Formerly called Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean. It has diverse landscapes that range from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. Sri Lanka is famed for its ancient Buddhist ruins. Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, and has many ruins dating back more than 2,000 years.
However, there are many other facts about Sri Lanka which are not of a general nature that many people do not know. Did you know, for example, how much religion means to Sri Lankans? How do Sri Lankans view being reprimanded in public? What set of people must you not touch when in Sri Lanka? Why must you eat before going to a party? And why must you leave home long before an appointed time?
Find the answers to all these and more in the following 12 funny facts about the country. You will find them invaluable if you plan to ever visit Sri Lanka.
Capitals: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo
Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
Official languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
Government: Unitary Semi-Presidential Constitutional Republic
Prime Minister: Ranil Wickremesinghe
President: Maithripala Sirisena
Population: 21,866,445 (2014 estimate.)
Funny Facts About Sri Lanka
1. Religion Matters A Lot
In case you are an atheist, forget about doing business in Sri Lanka. This is because religion has both a direct and indirect impact on business. The most predominant of all is the shared acceptance of fatalism, i.e. that a higher force is in control. As a result people rely on religion for everything, including making business decisions.
2. Hierachical Society
Sri Lankan culture is highly hierarchical. The influences of Buddhism and Hinduism as well as the caste system all brought such upon the country. The people are highly conscious of social order and status. All relationships involve hierarchies.
3. Face Is Valuable
Face, which can be described as honour or personal dignity, is extremely important to Sri Lankans. Face can be given or lost in social situations. For instance, publicly reprimanding or criticizing someone would lead to a loss of face for both parties. As a result Sri Lankans are very conscious of protecting their and others’ face at all times. Isn’t that funny!
4. Touch No Woman
However funny it sounds, women can only be seen, not touched. Many Sri Lankan women will refrain from physical contact with a man outside their family. The advice is to always wait to see if a woman extends her hand or not. Don’t extend your hand to a woman for a shake first.
5. Give No Lavish Gifts
Even if you are rich, as a rule, do not give lavish or expensive gifts. Here are some general gift-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
- Hindus should not be given gifts made of leather
- Give and receive gifts with two hands
Gifts are generally not opened when received. Any gift received should be reciprocated.
6. Eat Before Party
A party-party guy would love visiting Sri Lanka. Why? Sri Lankans enjoy coming together at meal time as a family or with friends. What is funny, however, is that if you don’t eat a little something from how before going, you might starve and faint before the food arrives. If you are invited at 7pm to eat, for example, you may likely wait a few hours before the food arrives.
7. Elbows off The Table
They may ask if you would like to wash your hands before and after sitting down to a meal. Funny question, right? But say yes. You may be served 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.
8. Waste A Little Food
The moment food finishes from your plate, more food will be served there. This is because finishing all your food means that you are still hungry. But if you do not want more and it has already been put on your plate, there is no need to eat it. Leaving a small amount of food on your plate says you have eaten your fill. Funny that wasting food is a cherished custom.
Sri Lankans are very polite people. They are strictly non-confrontational in their communication style and so, it is important to try and read between the lines. They may say one thing but mean another entirely! It’s like having a mouth on both sides of the face. So, it is up to the listener to work out the message. Watch for long pauses, avoidance of eye contact, or blatant tactics of evasion.
10. Not Strictly Time-Conscious
Time is viewed in a relaxed sense by most Sri Lankans. Showing up on time for any appointment is good. But, funny or not, you must ensure you take along a book, a magazine, or a fat newspaper to read while waiting. For indeed, you are most likely to be kept waiting.
11. Go For Appointments Long Before Time
If you make appointments, do not make it based on how long it would take a train or bus to get you to the venue of the appointment. If you do, you will certainly be disappointed. This is because trains and buses do not run on time.
12. Shoes Off
When entering the home of a Sri Lankan, it is customary to take off your shoes. It is the same in a number of shops and places of business. The good rule to follow is to watch. If you see shoes arranged near the door, take off yours before entering…even if your socks are dirty. Funny, but true.