Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My observations about Sri Lankans

Been here for 4 and half months now. My observations continue:

1.Money 'spenders' rather than money 'savers'. Very loan friendly.

2.Banks provide incentives for saving.
3.Strong family values.
4.An image conscious nation – may spend more on their car than on their house.
5.Typically, very friendly, respectful ever smiling and eager to help.
6.View India as the irritating big brother. Many seem to be in awe of India.
7.Like to ape the west, much like Indians did till a while ago.
8.Non-violence lovers.
9.Boys and girls expected to find their own spouse like in the west. However, arranged marriages also occur.
10.Suckers for emotional drama, much like Indians.
11.Many photography enthusiasts – not surprising with the vibrant flora and fauna their country provides them.
12.A piece of meat is considered mandatory in every meal even amongst the poor.
13.Mostly alien to the concept of vegetarian food.
14.Natural good taste in music.
15.Party lovers – turn on the Baila!
16.Unlike in India, the lottery is not reserved for the middle class or the poor. You may find just about anybody with a lottery ticket in his/her wallet.
17.Women are empowered and seen as an equal in this country. I was told that in certain villages, women are expected to retain their maiden sir name after marriage.
18.Equally happy to have a girl child as they are to have a boy child.
19.Big on baking and making desserts.
20.Food is typically very spicy. Their cuisine is nearly identical to goan and kerala cuisine.
21.Hope for the terror situation to be resolved but many seem to be fatalistic about it.
22.The media seems to lack complete freedom - criticism/discussions about the governanment and it's actions are rare.
23.Strong in literature, art, architecture and theatre.
24.Weak film and production industry.
25.Close to no newspaper readership- this leads to low print ad spends – leads to high cost per newspaper(up to INR 20) – leads to low readership – A vicious cycle.
26.Big on radio – boasts of giving birth to the oldest radio station in Asia, Radio Ceylon.
27.Prefer milk powder to milk. Mostly.

Biggest learning: You can’t learn much about Sri Lankans if you don’t follow the local language – am currently working on that. :)

Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong about any of my deductions.

PS: the picture is of a Sri Lankan girl saying "ayubovan" which is what Srilankan's say to greet each other. It means 'may you live long'


Aroon said...

seems like a nice laid back place .. good booze, meat and music.. what else do u need eh.. :)

mr bojangles said...

nicely written & very informative! thankyou!!

sara said...

I need to come and check those facts

meraj said...

some more important ones:

- most Sri Lankans prefer black tea (what they call as plain tea) or tea mixed with nestamalt (something like horlicks) instead of milk

- in the habit of putting everything together in their lunchboxes. no need for compartmentalizing curries like Indians.

- all moselem names here have a twist to it: Ejaz becomes Hejaz, Khaleel becomes Caleel etc

- they dont appreciate Rice for dinner. in fact, loads of Rice was left from the dinner party that we threw for my office people.

- major weekend travellers. all major beach / hill resorts are always booked for the weekends

Atanu Dey said...


Good set of observations. I disagree, though, with number 7: "Like to ape the west, much like Indians did till a while ago."

It will be a cold day in hell when urban Indians are not basically aping the worst that the West has. Turn on the TV in India and all you see is repackaged Western junk.

POOJA NAIR said...


it sure is! you are welcome to stay at our place if you ever plan to visit

mr. Bojangles,

glad you enjoyed this


Hope you visit soon. and hey i even have all the equipment needed to make those brownies now :)


thanks for those additions!


I will have to agree wiht you on that...but in India theres a segment that atleast agrees that it is uncool to ape the west...don't fnd that here...
Aping India however, many find uncool... :)

Sheela said...

awaiting to authenticate it with personal experience; kind courtsey of ur hospitality

mathew said...

interesting...kind of info u dont get in wikipedia or after googling...:-)

i love sri-lankan food..sometimes i actually prefer sri-lankan restuarants over indian resturants..coz i get food which is closer home there..

I have found them to be very friendly people..met few who cherish their trips to india!

Nibras Bawa said...
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POOJA NAIR said...

Nibras bawa,

i am sorry i took so long to respond to this.

VERY interesting insights!!! thank you so much for providing an insiders view point.

About the state of advertising industry, must tell you that many in India feel the same too.. about under-estimating the intelligence of the audience and having to compramise on creativity etc..Things are slowly changing wiht room being made for some creativity...same will take place in Sri lanka too eventually...

In india too, typically, there is a demarkation between ads meant for awards and those meant for the audience/client...:P

very interesting about panadol. made me laugh. but its true!

thanks again..and whoa i hope you are exagerating about posh Sri Lankan women.

What about posh sri lankan men? what are they like?

POOJA NAIR said...


just went through your comments again,

Your stance towards Sri Lanka is kinda harsh don't you think?

But then you are harsh even to yourslef in your introduction...

You must simultaneously think up of things that make you proud about Sri Lanka and yourself too.

Try. :)

Nibras Bawa said...
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Nibras Bawa said...
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POOJA NAIR said...

Hello again Nibras,

What you say may be true about certain agencies and certain people rather than the entire Sri lankan Ad industry and the entire SL advertising community.

Where i work i dnt see any "aping the indian industry" and here they all encourage research - we call it exploring.

Ideas, by nature are hard to own. Its unfortunate when someone doesn't get credit for his/her idea and it happens all across the world.

Thanks for sharing your views... i enjoy them though i take them wiht a pinch of salt... :)


Nibras Bawa said...
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POOJA NAIR said...

thanks nibras!

really appreciate your effort..
and i hope that someday you'd stop being so harsh.. :)

True, my observations tend to be Colombo skewed ...

thanks again!

