There are many, many things I’m going to miss about Sri Lanka. I’ll of course miss the people I’ve met, the great kids I teach, the ocean and the random ridiculously funny moments that can only happen when you’re living in a country so vastly different from your own. At the same time, I know that Sri Lanka will always be a part of me. Lately I’ve become conscious of my own “Sri Lankan” habits that could be detrimental to me when I go home. Here are a few examples.
- Avoidance of problems – I’m naturally an non- confrontational person. When conflict arises, my impulse is to retreat and hope it goes away like a turtle goes into it’s shell or a two year old closes his/her eyes and thinks things will disappear. Obviously this method of conflict resolution isn’t generally effective. However, put me in a cultural where most people feel exactly the same way and it is an incredibly good strategy. Sri Lankans hate conflict and generally if you ignore unpleasant email requests, or issues they will not confront you and the problem WILL go away. I’ve experienced times when waiters don’t understand what you are asking for and they simply walk away or people at a sales desk don’t want to take your complaint so they shut the service window on you. I’m going to miss that!
- Staring – You will have recalled that Shaun and I have consistently complained about the intense stares we get regularly. This can be particularly annoying for me when a male’s stare is accompanied by an open mouth and a bit of drool as he looks me up and down. Creeps aside – most Sri Lankans are generally just curious and naturally stare at all people – not just foreigners. While it can be uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of a stare, I’ve learned that it is quite entertaining to be the starer. You learn so much about people and see so many humourous moments simply by sitting back and people watching. I’ve always enjoyed “people watching” but here you can blatantly stare and no one takes offense. It’s a behaviour psychologists dream.
- Random interrogation – When I first meet people, I’m no longer afraid to ask all sorts of questions that would be offensive in the west. I find this really cut to the point much more quickly. Within two minutes, I will know a person’s religion, age, marital status, number of children, profession and educational background.
- Complete lack of fashion sense – I have a dress that is fushia and lime green. I’m starting to think the Sri Lankan cricketer style mullet on guys is cute. Need I say more?
- Using the head bobble- Is it a yes? Is it a no? Is it a seizure? Nothing will confuse a fellow Canadian more that seeing this white gal respond to conversation a quick head bobble. For more on the art of the head bobble, see the clip below on the art of the Sri Lankan head bobble.