Sri Lanka is the paradise of the Indian Ocean, not only because of the many natural and physical treasures it holds but also because of the wonderful and unique lifestyle of its people. To be exact its cultural diversity is what has given this wonderful uniqueness to this island’s lifestyle. In fact, relating to a proud history of more than 2,500 years, Sri Lanka is rich with many cultural and traditional values. Moreover, Sri Lanka has been home to many communities including Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, and indigenous communities like Veddas for years. Thus, it has nourished its lifestyle with variety in all forms of activities. So, all these things make the lifestyle of Sri Lanka, very interesting, and special.
However, there is the belief that tourists from European countries get a cultural shock when they arrive on this island. So, if you are planning to visit Sri Lanka any sooner, getting to know about the lifestyle in Sri Lanka would benefit you. Besides, if you love studying about countries like Sri Lanka, this is simply a good read for you. So, without further exaggeration, let’s look at different aspects of the lifestyle in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Values
As you already know, Sri Lanka is a multicultural and multiethnic county, with people who believe in different values and speak different languages. So, understanding and accepting the differences between each other has always been important to go forward as one nation. Although Sri Lanka has been a victim of a civil war, the unity in diversity has been the chain that kept all the communities bound together as one.
However, Sri Lankan lives are always connected with their religions. In fact, from birth to death, the majority of Sri Lankans believe in the blessings of their religions. Observing their religions, visiting religious attractions, and engaging in spiritual activities are a part of Sri Lankan lives. Apart from that, Sri Lankans even celebrate religious and cultural festivals with much festivity.
Furthermore, Sri Lankan people are famous all over the world for their hospitality and friendliness. Sri Lankans, mostly village dwellers, have a simple lifestyle and are humble. They have livelihoods dependent on nature and this has led them to have a healthy lifestyle.
However, when studying the values of the Sri Lankan lifestyle, there are many aspects that we need to pay attention to. So, the sections that follow this will explain to you in detail these aspects.
Family Life in Sri Lanka
During the early days, families of Sri Lanka were mostly extended families where two or three generations used to live together. Grandparents, parents, and children used to live in one house together with their aunts and uncles. But nowadays most people living in urban areas have nuclear families. However, there is a close relationship between relatives of the families. Besides, there is a special bond between children and their grandparents and aunts or uncles.
Further, kinship terminology is visible within communities of all ethnic groups in the country. For example, in a Sinhalese family, an aunt may be called ‘loku amma’, ‘punchi amma’, or ‘maddu amma’ by her nieces and nephews based on how she relates to her mother. The eldest sister of the mother (amma) will be ‘loku amma’ and the younger sister will be ‘punchi amma’. Even Tamil families use such relationship terms. These terms indeed create a much closer bond between relatives.
Although the families are patriarchal, the mother has a significant role in the family. In traditional Sri Lankan families of all ethnic groups, women are responsible for cooking, raising children, and housework while men are responsible for protecting women and children and providing them with food and other needs. Yet, at present, this is less visible among Sri Lankan families, since the majority of the mothers are employed. So, nowadays, both the mother and the father play a similar role, with shared responsibilities.
However, Sri Lankan society is highly based on families, and the bonds among family members are indeed impressive.
Sri Lankan Marriage Culture
Since Sri Lanka has got a multicultural society, the marriage culture of the country has so many interesting variations. Mainly the marriage culture is dependent on the religious background of the families. Most Sri Lankans are family oriented so even the choice of spouses is very much influenced by family background more than one’s individual choice.
Both love marriages and arranged marriages are happening in this country. In traditional families, both the bride and the groom are expected to be from the same religion, social and cultural background, and the groom is expected to be older than the bride.
In the past, a system of cross-cousin marriage was maintained to retain control over property within a small circle of relatives. However, many don’t believe in this tradition nowadays, owing to the scientifically-proven fact that the children that they get from such marriages have a risk of health issues.
Besides, most marriages in the country involve one woman and one man. Polygyny, which is marriage between one man and more than one woman is present up to date in some cultures where wealthy men can take multiple wives if they can treat all the families equally. In the past, marriages involving one woman and more than one man were common.
In all religions and ethnicities, marriages are celebrated and marriage ceremonies and parties can be observed. However, in the Sri Lankan culture, marriage is the key to a legal relationship between a man and a woman since living together and other relationship types are not very common yet.
Education in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries that provide free education for students. In fact, government schools provide free education for students who are between the ages of 6 years to 18 years, and then those who qualify to enter the universities can continue higher education freely at the government universities.
However, there are many private schools, and universities, that offer education, yet not for free. Accordingly, the Sri Lankan education system covers a wide scope, and thus, the students and parents have a good selection to choose what suits them according to their future plans.
