13 Things People Miss When They Leave Sri Lanka

 | ©  Amila Tennakoon / Flickr
| © Amila Tennakoon / Flickr
Photo of Orana Velarde
Sri Lanka Hub Writer27 October 2017

When you ask someone what they miss when they leave Sri Lanka, they will most likely say the food, the people, the greenery and the fresh well water. King coconut, rice and curry and short eats are on the top of the list. The Sri Lankan jungles, forests and tea plantations, with endless seas of green and beaches with swaying coconut palms surely make an impression on locals and visitors alike as well. We asked a group of Sri Lankans that live abroad and expats that live in Sri Lanka to tell us what they miss when they are not on the island. Let’s take a look at the 13 things most people miss when they leave Sri Lanka

The food

Sri Lankan food is the first thing people miss when they leave Sri Lanka. The most missed edibles are the incomparable rice and curry and the Sri Lankan King coconut. Pol sambol, kothu rotti and short eats come close behind. Milk rice, lunu miris, mangosteen and rambutan are also greatly missed. Ceylon tea is a big contender, along with faluda and achcharu as well.

Have you ever tried any of these Sri Lankan delicacies? You must come to the teardrop island to eat the real thing, people say that Sri Lankan food is only good in Sri Lanka!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/patio/8527998568/in/photolist-dZAdS5-QYzsWc-9oHjyn-dZunTz-aRfu6a-qmzZTB-bM7gQi-aTMNgi-bM6Uqr-96mS5Q-Yk6AMu-qjg4Mt-5Hw5eN-noZmfN-8q1sjF-2b8Qnj-2b4hbT-bM7gTz-bM8rNM-2jSXUC-4J6aX5-2jSQBE-oe5BZj-pDHaqE-6T4Ce-ohT7Hi-dnEhr1-94H6r8-f3TwL2-npyQ3k-5JTeru-94H5RV-BvwV3c-ecC4P6-qAx1ZD-94H6K6-CZXDmj-dRwjBA-d8xN4E-C5L3L5-dZAns6-cwHzvy-dZuhoB-94LaC9-gjxRgZ-bycxv7-aGXXxv-6pa7R4-8bxSCC-cwLgXw Everyone misses authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry. | © Patty Ho / Flickr

Smiling people that wobble their heads

People in Sri Lanka are very friendly and helpful. They will always smile at you, on the street, in the shops, in the tuk-tuks and buses too. Most people are genuinely interested in how you are doing and where you are going. Sri Lankans always say hello to each other with a smile and a head wobble. They are very laid back and will invite you to visit their home soon after meeting you. They are hospitable and easy going. The best way to get along with a Sri Lankan is to be as easy going as they are. Learning the head wobble also helps, and can be lots of fun.

The laid-back lifestyle

Apart from smiling all the time, Sri Lankans are also very laid back and relaxed. People are always late and it’s not seen as a negative thing at all. There are always distractions when getting from one place to another. You might cross paths with a friend on the way to meet someone, and that little encounter might delay you 10 minutes.

Down south in the beaches, life is even more laid back than in the cities. People are always taking it slow and not rushing anything. When Sri Lankans and foreigners leave the island, they always miss this style of laid back living. The word ‘serendipity’ has special meaning in Sri Lanka. Here the word is serendib, and it refers to “happy accidents”. Having a laid-back way of life always leads to serendipitous moments.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ignas_kukenys/5619433093/in/photolist-9yz4Ft-ZGAhxw-9jZYLu-UqKKTm-jFFCH9-2TSvaX-2fM1R9-Zj9NG7-UqKKCb-9ksuEm-BNFhEy-aFdav3-ZJBjyN-CCUA56-58NXQB-58TuXm-9kptRk-ohT8ne-bxb89U-nDqNmh-okaDnW-bxik7y-WAjgzQ-99uqUj-dQ3RLR-9kppSe-2Tb4JU-dZzL61-ecHPBo-dJBnki-7hkW2k-bxqmYw-9jSVhD-dYm26C-dQaJ6n-nYC8fU-9u9SW-4Rz814-hkysqe-hkBJN6-hkyJGc-9jWxbG-hiQ4BZ-dYfD5x-dgQS43-63NP1-8rVML3-7gxQV6-9u9Vw-dQ8Xej Smiling school girls in Mirissa, Sri Lanka | © Ignas Kukenys / Flickr

