Why I Will Never Understand REAL Sri Lankan Culture

The answer to the above title is simple. I am a Suddhi (a white women). In about 9 months I will have lived here for 10 years. I have had great, good, bad and horrid experiences, mostly thankfully good.

I think all expats go through a honeymoon stage at first – the newness, the beauty, the friendly people and beautiful smiles etc. But mostly ignorance of the the inherent culture makes people blind to how things really are.

It actually turns a bit sour about a year in when people start asking you what you are doing here. Firstly I was doing tsunami work so that was acceptable – the country needed help and the locals welcomed it.

After that I started dating a Sri Lankan guy which lasted a very long time but he wasn’t a good man and my reputation became tarnished as a result of that. That is all over now and I have met a new Sri Lankan partner, however I can still not kick the stigma of my previous man and many rumours continue to be spread – which are all untrue. Sri Lankans love to gossip so I hope that in time they will have other things to talk about. “Tomorrows roti paper.” 🙂

Anyway so after the honeymoon period comes the “trying to fit in”, or some extreme cases “trying to become Sri Lankan” – this entails learning Singhala, starting to dress a lot more conservatively, changing your natural behaviour to fit in more. I even lived in a poor families house for about a year (my in-laws at the time), living as a real Sri Lankan does. Fine, but for some that soon becomes prohibiting so then comes the reality. Depending on what kind of person you are this can last from months to years. The longer this phase lasts the more annoyed you can become and eventually everything about the country winds you up. I’ve been there (I tried for years so eventually I lost it).

Thankfully the final phase is acceptance – they are different to me. I am different to them. Inter-cultural relationships will remain challenging because of this. I still love the country and my new partner of one year and we have loads of fun. However for it to survive I think we both need some time in my country to balance things out…we’re working on it. For us to survive it will need a lot of work from both of us. We both know that, so watch this space.

Saying all this it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and if you haven’t yet you must visit. It is truly magnificent for people on holiday, photographers, culture seekers, nature-lovers, surfers and beach bums. My views expressed above are my own and merely based on my experiences of being here so long.

No pics needed – google and you will find what you need…better images than I could ever produce.



Filed under Sri Lankan life

6 responses to “Why I Will Never Understand REAL Sri Lankan Culture

  1. On a personal level, a country is its people. Your impressions and experiences can vary widely, depending on who you know and meet.

    In terms of culture, while there are certain broad norms that may be applicable across a wide range of social groups, there will be many differences as well, in some cases surprisingly wide.

    In other words, do not despair, there is no one culture that is Sri Lankan-the Southerners are different from the Kandyans, the urban city dweller differs from the rural and so on. We all live in our own little world and are only dimly aware (or sometimes completely ignorant) of what goes on elsewhere.

    • Very well put! My local friends in Colombo are very different from my local friends in Hikkaduwa etc. One thing I do not want to do is live in an expat bubble as some do. A country is to be experienced at first-hand to truly appreciate it and accepting the culture differences is all part of that.


    I would like to speak with you….
    i m a future expat…Could you accept to give some informations
    about sri Lanka??
    Have a nice day!

  3. Chandra Seneviratne

    This is a very ‘nice’ blog! I am a Sri Lankan who, with my wife, left the country almost 42 years ago. We have visited the country several times over those years, but this last time that we went to Sri Lanka (December 2013), I felt a unmistakable sense of joy amongst those that we met. It is more than likely that we will more of our time in this lovely country!

  4. Ria

    Hi… I have some questions regarding the culture and traditions. Could you spare time on sending me ur email address… Thank u

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