Safari the Globe

Cultural Information for the Traveler

Destinations » Asia » South Asia »

Sri LankaThe name Sri Lanka originates from Sanskrit; the word Lanka meaning "island" and the word Sri meaning "resplendent" or "sacred."

ශ්‍රී ලංකාව / இலங்கை


The culture and way of life in Sri Lanka today is quite varied due to numerous reasons, but primarily due to ethnicity. Historically, Sri Lanka was an important trading island focused on spice growth; this trade led to the immigration of numerous people, primarily from India, but also meant wider contact with people from throughout the world, including people as far away as Europe.

As an island with high demand for its spices, people continued to profit from this industry as new immigrants regularly arrived to the island. However, with a growing population, more competition, and vast cultural differences among the people, disagreements began and the people began living divided lives, separated by the island's mountains. The commonality of the people was that they all tended to be involved in agriculture and trade, which was what the entire economy was based on. This gave the people a shared lifestyle, but cultural differences remained and even today this divide is evident.

While at times the people worked side by side as they all made money from the spice trade, at other times they argued and fought as the economy struggled or was shut down. This was magnified with the arrival of the settling Europeans, who sought to control this trade. In addition to ethnic, linguistic, and cultural differences, the Europeans also sparked religious differences as many of the people allied with the Europeans converted to Christianity under Portuguese rule. Soon the country was filled with not only the majority Hindus and Muslims, but also Christians, as well as a number of Buddhists.

This ethnic tension and division among the people continues today in Sri Lanka as the people argue over political and economic power and direction. Despite this, most people remain similar in many ways as they all continue to work primarily in the agricultural industry (but today tea is their most important crop). Most people also seem to agree that their life and standards of living are below expectations, but they struggle to find an answer to this situation as terrorist groups on both sides create violence and tension against the wishes of the majority. Despite the many similarities in lifestyle and occupations, the cultural and identity differences seem to trump any similarity as the country struggles to move forward.

Learn More About Sri Lanka:

The Land:
Geography WeatherWildlife

The Past:
History Architecture

The Food:
FoodSpecialtiesDining Etiquette Drinks

The Culture:
Way of Life EthnicityLanguage ReligionDress BehaviorIdentity

Map of Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka Map

Travel Planner:

Start your trip to Sri Lanka with our free Travel Planner:

Step-by-Step Travel Planning Guide

Information for Sri Lanka was last updated: November, 2012 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks