Sri Lanka Local Customs

  • Kandyan dance
    Kandyan dance
    by josephescu
  • Buddist Temple - Colombo
    Buddist Temple - Colombo
    by PierreZA
  • Mini Monks
    Mini Monks
    by Maxus

Sri Lanka Local Customs

  • Sri Lanka Dances

    There are different kinds of traditional dances in Sri Lanka depending on the region. But they all have an old time origin. One night in Tangalle we went to the nearby village to see a performance of local dances. I enjoyed it more than I expected because there were a lot of locals gathered and there was a great festive atmosphere. The dancers were...

  • Betel

    If you happen to see a Sri Lankan with a swollen cheek don't worry..he is not suffering from a bad tooth... he is just chewing betel. For some of them it is a daily habit. Betel is the leaf of a creeper cultivated in many countries of East Asia, like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia , India and others. In several of these countries it is...

  • Don't Underestimate Road Travel Times

    In planning of this trip, many maps were consulted. Distances were calculated and routes were laid out. I have traveled extensively in many places with less than developed infrastructure, but I was not quite prepared for the overland travel times in Sri Lanka.If you have your own driver, at least you can rest and relax a bit in the back while they...

  • The Ubiquitous Coconut Tree - Food of...

    My favourite Tree in the world is the Coconut tree. Its beautiful - Curved and delicate, yet strong as an ox. Its supple, and tropical. I maintain, and always will - that the tropics would not be the Tropics without this beautiful tree that decorates tropical beaches with a sense of the sublime. Now all you tropical beach lover's out there know I...


    Both in Colombo and in the Tamil areas of the country, you can find elaborate Hindu temples scattered about. Hinduism is a very complex religious system that is very simple at its core, but gets extremely complicated fast. Similar to Catholicism, Hinduism’s success can be attributed to how it can be morphed into encompassing the local belief...

  • Meal to GO--Wrapped in BANANA LEAF

    'LAMPREIS' (also spelled 'Lampries') The name is originally Dutch, and is a labor-intensive meal usually of a mixed-meat curry, plus spices, over a short grain rice and steamed in the banana leaf, tightly wrapped; most often used for a large group, or as a meal that can be taken away on a special occasion, so that no one has to do the cooking on...

  • Religious Diversity

    Buddhism is the most commonly practised religion in Sri Lanka, followed by Hinduism. Christians and Muslims make up the rest of the religious diversity. It is quite common to find a church, Buddhist Temple, Hindu Temple and a Mosque all in close proximity. I have met and had great conversations with Buddhists, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Hindus on...

  • Sri Lankan friendliness

    The smiles of the Sri Lankan people is most probably the thing I ‘ll remember most of my visit to this country.The people are very friendly and do like to talk. The fact that South Africa is a cricketing nation, made conversations much easier – as the Sri Lankans love cricket. I also found the people I met to be very well educated and informed....

  • Sweets/Deserts

    There are many sweet shops in Sri Lanka. I was the most impressed with wattalappam. It has a consistency similar to crème caramel, but coconut, jaggery and cardamom gives it its distinct taste. The other very nice sweet I had is called kitul hakuru – which is almost like a fudge – but much nicer!

  • Rice and Curry with . . . .

    You have to have Rice and curry when in Sri Lanka. It is an elaborate meal with quite a variety of dishes (sambals, chutney etc).The curry tend to be very spicy and hot – but has a great taste to it. Although many different varieties of rice are on sale in the markets, it seems that the short grain variety is most popular. You can buy Sri Lankan...

  • Local Beer

    Lion Lager and Three Coins are some of the local beers you will find in Sri Lanka. The Lion lager also comes in a “Strong” which has more than 8% alcohol. The local beers are not expensive at all.You can also get Carlsberg and other international beers.I got the idea that arrack (?refined toddy) is more popular with the locals than beer.

  • Who Lives Where?

    You can hazard a guess at who lives in a village by the livestock you see around the place, if it’s just chickens it’s probably a Buddhist community, if there’s goats it may mean Muslim people but if its pigs it’s likely to be Christians.

  • Religious Diversity in Sri Lanka

    Diversity is the name of the game in Sri Lanka and this is certainly true with regards to faith. Take the small town of Rakwana for example, in addition to the Buddhist and Hindu Temples there is a Mosque and two Churches (one Anglican and one Roman Catholic). Approximately 69 percent of the Sri Lankan population is Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 8...

  • Men Holding Hands

    Friends of either sex will often hold hands in Sri Lanka but this has absolutely nothing to do with sexual preference. It is simply a cute custom quite common in Asia. I recently saw two prison officers leaving the main gaol at Colombo hand-in-hand and I wouldn't have argued with either of them.