Employment and Industries in Sri Lanka
Well, in the past, Sri Lanka was highly famous for agriculture and trade. That was mainly during the kingdom eras and the colonization period. In fact, farming paddy, fruits, and vegetables to fulfill the necessities of the country, as well as planting commercial crops such as coconut, rubber, tea, cinnamon, and other spices were common from those days. However, with time, people got used to making their living out of the natural resources that they could find around them. Accordingly, the fishing industry, graphite industry, as well as gem industry emerged from various parts of the island. And the significant fact is that many of the areas in Sri Lanka are still specialized for some of these industries.
However, with globalization, many Sri Lankans began to join the corporate sector as well. So, apart from the earlier mentioned industries, the following industries also have become prominent on this splendid island.
- Tourism Industry
- Apparel Industry
- Batik and Handloom Industry
- Traditional Mask Industry
- Exports Industry
- Software Industry
- Manufacturing Industry (plastic, non-metallic commercial products)
- Transportation Industry
Anyway, according to the Central Bank of Ceylon, there is still an unemployment rate of 5.5% in Sri Lanka (as of 2020).
Food Culture in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan cuisine is another area where the diversity of the Sri Lankan culture and lifestyle is well observed. Different parts of the island have different food cultures, and differences between cuisines of different cultural groups are also distinguishable.
Sri Lankans, especially consider rice and curry as their main dish, while different communities may have different styles of preparing it. Apart from that, there are many cultural food items with special relations to specific ethnicities. And yes, there are food items that the people prepare specially for different festivals and events of those religions as well.
Milk rice and chilli paste are some of the indispensable dishes in Sinhalese society. Apart from that, you can observe the preparation of sweetmeats like kavum, kokis, and aluva during Sinhala and Tamil New Year and the preparation of laddu and kesari for Tamil festivals like Thai Pongal. Besides, Tamil cuisine has got food items like pittu, idly, and thosei. Tamil food also has a close relationship to south Indian cuisine. Muslim food tradition has main dishes such as Biryani, ghee rice, Watalappam, and jilebi.
However, many food items are regionally diverse and the same dish can come out in various methods in different areas. Besides, you can even observe that people use different names for the same food in different parts of the country.
Other than main dishes, there are many more sweet items, desserts, and beverages authentic to Sri Lanka. You can even find traditional alcoholic beverages such as coconut toddy, kithul toddy, and palmyrah toddy.
Costumes in Sri Lanka
The costumes used in Sri Lanka are also an integral part that shows the lifestyle of Sri Lanka. However, it is important to note that the costumes too have a significant influence on one’s cultural background. Especially, in the past, dressing the traditional attire according to the culture that they belong to was significant. Yet, at present, we can observe the use of traditional attire mainly during festivals, traditional events, and ceremonies.
The Sinhalese women have sarees as their traditional costume and it is a sarong for men. Women usually wear sarees at all important events. Further, it is more like the official wear of teachers and some certain officials even at present. ‘Lama sariya’, ‘Redda, and Hatte’ are some other kinds of traditional clothing for women. ‘Jathika aduma’, which is a sarong with a long-sleeved shirt is the traditional attire for Sinhalese men.
‘Tamil traditional costumes for women include sarees, lehengas, and salwar kameez suits. Men usually wear sarongs called ‘vetti’ with a shirt. Sri Lankan Muslim women usually wear Hijabs or Abayas while Muslim men usually wear kurtas and trousers or shirts and trousers.
Since Sri Lanka is well-known for its handlooms materials and batik designs, many unique costumes can be observed among different communities. Some traditional outfits even have the influence of Portuguese, Dutch, and English.
However, at present, Sri Lankan society is more westernized. So, even though there are significant differences in how people of different cultures wear, the use of traditional clothing is not common in everyday life.
Transportation in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has got many modes of transportation. Both private and public transportation is available through the land, water, and air.
The most famous forms of public transportation are buses and trains. All types of private vehicles such as cars, vans, and motorcycles are also available. However, public transportation is very affordable and easy to use.
Sri Lanka has got its main airline – Sri Lankan airlines which provides its services through the two major international airports in the country, Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake and Mattala Airport. A number of domestic airports are also available in the country. Although it’s not famous among locals, there are facilities for private helicopter hires as well. Yet, they are very expensive.
People use methods such as boats and ferries for transportation of goods and people through rivers, canals, and to the remote islands of the country. Moreover, fishermen use boats for fishing around the island.
The Bottom Line
We believe that this article gave you a good insight into a few aspects of the lifestyle in Sri Lanka. A visit to this beautiful island will surely let you be a part of each of these unique experiences. So, why not have Sri Lanka as your next travel destination and have a glimpse of this vibrant and diverse lifestyle? This charming little island is waiting to delight you with its wonderful treasure. Happy and safe traveling!