WELCOME TO SRI LANKA
Ayubowan! “May you be blessed with Long Life…”
The Sinhalese traditional way of greeting is by saying ‘Ayubowan!’ It means much more than “Welcome” since it translates into a fervent wish: “May you have long life!” Someone saying “Ayubowan” does so with the palms of both hands touching together at chest height as if in prayer. The same gesture accompanies the word “Vanakkam” which is the equivalent greeting in Tamil.
SOME TIPS FOR TOURISTS
Someone once described Sri Lankans as being like “tropical Italians.” Sri Lankans are generous with their eyes express genuine emotions. The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, with Tamils, Muslims and Burghers (descendants of Sri Lankans and Europeans) making up the rest. Sri Lankans welcome strangers and are keen to see that visitors are happy to be here.
Cleanliness and modesty are appreciated even in informal situations. Nudity and topless bathing are prohibited and subject to heavy fines. Display of intimacy is not suitable in public and will probably draw unwanted attention.
To avoid causing offence or inviting harassment, there are simple precautions that women should take, since what a women might wear in her home country could be regarded as provocative in Sri Lanka. Thus loose-fitting, non-see=through clothes covering the shoulders, and skirts, dresses or shorts that are at least knee length should be worn, and are sensible for protection from sun too.
HANDS AND EATING
Use your right hand for giving, taking, eating or shaking hands as the left hand is considered to be unclean. Do not shake hands with a Buddhists Monk or Hindu Swami. Greet them with your hands clasped together as if a prayer and raising them to your forehead bending slightly forward. When Handling objects to another person, using right hand or both hands would be appreciated by the receiver.
Smoking is prohibited in public places.Please observe non-smoking rules.Smoking is permitted in some enclosed spaces (like bars) but if in doubt,ask before lighting up
In conversation Sri Lankans may ask questions that a foreigner would regard as being too personal. This is simply reflects the emphasis Sri Lankans place on family life.
VISTING PLACES OF WORSHIP
Visitors to Buddhists and Hindu temples are welcome though the shrines of Hindu temples are sometime closed to non-Hindus. Visitors to temples are expected to be respectably clad, bare footed and with heads uncovered.
Do not attempt to shake hands or be photographed with Buddhist monks or to pose for photos with statues of Buddha or other deities and paintings.
Sri Lankans are happy to pose for photographs but it is polite to ask for permission first. Street entertainers like snake charmers would expect a fee for posing.