Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, a reflection of the island’s encounter with successive foreign immigrants. But it all began with indigenous people, the Veddahs, hunter-gatherers who exist today.
The main ethnic groups are the Sinhalese and Tamils, both originally from the Indian subcontinent. Then there are Muslims, who settled in the island from the time it became an ancient trading centre. Similarly, Malays and Chinese were also attracted to the island. The Portuguese and British brought with them Kaffirs from Africa, and the Dutch an assortment of European traders, the Burghers. There are other communities too, the Chetties from South India for example . . . the list is extraordinary.
Whatever their situation in society, the people of Sri Lanka possess a warm and friendly nature reflected in persistent smiling faces and eagerness to help those unfamiliar with aspects of local life. You’ll find that Sri Lankans are very hospitable and take pride in inviting people to their homes, however modest they may be. So don’t be surprised if a driver or guide, or indeed virtually anyone encountered, requests the pleasure of your company. And don’t decline, as Sri Lankan hospitality is taken very seriously!