The Sri Lankan dish of excellence is rice and curry and it’s best eaten with your hands. Your right hand particularly and really with your fingertips. Everyone says that when you eat with your hands, food just tastes better. The art of eating without cutlery is something that needs a little practice but becomes second nature pretty quickly.
Spice, chilli and curry are a standard in all Sri Lankan dishes. Even breads and short eats can be hot. The curries are particularly spicy and so are the soups and vegetarian dishes. King coconut water is a great palette cleanser when food is really spicy and with time you really don’t feel the heat as much anymore.
Ginger beer is not exactly a Sri Lankan beverage but definitely one well ingrained in Sri Lankan culture. From homemade brews in recycled glass bottles to factory manufactured plastic bottles at the supermarket, ginger beer is another spicy staple in the Sri Lankan way of life. Homemade ginger beer has swollen raisins are the bottom of the bottle and is unbelievably spicy and refreshing!
On the streets, in the restaurants and on the beach you will find fresh king coconut to sip on. King coconut is orange, a different variety of coconut to those you find in Thailand or the Caribbean. The flavor is also different, a bit sweeter but just as refreshing. You can buy king coconut with the hard bit cut off so that all you need to do at home is stick a knife in the soft part to reach the water. Fancier restaurants will cut the coconut and create a bird shape from it!
Sri Lanka is a wonderland of tea. Drinking tea is a daily habit in all Sri Lankan homes and it won’t take long for you to join in. With so many choices from ceylon black, to earl grey and english breakfast, to fruity variations and the elusive silver tips, tea can become your Sri Lankan best friend.
One thing that long time visitors of Sri Lanka will tell you is that the best way to get around the city is by tuk-tuk. Every corner has a tuk-tuk stop and if there aren’t any at your corner at some point of the day then there will be plenty driving around. Tips on choosing a tuk-tuk; choose the ones that look newer, some of the old ones do not have the seat glued down and it slips off with every stop!
Traffic and the hectic nature of roads and highways can make getting around the island by car stressful. The best alternative is to take a train! Not only is it better and faster, it’s definitely more scenic and entertaining. Never forget your camera when exploring the train routes in Sri Lanka.
Wherever you go in Colombo particularly but also around the rest of the island, you encounter crows. They are ready to peck at your food even if you are still eating it. They make nests in all the trees and always know how to find leftover food. They will be on the street, on the sidewalks, in the parks, on the light posts. All you gotta do is dodge them!
The Sri Lankan head bob is something that will become easy to decipher with time. There is a head bob for “yes”, another for “maybe”, another for “ok”, another for “not really”. After you have learned to understand them and their nuances you will notice that some people bob harder while others bob lighter. Then one day all of a sudden you will catch yourself bobbing your head too!
The Sri Lankan way of life is relaxed and slow. There hasn’t been much influence from the British in terms of punctuality since it’s quite normal to be late. It’s not exactly that people intend to be late, it’s just because they are so laid back. There could be any number of distractions or setbacks to get where you are going. You will notice that after a while you will start getting places late too, and that you will be more laid back.
Sri Lankan’s stare. They stare at anyone that might be a bit different. It doesn’t matter if you are a unicorn or a Sri Lankan girl wearing shorts, they will stare. After a while you get used to it and can ignore them but then if you are there long enough you start staring at people too! Surprise, you have been Sri Lanka’d.