Sri Lanka – social order and status

Sri Lanka – social order and status

Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean, near the southeast of India in South Asia. Until 1972 it was known as Ceylon. The commercial capital and largest city is Colombo and the country has a population of 20 million. Approximately 70% of the people practice Buddhism, with Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other smaller religions making up the remaining 30%.

Sinhala is spoken by about 16 million people in Sri Lanka, about 13 million of whom are native speakers. It is one of the constitutionally recognised official languages of the country, along with Tamil.

Adam’s Peak is the most sacred mountain in the country. Pilgrims climb to the top by candlelight to stand in what is believed to be the footsteps of Buddha.

While the production and export of tea, rubber, coffee, sugar and other commodities remain important, industrialisation has increased the importance of food processing, textiles, telecommunications and finance. The country’s main economic sectors are tourism, tea export, clothing, rice production and other agricultural products. Most of Sri Lanka’s electricity is powered by the many waterfalls in the country.

The influences of Buddhism and Hinduism, along with the caste system, have created a culture that operates on hierarchical lines. Sri Lankans are conscious of social order and status.

When greeting, the older generation of Sri Lankans will use the “Namaste” (palms clasped together as if in prayer at chin level with a slight nod of the head). The Sinhalese may say “ayubowan” and the Tamils “vanakkam”, both of which translate as “may you be blessed with a long life”.

Prior to a meeting, send some background information on your company, the attendees and an agenda. The first meeting should be viewed as a relationship-building exercise. Be sure that your business card reflects your business title and qualifications. Remember that only the top level person at a company will usually make decisions, so try to meet that person face-to-face.

Share your Sri Lankan business experiences

Sources: Wikipedia, Kwintessential,

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