We’ve spent almost four weeks traveling in Sri Lanka, and have started to grow accustomed to the unique ways in which the country and people operate and live on a daily basis. It’s been interesting for us to think about the different lifestyle and culture that Sri Lanka offers, compared to that of our own, and note ‘special’ habits and customs that are so ingrained in this country and its people. We call these “Sri Lankanisms”, and there are quite a few we’ve discovered in just a small amount of time here. Here are a just a few of the things we’ve noted.
Snacks, baked goods and short eats are served in hand-made recycled paper bags, covered in children’s drawings or old school homework.
Men wear traditional sarongs, women wear beautiful coloured, sparkling saris.
No bus journey is complete without several vendors boarding the bus and selling their various goods. We’ve seen several different things being sold, from fried foods and cold drinks, magazines, lottery tickets, children’s picture books, hologram posters of various gods and deities, and even gold jewelry! (One vendor even went to the effort of hurling gold necklaces at random people in the moving bus, then asking those who were struck by the jewels to buy them!)
Hocking and spitting is common place.
Local men chew betel leaves, nuts and tobacco – then with practiced skill, spit large red chunks of gunk onto the pavement.
Conversations regularly go something like this:
Local: Hello! Where from!?
Local: Ah!… Shane Warne/Ricky Ponting/ Adam Gilchrist/*insert something cricket-related here*!
Cricket is a whole new religion in its own right.
No shop, vendor, tuk tuk driver, or sales person seems to ever have change – not even small denominations such as coins (1, 2 and 5 rupees) or small notes (10, 20, 50, 100 rupees). It can be difficult to purchase anything without being given a “No have change” excuse or a very disapproving stare – especially after you get cash out of the ATM, which spits out 2,000 rupee notes.
The clanging and echoing sounds of kotthu roti being made are a familiar noise in Sri Lanka – you hear it being made before you see it.
Spontaneous buskers can be heard on the buses, singing whilst playing drums or tambourines.
Neon LED illuminated Buddhas and other deities decorate the front interior of most buses, flashing over and over to the rhythmic sounds of honking horns and loud Sinhalese music.
It’s perfectly acceptable to publicly pick your nose, pick your ears, pick your feet, pick your wedgie, adjust your testicles, hock and spit, cough on other people… you know; all that hygienic stuff.
There is no such thing as personal space. Especially on buses.
Furthermore, there is always room for more people on the bus. Always.
There seem to be four main shops: Pharmacies, Bakeries, Shoe Stores (Bata and DSI Brands are everywhere) and hole-in-the-wall eateries that double as general stores selling shampoo, razors and baby formula.
The roads are shared with buses, cars, vans, trucks, tuk tuks, tractors, pull-carts, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, dogs, cats, goats, chickens and more…
People of all ages and relationships hold hands – friends, adults, teenagers, the elderly…it’s endearing to see.
There is lots of hilarious advertising for strange things.
Sri Lankans love a good, long hand-shake.
Random large speakers in obscure locations can sometimes be seen – more so, heard – at the strangest of times. In Ella – a sleepy little Hill Country town – a spontaneous produce market was in full swing, where locals in traditional dress were going about their business buying and selling. Opposite the market, random speakers were blaring “Me Love” by Sean Kingston. Strange.
We saw this type of thing again inside a Food City Supermarket, whilst people were just doing their grocery shopping.