiling, in a good mood, treated us with dignity and patiency. We truly appreciated it and thanks to him and a perfect organization we had the best time in Sri Lanka. I also want to say, that the company manager got in touch with us on the second day, asking how satisfied we were with Upul, checking if everything was ok. It was a nice thing to do. Overall, I truly recommend this company if you want to spend your vacatin with no hassle and great guiding.
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