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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 13, 2023
Headline for How to Live Like a Local in Sri Lanka - Get a real feel of the paradise isle!
Joanna James Joanna James
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How to Live Like a Local in Sri Lanka - Get a real feel of the paradise isle!

Sri Lanka is a land of culture and traditions and a travel destination that you won’t forget anytime soon, especially once you have partaken in its beauty, hospitality and history. However, if you desire to experience the island at its best and go local as possible, here are some tips to keep in mind for your next trip!


Greet people the Lankan way!

Do greet fellow Sri Lankans with an ‘Ayubowan.’ This traditional gesture is a thoughtful way of greeting another, and somewhat neglected nowadays by locals, it means may you have a long life. It is a customary greeting and is done by placing your hands together while slightly gesturing your head in a friendly nod.


Eat like a local

Sri Lankans typically eat with their right hands. Those who have not travelled to other parts of South Asia may not be used to this sight. However, it is considered normal in this part of the world. Most Sri Lankans will tell you that mixing your food with your hands elevates the flavour of the food. A typical Sri Lankan meal is rice and curry. Plain rice is served with a range of other curries, salads and sambols. The rice and the curries get mixed by hand which enhances the flavour of the food. In Sri Lanka, most people will consume food with their hands for all three meals, save for some dishes like kottu or fried rice where utensils are more common. One of the things to do in Negombo is to try this experiment first-hand! But make sure to use the right hand, or you might end up getting a few curious stares. Also, make sure the food only graces your fingertips and not the palm. The rice gets made into little balls and popped into the mouth. It may take some practice but this would be the best way to enjoy a hearty traditional meal.


Try the local lingo!

Sinhalese is the most widely spoken language in Sri Lanka with 80 to 90 % of the population fluent to some degree. Tamil is the other official language. However, the majority of the population is conversant in English which is considered the lingua franca in Sri Lanka. The country has a literacy rate of 96% the highest in South East Asia, so conversing and getting your way about will be easy. You are always welcome to talk in whatever bits and pieces you may know of either Sinhala or Tamil. It is welcomed and most people will help you along the way and introduce you to new words. Sri Lankans tend to nod their head a lot without answering. Usually, this means they are paying attention and following what you are saying. It is also used to denote yes and no. It can be somewhat complicated at first. A vertical nod of the head means yes ‘I follow you’ A shake of the head implies a ‘no’ After speaking with a few locals you will get the hang of it.


Wear a sarong

The favourite garment of most Sri Lankan males will be the sarong. It's cool, comfortable and stylish when paired right. The national costume for men is the white sarong and white shirt. Women seldom wear sarongs, but it is becoming s fashion statement among the urban youth. Sarongs can be worn as casual wear and formal, and come in a range of colours from white, and dark colours to multi-coloured and traditional batik sarongs. Become a local for a change, and don a sarong when heading out to a party, shopping or even a night out for that matter. Accommodation options such as Amagi Aria are among some of the best places to stay while on the Western Coast.