Sri Lankan Culture


  • Customary greetings vary between the different ethnic 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.
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Sri Lanka
  • Population
    22.235 million
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Language
    Sinhala (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.
    [Census, 2012]
  • Religion
    Buddhism (70.2%)
    Hinduism (12.6%)
    Islam (9.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (6.1%)
    Other (1.8%)
    [Census, 2012]
  • Ethnicity
    Sinhalese (74.9%)
    Sri Lankan Tamil (11.2%)
    Sri Lankan Moors (9.2%)
    Indian Tamil (4.2%)
    Other (0.5%)
    [Census, 2012]
  • Cultural Dimensions
  • Australians with Sri Lankan Ancestry
    Including Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamil and Sri Lankan (ndf)
    [Census, 2016]
Sri Lankans in Australia
  • Population
    [Census, 2016]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Sri Lanka.
  • Median Age
    40 [Census, 2016]
  • Gender
    Male (52.1%)
    Female (47.9%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Religion
    Buddhism (40.8%)
    Catholic Christianity (20.7%)
    Hinduism (18.8%)
    Anglican Christianity (4.2%)
    Other Religion (9.9%)
    No Religion (3.8%)
    Not Stated (1.7%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Ancestry
    Sri Lankan (58.8%)
    Sinhalese (12.1%)
    Tamil [not defined] (8.0%)
    Sri Lankan Tamil (4.7%)
    Other Ancestry (16.4%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Sinhalese (49.9%)
    Tamil (24.9%)
    English (23.1%)
    Other Languages (1.7%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 92.0% speak English fluently.
    [Census, 2016]
  • Diaspora
    Victoria (50.8%)
    New South Wales (26.2%)
    Queensland (8.9%)
    Western Australia (7.1%)
    Other (7.0%)
    [Census, 2016]
  • Arrival
    Prior to 2007 (53.8%)
    2007 - 2011 (22.3.%)
    2012 - 2016 (21.6%)
    [Census, 2016]
Country Flag Country Sri Lanka