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Culture & Identity of Sri Lanka

Introduction

Sri Lanka is somewhat divided as the culture and way of life in the country is heavily dependent on the ethnicity and occupation of each individual. There are also vast differences between the urban and rural lifestyles in the country, but only about 15% of the people live in cities.

Nearly a third of the people in Sri Lanka work in the agricultural sector, with rice, sugarcane, tea, and rubber being among their most well-known products. For these people the way of life is heavily dependent on the sun, the weather, and the seasons. However, these rural settings also greatly contribute to close knit communities that rely on each other. Plus, since little heavy machinery exists in the farming industries, most farms and plots of land are rather small so the people live close to each other.

A greater number of people work in the services sector, which can mean running a local shop in a small town or working a job in finance in the capital. These positions tend to be more consistent in hours and less dependent on nature. For some people, especially in the cities, the work day is fairly regular as many jobs work from about 8:30 am to about 4:30 pm. Life in the cities also has a heavy reliance on public transportation as this is how most people get to and from work, school, and the shop.

Other contributing factors in Sri Lanka's way of life include ethnicity, language, and religion. However, these groups have many similarities other than in opinion as the way of life for many of them is quite close, although the culture may differ significantly. For the small Muslim population there are greater variations, such as working hours that often end Friday afternoon for Friday prayer.

Among the many similarities are the heavy reliance on farming, the rural lifestyle for many people, and the importance of family and community placed above all else.

Identity

The people of Sri Lanka almost always identify by their ethnicity, which is primarily broken down into the Sinhalese and Tamils. The Sinhalese tend to define their identity on their ethnicity, language, and religion, which is Buddhism. The Tamils also tend to define their identity on their ethnicity and language, but not as strongly on their religion; most Tamils are Hindu. This primary identity based on ethnicity, not nationality has created some division and tensions in the country between these two groups. However, many of these people do identify as citizens of Sri Lankan on some level. Despite this, the identity is defined by more than just citizenship to some, as many argue to be Sri Lankan one must also be Sinhalese, or Tamil, or Buddhist, etc. Fortunately, most people agree it is an inclusive term that is defined only on citizenship and nothing more, giving the people a united identity.

This page was last updated: November, 2013