  • Monks and Modesty (but not meekness)

    Buddhist Monks have a special place in Sinhalese society and should be treated with respect, tourists or introduced. When you do speak try not to be too familiar and always show deference for the Monk and what he represents. Young women should be particular careful of getting too close to a monk, this is not quite as sexist as it might appear,...

  • Blowing your nose in public

    Don't do it! In particular don't blow your nose into a hankie or tissue and stick it back into your pocket, I'm told it’s regarded as gross. You can sniff and snort all day and barf like a jackal when you’re cleaning your teeth, but not the hanky business.

  • Clothing advice for tourists

    Trousers for non-teenage women are quite okay nowadays in Lanka. It's not that they are offending anyone that the older local ladies are not wearing them, it's more a matter of 'modern' vs. 'traditional'. And even in our Colombo neighbours and family at times ladies > 50 wear trousers!Same for T-shirts. The main limitation is when visiting...

  • Poya days (full moon)

    Poya or Poya Day is the name given to a Buddhist public holiday in Sri Lanka which occurs every full moon day. The Full moon is important to Buddhists all around the world, who have adopted the Lunar Calendar for their religious observances. Owing to the moon's fullness of size as well as its effulgence, the full moon day is treated as the most...

  • Smoking & drinking

    Alcohol is normally not served during public holidays (Poya days, e.g. full moons), but also during Christmas, with New Year¡'s Eve being an exception. This is the first country in the world in which I saw a warning on Coca Cola bottles: "Not recommended for minors". Most interesting and curageous, though I'm sure Sri Lankans have other thing to...

  • Esala Perahera

    Esala Perahera is very grand with elegant costumes, the most magnificent annual spectacle in Sri Lanka, and one of the most famous in Asia. Happening in July or August in Kandy, it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and richly-decorated elephants. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian...

  • Kandyan dance

    According to the legend, the origins of the dance lie in an exorcism ritual known as the Kohomba Kankariya, which was originally performed by Indian shamans who came to the island.According to legend, the Indian shamans came to the island upon the request of a king who was suffering from a mysterious illness. The king was said to be suffering from...

  • "You're a big girl Now"

    When you get to know people well you will be invited to family celebrations, one of the most important events in a Sinhalese girl’s life is her ‘coming of age’ which comes with menstruation and is celebrated with a party in the weeks following a girls first period.The woman of the family might take part in various rituals from the time of a girls...

  • Buddhist Festivals

    Buddhist festivals tend to take place on full moon or ‘Poya’ days. Busy roads means getting around can sometimes be difficult and no alcohol is officially sold but it can be a great time to be in a Buddhist area as there is usually lots going on and the atmosphere gets very vibrant indeed. The most important Poya overall is Wesak Poya (in May)...

  • A thirst for knowledge

    Twice each day in term time (currently 7.30am and 1.30pm) the streets of Sri Lanka throng with white clad children on their way to and from school, it is then that you are reminded of what a young country Sri Lanka is, almost 25% of the population is under 14 and the median age is under 30....

  • Budusarani

    Buddhism is integral to who the Sinhalese are as a people and they take it very seriously indeed so its important to show some respect when visiting a temple but don’t let this put you off, Buddhism is an open religion, you will be welcome and the locals will not be looking to catch you out and any honest mistakes are politely overlooked. In large...

  • strange monks

    This is so strange photo that I found and I never seen this kind of scence. Usually monks are not having bath like this.I beleive some of young monks when they rest in negombo beach after their travel, some of them decided to have an experience like whats wrong with this? they are still kids

  • Holy Cow?

    Just for the record, cows are not sacred (and definitely not worshiped) in Sri Lanka, even amongst the Hindu minority. The Hindu religion doesn't really run with the notion of sacredness, it’s a Christian concept and arguably takes too much of a positive position for observant Hindus. This doesn’t mean that you can be unduly unpleasant to cows,...

  • 'Sri Lankan Bubble Gum'

    Some Sri Lankan men (and very occasionally women) will chew beetle leaf, often with different kinds of nut and other plant extracts including a pink paste which turns the mouth red, it has a mildly narcotic effect. Labourers appear to use it to pass the time away during monotonous tasks and I have been offered beetle at weddings and funerals so in...

  • Time

    Time is treated quite casually. If you’ve made the two-day journey to Sri Lanka, you undoubtedly want to relax, but Sri Lankans tend to operate more slowly than you probably like. The 2:15 car that is arranged to meet you might arrive at 3 p.m. instead. Your waiter will disappear indefinitely. The worried tourist will either appreciate the lowering...

