Etiquette

Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country with a large Hindu minority. Older people may greet you with palms pressed together (as if in prayer), but younger people use a more Westernized firm handshake. Sri Lankan women refrain from physical contact with men outside their family. Maintaining face is very important for Sri Lankans. Do not put people in awkward positions, and never openly criticize someone. Sri Lankans are non-confrontational in their communication and sometimes say one thing, but mean another—it’s up to you to read between the lines and work out the message. Wash your hands before and after sitting down to a meal. Keep elbows off the table, and if no cutlery is provided, use only your right hand to eat. Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates you’ve had your fill. Never give flowers as gifts—they are used for mourning.

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