Anonymous said...

hello Pooja Nair,

I am an Indian who lived in Colombo for 2 years, kind courtesy of my past employer Nibras Bawa (NB). I wish to add a few observations here. Hope you find them useful.

1- Poya days supposed to be religious holidays. But this is when all attrocities happen. They stock beef and Liquor the day before Poya to be consumed on Poya as it’s a holiday, shops closed with ban on sale of beef and liquor. They commit more sins on poya days than other days.
2- The elite of Cinnamon garden are a different breed altogether. They control the wealth, politics and country’s destiny altogether.
3- Name matters. Look no further. BAWA :-) See the clout it has.
4- Dynasty politics just like India. Chandrika, Ranil and Mahinda come from political families.
5- The clergy (Buddhist Monks) have a say in politics and everything else.
6- Innovative political campaigns produce results and victory. I personally worked on a campaign for Milinda with my man NB.
7- Road closures to facilitate VIP movements is a common sight in Colombo.
8- Cricket is a way of life. All Srilankans simply adore it.
9- Muslims are the richest and the highest spenders on everything, be it food, clothing or entertainment. You see 80% Muslims in Nuweraeliya during April season.
10- Muslims control most businesses. Hemas, Brandix, Akbars, Expolanka etc.. In addition to controlling Pettah, the commercial hub of Srilanka. Muslims and Burghers are the most affluent. They are a minority, but have a bigger say because they literally control the finance. They control because they control the money.
11- Many home grown versions of fast food like Dinemore, Marry brown etc
12- Party animals. Clubs are literally packed during weekends.
13- Most chicks tend to have more than one man at a time. Seriously :-) They have spare wheels and fall back options in case the steady becomes little cracking. Smart ladies !!!
14- Sex before marriage is OK, though not so desirable. Many college students have “Preethi” a condom brand in their bags.
15- A fun loving society. Go to Mount Lavinia beach during weekends and see.
16- The Elite speak only English. They hardly can articulate well in their vernecular Sinhala or Tamil. My man used to struggle speaking Sinhala and Tamil.
17- They don’t like Indians. This is due to IPKF ( Indian Peace Keeping Force ) that was sent by India which the common masses felt an invasion by India. Communication gap. India never came out of that bad image created I think. Rajiv Gandhi did it and he was even attacked by a lankan soldier during a guard of honour during a state visit. It was a slapping honour with shoe thrown at him.
18- They literally live on Credit and loans. HSBC sells about 50,000 credit cards in Colombo alone, a high figure considering the small population there.
19- Too many Chinese, Russian, Korean and Indian brothels in every nook and corner patronized by Srilankan men.
20- So many Chinese restaurants and “Indian Thosa Kadeys”
21- Appollo hospitals in Colombo ran into troubles because it was perceived to be “ All Indian Affair” , finally Srilankans bought over and literally chased the Indian management whilst retaining the Indian doctors.
22- They prefer to pump fuel in “Ceypetco” petrol stations than “IOC” stations located there. Very nationalistic people. My Man NB would drive 100 KMs further looking for a Ceypetco, bypassing many IOCs on the way. Most lankans do this, specially the educated lot who can’t stand IOC operations in Sri lanka. I used to be so hurt every time I got into his flashy Mercedez and BMWs. He just wouldn’t pump at IOC. Still the guy was married to an Indian by the way. He used to have a funny rationale for his behaviour.
23- Too many hair dressers and beauty parlours and cosmetic brands.
24- Very friendly , yet very very provocative people.
25- Indian movies are most welcome. Mandira Bedi who played Shanthi character was given a red carpet VIP welcome with fans greeting with flowers from Airpot to Colombo. I don’t think even their Cricket team would have received such a warm reception. They just love Hindi movies and Tamils there love Tamil movies.

( I wish to remain anonymous here as I don’t want to hurt NB, my past employer who was nice, capable and friendly in all fairness to him )

POOJA NAIR said...

Thanks for contributing No-Name...

Nibras Bawa said...
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Nibras Bawa said...
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POOJA NAIR said...

Lets please keep our comments short if not sweet.. :)

Nibras Bawa said...
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Nibras Bawa said...
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Anonymous said...


Don’t be mislead by this Nibras dude. He is extreme. He is. He used to write a weekly column “ left is leading “ on national papers. When they told him to stop writing, the guy went to courts and charged everyone with violation of his rights and freedom of expression. He won the case and then started writing another column “ Lanka, I cry for you“ Crazy dude with weird ideas and observations :-) The dude is such a terror, he published a book titled “ Lanka’s Lonely Lenin “ It was all about Marxism. Crazy guy he is. Now my point is he represents an extreme view of Srilanka than a moderate view. So judge his comments carefully. Srilanka is not necessarily what he says here.


You should change your attitudes towards Srilanka in general and more specifically Srilankan women. How dare you call us bad chicks who stink ? Pooja what do you think ? I hope you will not be India biased and defend this guy who has a sick attitude towards us. Why are Indian women better ? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze throw some light on this ? I fail to understand his views. Guys help me out.

Kishani Perera

Nibras Bawa said...
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POOJA NAIR said...


I am with you. Rest assured.

It was clear to me from NB's very first loooong comment that he is unduly harsh to the point of being inaccurate in his views that he expresses ever so violently.

I have tons of friends here, both men and women who are perfectly sane, nice people...

NB is the last person i will use to form my views about Sri Lanka and its people...

So don't worry. :)

Dili said...

Have you been here > ?

Nice article Pooja & I think you captured the essence of us Lankans pretty well.Kudos.You must've gotten quite a few hits to this lately.. lolz