The greenery

There is so much greenery on the teardrop island. From coconut palm plantations to rolling tea bushes than expand for kilometers. Even the city has lots of greenery on the roads. There are trees on all main roads and small streets are also full of vegetation. People miss this amount of green when they leave Sri Lanka and go to cities with much less greenery.

The rain

The rain in Sri Lanka is so powerful that it is simply part of life. No storm will stop the comings and going of the people in the city or countryside. The sound of thunder and the bright crash of lightning in the middle of the night is something that stays in your mind forever. The sound of the water crashing down on the branches of the trees and then the smell of rain early in the morning is something lots of people miss when they leave Sri Lanka.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30557460@N05/23831531784/in/photolist-5Lw5T7-agRmTF-agU9YS-NPm3B-advzLt-MMbc8-ejvftd-CiUQ83-jBc32-CSGYPW-6hMpVN-pJE4Ke-dCnHu5-6hHcWa-pspeRF-68mfFa-MM4uh-68mfBx-6hMozf-pspfaM-6hHbmH-pJY2JA-6Am2Mb-psrMY1-psrMVA-7LvvC9-oN3iUA-5uDYZG-6hHgur-RXotzL-qrEdrF-5LrQ76-AHSdR-5vY9Dh-CZXQDu-QUqKiU-5vTQAn-4DHWvY-S8nMaw-mdtaW1-D998SV-SbYr8D-P5B5JW-SbYv44-SbYERR-RXoyVW-RZZB9a-7gxQcM-7goUTG-5LrQmM The greenery in Sri Lanka is breathtaking | © Scott Edmunds / Flickr

The tuktuks

There is no form of transportation as easy and as quirky as the tuk tuk. They are on every corner and if not, one will show up pretty quickly wherever you are. If you live in one area for a long time you start to get to know all the tuk tuk drivers that work those streets. No matter where you are on the island, getting around in a tuk tuk is easier, faster and more entertaining than anything else. If it’s raining they have practical plastic curtains that will keep you (relatively) dry.

The chaos

The way the cars, buses and tuktuks mingle on the roads is a kind of chaos that you get accustomed to. Sri Lankans miss this kind of friendly chaos when they leave, even if the speeding buses are hair raising and the sudden stops are a bit stressful. Chaos is just one of the things about Sri Lanka, especially Colombo, that gives the island a special je ne sais quoi.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eljambere/6167668410/in/photolist-ap1UWw-BCFedz-3u8EpZ-9fqXy-2TgRp7-np42Ey-o2vziV-7xzwdm-RZE5Lz-4mQGwj-pYvw5J-2TcrWa-e5d6K3-9K8S2-RX4FtJ-ds1PKU-9vqDbW-63xXHF-nmMgob-f5Xj9e-D98Zjc-9r5wFt-PfcmuW-9te5o3-2MgJUT-9wAtFW-Bbxifj-5YRaJ6-qjk6tB-9hKYtW-9n5nrS-QWE4ix-SbE9yT-nhSov6-nhnqhe-S9SESN-QU7ibE-61ZPgd-9smKwb-7RCYjd-8CYpi-nHQxR8-QU7xBy-79Ctbm-4iz5CP-yNMkD2-jvMhNN-pDMihJ-XtFT3X-XtFHig A rainy street crossing in Kandy, Sri Lanka | © Jamie Hamilton / Flickr

