Customs and traditions
The caste system means that Sri Lanka can be
described as a hierarchical society. The social
hierarchy helps to make the Lankes happy to be formal in
contact with strangers. Title and surname are used in
speeches when you do not know each other.
Older people are happy to greet each other with their
hands in front of their chest. Men can shake hands,
while women often avoid physical contact with strangers.
Long-suffering people who know each other usually greet
by just smiling and nodding.
Overview of the capital city of Sri Lanka, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
It is important not to lose face or dignity in social
contexts. Therefore, lankeser preferably avoids publicly
criticizing a person. For the same reason, they may find
it difficult to say no to a question, but instead prefer
to answer avoidance.
If you want to hand over a business card, gift or the
like, you have to do it with both hands. Avoid giving
flowers, they are associated with grief. Also, don't
give away a wine or whiskey bottle unless you know for
sure that the recipient is drinking alcohol. Hindus
should not be given leather goods.
At a dinner invitation, it is usual to sit at the
table only after a few hours. A guest should thus avoid
getting hungry. When the meal has gradually been
enjoyed, it may soon be time to break up.
Foreign guests should remember to eat only with their
right hand, if no cutlery is offered. Use bread or rice
to get the food from the plate. Leave some food on the
plate when you are satisfied, otherwise you signal that
you want more.
Rice and curry are basic foods. White rice is
supplemented with a number of curry dishes that may
contain vegetables, meat or fish. They often contain
coconut milk and are heavily seasoned. The food is often
eaten with different flat breads and some variation of
chilli, sambal. A Sri Lankan specialty is
hoppers, thin sourdough pancakes made from rice,
and string hoppers, the freshness of fresh rice
Traditionally, lankeses have mainly eaten food at
home, but nowadays restaurants are common in the cities.
Both Hindus and Buddhists may be reluctant to eat food
prepared by any of the lower castes. Alcohol is formally
condemned by Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims but is
consumed in fairly large quantities. Local spirits are
arrak or toddy, made from palm juice.
Traditions and holidays
As Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian holidays are
observed, the number of holidays is large. In addition,
there are some national holidays, such as Independence
Day on February 4 and Labor Day on May 1. New Year is
celebrated by Sinhalese and Tamils for a week in
April. It is also a harvest party when you dress up in
new clothes, eat well and play games.
At each full moon, the Buddhists celebrate so-called
poya days. In May, the celebration is
particularly extensive with Vesak, when the
birth and life of Buddha are celebrated. People head to
the temples dressed in white, and thousands of lanterns
light. In the city of Kandy, for several days in July or
August, the esala parahera - the dental
festival - is celebrated with dances and
magnificently decorated elephants in procession. The
sacred tooth found in Kandy is considered to have been
Buddha. The Hindus celebrate, among other things,
dipawali, a light festival, while the Muslims
observe the fasting month of Ramadan and the Christians
The country's highest judge is accused of corruption
The Rajapaksa government is suing the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, Shirani Bandaranayake, for
corruption, something she firmly denies. The
government-dominated parliament is launching a judicial
process against Bandaranayake, despite the Supreme Court
and the Court of Appeal ruling that the process violates
the law. According to Bandaranayake's supporters, the
Supreme Court's decision to oppose the government's
plans to centralize power (see October 2012)
is behind the government's accusations against her.
Political unrest erupts in Jaffna
For the first time since the end of the war in May
2009, political unrest erupted in the city of Jaffna in
the northern, Tamil-dominated part of Sri Lanka. This
happens in conjunction with students at Jaffna
University, on November 27, marking the Martyrs' Day,
which is celebrated by some Tamil langes in the rapture.
Students light candles to honor the memory of fallen
Tamil rebels. Also posters depicting guerrillas,
so-called "Tamil tigers", must have been set up in
previously rebel-controlled areas. The police then
intervene, according to police, to have thrown stones at
The Supreme Court opposes centralization
The Supreme Court puts a stalemate on the
government's plans to bring more power to the central
government from the provinces when it states that in
that case the provincial parliaments must approve such a
change in law.
Fonseka holds a political meeting
Former Chief of Defense Sarath Fonseka holds his
first major political meeting since he was released from
prison (see May 2012). The
turnover is considerably worse than expected; only
around a thousand people show up. This is believed to be
due to heavy monsoon rains falling during the meeting,
but also because the opposition is deeply divided before
The country's university is temporarily closed
Extensive strikes in the academic world (see
July 2012) result in the government
temporarily shutting down 13 of the country's 15
universities, all of which are state. The strikes end
when the government partially agrees with the demands of
university teachers and other academics on increased
salaries and government grants, as well as greater
academic freedom from political involvement.
Strike against political involvement in academic
University teachers and other academics around the
country are launching a strike in protest against what
they consider to be increasing political interference in
the conditions for academic activity. They require the
government and the authorities to stay out of the
university world and to increase teacher salaries and
grants for higher education. The strikers oppose the
government's plans to privatize parts of higher
education, which are currently completely state-owned.
Fonseka is released from prison
President Rajapaksa decides that the imprisoned
former Defense Chief Sarath Fonseka should be released
for health reasons. One condition for the release is
that Fonseka will not hold any political office for the
next seven years.
Buddhists storm mosque
Tough, conservative Buddhists storm a mosque in the
city of Dambulla and demand that the building be
demolished. The authorities agree to move the mosque,
triggering a strike among Muslims.
UN resolution awakens the anger of the Lanes
The UN Human Rights Council calls in a resolution in
Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations of human rights
crimes committed in the final phase of the civil war in
May 2009. The resolution is tabled by the United States
and supported by 24 countries, while 15 countries vote
against and 8 abstain. Reactions in Sri Lanka are
getting strong and many people are protesting against
the UN resolution.
The government is unclear about the number of
About 9,000 people were killed in northern Sri Lanka
during the end of the civil war in May 2009, according
to government statistics. Of these, just over 7,000 died
in combat. It is unclear whether the figure includes
civilian casualties or guerrilla soldiers alone. It is
also not clear which party in the war caused the deaths.