  • Religious sites

    The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists and speak Singhalese. When at religious and other shrines, some common sense rules—courtesies, really—apply - No shoes in the temples, but socks are okay, which is especially good to know if the pavement’s hot. I was asked to remove my cap when i was at the Temple of Tooth in KandyNo bare legs or other...

  • Left - Right

    The left hand is considered unclean so you should not use it for handling food (yours or anyone elses). If you have to pass anything else to someone use either your right hand (or both if is something heavy).

  • Stilt fishing

    A common attraction mostly photographed in Sri Lanka are stilt fishermen. These are fishermen catching fish while they balance on thin tall stilts. I strongly doubt about the efficiency of catching large fish in a position like that, so close to the shore, but definitely is a major tourist attraction as many foreigners stopped by to make photos....

  • Shoes caretaker

    Wearing a saddles are the best bet in Sri Lanka as you need to take off your shoes whenever you enter many holy sites, shrines, or temples and even dagoba. I suggest you bring along a plastic bag where you can put your shoes in and carry along with you. If not, just give small tip to thw shoe car taker or custodian who will secure your shoes.

  • Prayer

    Buddism is the religion in Sri Lanka. You should dress properly and take off your shoes when entering dagoda or temples.

  • A different type of pet

    We met these young boys on our drive around Sri Lanka. The porcupines were pets so they explained but would willingly pose with them or without them for photos for a few coins. Still better than a crocodile!

  • Good Neighbours

    There is still a strong sense of community in Sri Lanka particularly in the villages, where families are often related by blood or marriage. When the roof of this old lady’s house was broken by the Monsoon rains the boys of the village all turned out the next morning to repair the damage.

  • A sweet tooth

    Sri Lankan people love their sweets and one of their favourites is jaggery (a sort of fudge like confection extracted from the kitul palm) which is still made in the traditional fashion from local ingredients. It is eaten as it comes or used to sweeten puddings etc.

  • Fitting a two-pin plug in a three-pin...

    The electrical outlets in Sri Lanka are designed to fit plugs with three round pins. However, many of the appliances sold and used here have plugs with only two round pins, as used in India and many other Asian countries. Our adaptors were also of the two-pin variety, so we quickly learned the local secret for fitting them in the sockets. While...

  • Don't turn your back to the Buddha

    You should never turn your back to an image of Buddha; for this reason it is inappropriate to pose for photos while standing in front of a Buddha statue. If you want to have someone in your photo to show perspective, you could take a picture of them looking at the Buddha (see photo). This rule also applies to a Buddhist shrine or dagoba; you should...

  • Dress appropriately at religious sites

    It is not appropriate to wear shorts or other skimpy clothing at a Buddhist temple or other holy place. If you really want to wear shorts, then you should carry a sarong to tie around your waist when you visit temples. Shoes and hats must be removed before entering. It is, however, acceptable to wear socks, so you might want to bring a pair to...


    WE HAVE ANY COLOUR YOU WANT – IN BLUEDuring your visit to Sri Lanka you will at some point want to get off your relaxing sun lounger and explore the stunning beauty and history of this magical island. In order to visit holy sites and even holy cities you have to do 2 things: go barefoot and wear a SARONG to cover your legs. Men wear blue checked...

  • Dont be offended!

    The Sri Lankans are a wonderful, warm, friendly race who will fall over backwards to help you. Their only downfall is that they are terribly blunt and will say just what they think without the slightest thought that they may be offending you...they are not, its just their way. Let me give you an example or two....we had hired a driver and car for...

  • Holy Days are different

    Holy Days are not always public holidays and public holidays are not always holy days. There is a poona day every month at the time of the new moon. This is a religious, but not a commercial holiday although most government offices are closed. Also all bars and liquor shops are closed. If you really must have a beer, check into a hotel and get...

  • Tea time

    There is no reason not to have a good cup of ceylon tea in the tea producing country. Since I find out I and the driver have the same habits of having several cups of tea everyday, we also have tea stop about an hour or two on the road to have tea time. Places are not a first class restaurant but a very local tea stall or "hotel" that they call....

  • Tipping

    Tipping may be a culture or custom in one country but may not in another. It is common, by observation, that even local people would leave a rupree or two after their quick meal in local restaurant. As for the established restaurant for tourists, they may add on 10% service charge, but some don't in Unawatuna. Regardless 10% is added on to the bill...


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Sri Lanka Local Customs

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