The beaches

The southern coast is spotted with beautiful beaches that welcome holiday goers, surfers, fishermen, and laid back tourists all year long. The rest of the island is not far behind, with sprawling beaches and whale watching spots on the east coast. Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Tangalle are big favorites for weekend getaways from the city, to enjoy lovely seafood and delicious coconuts. Mt Lavinia beach in Colombo is also a much missed spot by locals who like to go there in the afternoons for a drink at sunset and a seafood feast.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/94801434@N00/4431886107/in/photolist-7KCzkr-5hq6eC-5hu5WX-5hoitq-5hkCi2-5hyqkW-5hhKqz-5hmDJG-56wiQf-5hhW4K-wifyd-5hq3Gy-5h3S1H-5hhuui-5hkWp5-5hj1si-5h855L-5horuW-5hnhn9-5hos2L-5hz7Zd-5hq79j-56wp1Y-56wfbf-56s3D2-85FvFf-56saEH-56s7fZ-d4TbGb-HRw9s-56scma-56wbAA-pGYnxh-8mB8eG-otZgs3-jsschJ-5huQGX-5hzqwY-r3XdTz-5hgCEk-behjxT-5hoddQ-5h3Me8-cwMC59-5hzcZb-5h3SQM-9ubKZ-4ToHoR-5hkFt2-3eZ5X4 Sandy beaches in the southern shores of Sri Lanka | © Sistak / Flickr

Ayurvedic medicine

Naturopathic medicine in Sri Lanka is not a new phenomenon. Ayurvedic medicine has been around for thousands of years, and is still used now. Locals can access natural remedies at the Ayurvedic centers and visitors can buy unique Ayurvedic products to take home. Some hotels offer Ayurvedic spas with massages and Ayurvedic aromatherapy. When locals leave the island they miss the easy access to ancient medicines that are not so easily available abroad.


Every full moon day is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. Poya is a Buddhist holiday, and is so important that many businesses don’t even open. Lately, for the sake of tourism and non-Buddhists, supermarkets, some restaurants and coffee shops now stay open. Alcohol is not served on Poya days, however. There are Poya celebrations all around the island, with music, dancing and parading elephants. The street parades at night are called Perahera.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/through_my_camera/6908802884/in/photolist-bL7NmP-bxc4YL-bxdfDU-bxaSnJ-bL5Bmk-bxdkH1-bxcWXN-bL7LT4-bL7H2B-bxddiA-bxdsUj-bxcUSy-bxbNP9-bxbWcE-bxbSCA-bxczsh-pq8CoE-nfhpBs-fxJjep-buksNG-aDKeLK-6ntWoB-pq8CnC-pq3x4a-nfhy6F-9URnoz-9UUcph-bq9fv8-pq63T5-bJpfqB-bsiBsy-aUumuZ-7EfuQr-bL7Tp4-aUuKDK-nfhy9Y-b6Q7rF-bwvqp7-7weWuk-bFYq42-sPrWk-Gt1RD3-F7TCzK-F7TByg-FACLWk-pGBkYW-dzcQQk-bJ8Eyg-bFtUFe-NAqHXE Perahera dancers and musicians on a Poya day celebration | © Alexis Gravel / Flickr

The bread tuktuk’s music

Anywhere on the island, no matter what time of day you might hear the sound of Beethoven’s Fur Elise in a high pitched tone. It’s the bread tut tuk! Everyone misses this quirky little Sri Lankan staple that can show up at any time of day. The bread tuk tuk “choon paan” sells the classic fish buns, curry buns, sliced bread and some short eats.

The water

Most drinking water on the island comes from underground wells. Sri Lankans will tell you that their water is the best in the world, and that is why Sri Lankan food will only taste how it should if it’s made with Sri Lankan water. The freshness of a glass of well water is something a lot Sri Lankans miss when they leave. Visitors will only truly experience this if they stay at a family home in the countryside, as the water in the city is not the same.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davelonsdale/8429159579/in/photolist-dQRDtz | © Dave Lonsdale / Flickr

Toilet hand showers

Hand showers next to toilets are not exactly a Sri Lankan thing, more of an Asian thing. But it’s definitely something you remember from this part of the world. Lack of toilet paper and the toilet hand shower!

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