Social and family life

Everyday life for Sri Lankans

Social and family life

A different country means a different culture and a good way to learn about it is through the relationships amongst family members and neighbours.

Relationships between adults

Sri Lankas tend to avoid the use of personal names by using nicknames or relationship terms instead. It is common etiquette to use some markers to show social distance or intimacy.

Regarding intimacy, Sri Lankans tend to display physical contact often, but not with members of the opposite sex. All implication of sexual behaviour should be avoided and because of that, no matter what religion they follow, women cover themselves and are expected to refuse alcohol and tobacco For foreign women, these customs do not necessarily apply, which can lead to them attracting attention from Sri Lankans.

Traditionally, marriage is arranged although “marriage for love” is becoming more and more common. In any case, both the bride and the groom are expected to be from the same religion, social background, ethnicity, etc, and the groom should be older and more qualified professionally or educationally speaking.

Parents and children

In Sri Lanka, a family should have its own household which, at least symbolically, is identified with cooking. A wife will cook for her husband and children, even when living in the same house as other family members.

While any public show of affection is not well received amongst adults, children are highly adored and everyone, both men and women take care of them and are affectionate with them.

Traditionally, infants are kept with their mothers, although when growing older, fathers pay more attention to boys and mothers, to girls. Even if Sri Lankans like to have male children, they prefer that their first child would be a girl, so that she can help and be a good influence on younger siblings.

The ultimate authority in the family is the oldest male member of a household, whether that is the father, husband, brother, or son, and corporal punishment is common towards younger boys.

As children grow, they are taught to develop a feeling combining shyness, shame, modesty and fear. This feeling is taught both within the family and the school. As a consequence, Sri Lankans tend to be calm and not loud when speaking (except for merchants) and when greeting others, it usually is with a smile more than with words.

Further reading

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