- Customary greetings vary between the different groups.
- The traditional and common greeting is to press the palms of one’s hands together under the chin and in front of the chest while slightly bowing the head.
- The traditional greeting is often accompanied with the phrase ‘vannakkam’ (in Tamil) or ‘ayubowan’ (in Sinhalese), which means "may you be blessed with a long life". An alternative phrase in Hindi is ‘namaste’, which literally translates as “I bow to you.”
- In more informal settings, it is common for people to greet with the phrase ‘kohomada’, which means “how do you do?”.
- Most Sri Lankans are familiar with the handshake. However, consider that some Sri Lankans are not accustomed to touching people of the opposite gender. A man should wait for the woman to extend her hand first before attempting to shake it. Women may choose to bow with their hands folded instead.
- Titles are quite important to Sri Lankans and proper greeting practices call for acquaintances to be addressed by their title, such as ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ or ‘Doctor’.
- The eldest person present is expected to be greeted first. When doing so, some Sri Lankans may reach down and touch the ground or the elder’s feet as a sign of respect. This is known as ‘worshipping elders’. Buddhist Sri Lankans may also do this greeting when encountering a monk.
- Greetings that involve hugging and kissing should be avoided unless you are well acquainted with the person.
Sri Lankan Culture
Download this Cultural Profile
Too busy to read it right now?
You can download this cultural profile in an easy-to-read PDF format that can be printed out and accessed at any time.
Population22.235 million[July 2016 est.]
LanguagesSinhala (official) (74%)Tamil (official) (18%)Other (8%)Note: English, spoken competently by about 10% of the population, is commonly used in government and is referred to as the link language in the constitution.[2012 census]
ReligionsBuddhism (70.2%)Hinduism (12.6%)Islam (9.7%)Catholic Christianity (6.1%)Other (1.8%)[2012 census]
EthnicitiesSinhalese (74.9%)Sri Lankan Tamil (11.2%)Sri Lankan Moors (9.2%)Indian Tamil (4.2%)Other (0.5%)[2012 census]
Power Distance 80 Individualism 35 Masculinity 10 Uncertainty Avoidance 45 Long Term Orientation 45 Indugence - What's this?
Australians with Sri Lankan Ancestry138,268Including Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamil and Sri Lankan (ndf)[2016 census]
Sri Lankans in Australia
Population109,849[2016 census]This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Sri Lanka.
GenderMale (51.1%)Female (48.9%)
ReligionBuddhism (38.1%)Catholic Christianity (23.4%)Hinduism (17.8%)Anglican Christianity (5.7%)Other (2.7%)
AncestrySri Lankan (50.9%)Sinhalese (18.4%)Tamil (9%)English (4.3%)Other (17.4%)
Language Spoken at HomeSinhalese (47.4%)English (26.7%)Tamil (23%)Other (1.7%)Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 91.9% speak English fluently.
DiasporaVictoria (50.9%)New South Wales (27.4%)Queensland (8.9%)Western Australia (6.2%)
ArrivalPrior to 2001 (53.5%)2001-2006 (17.3.%)2007-2011 (25.8%)
Cultural Atlas eBook Purchaseclose
Cultural Profile PDF - Sri Lanka
Cultural Profile PDF - Sri Lanka
Please provide your email to receive your eBook download and receipt.