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Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. Expect to be offered tea when visiting - it's considered impolite to refuse. Try to be punctual and take a small token of appreciation with you, such as a souvenir from home. Informal, Western dress is suitable except when visiting Buddhist temples, where modest clothing should be worn (no bare legs or uncovered heads). Visitors should also be decently clothed when visiting any place of worship, and shoes and hats must be removed. Jackets and ties are not essential for men in the evenings except for formal functions, when lightweight suits should be worn.


70% of the Sri Lankan population is Buddhist, with Hindu, Christian and Muslim minorities.


Sri Lanka had always been an important port and trading post in the ancient world, frequented by merchant ships from the Middle East, Persia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The island was settled by groups of Arab and Malay merchants, and after that the Portuguese in 1505 and the Dutch in the 17th century. The British East India Company established control of the island in 1796, declaring it a crown colony in 1802.

European colonists established a series of tea, cinnamon, rubber, sugar, coffee and indigo plantations. The British also brought a large number of workers from Tamil Nadu to work in the plantations. Colombo became the administrative centre, and the British established modern schools, colleges, roads and churches that brought Western-style education and culture to the native people.

After the Second World War, pressure for independence intensified and the country won its independence as the Commonwealth of Ceylon in 1948.


The Sinhalese form the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, composing approximately 74% of the total population. The Tamils concentrated in the North, East, Central and Western provinces make up 18%, and there's also a significant population of Moors, who trace their lineage to Arab traders and immigrants, in the eastern provinces. In addition, there are small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malay people.

Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages. However, English is spoken by approximately 10% of the population and is widely used for education, scientific and commercial purposes. Members of the Burgher community speak variant forms of Portuguese Creole and Dutch.

Sri Lanka also enjoys significant religious diversity. Approximately 68% of the population are Buddhists, with Hinduism practised by 18%, mainly from the Tamil community. 7-8% of the population are Christians, particularly in the Portuguese and Dutch Burgher communities. While most of them are Catholics, there are also significant numbers who adhere to Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Communion.

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