Life in Colombo; similarities and differences compared to the U.S.

Thursday, 17 March 2016
When I speak with my family or close friends they ask: "What's it like in Sri Lanka?" This post is dedicated to answering that question with a short list of what I find to be different about life in Sri Lanka (compared to the U.S.) and what is sort of the same.


1. Colombo is a big city with five million residences. With big city life comes traffic snarls, crowded public transport, and pedestrians hoofing it to their jobs each morning and early evening. There is a rush hour here but it is pretty much always very busy when it comes to traffic.

2. The larger grocery stores offer a wide selection of food that is typical here as well as house hold items. When you walk in, you grab a buggy, load up your choices and check out in lines with other people.

3. Cable TV is fine. We have about 60 channels including TLC and Discovery.

4. The Wifi in our apartment is pretty fast.

5. The apartment is large with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a nice kitchen and living area.

6. Because this is a large city, people are very blasé about greeting others, smiling through a sales transaction, etc. I feel like I'm in NYC.

7. For the most part, especially in smaller towns, people are friendly and polite.


1. No indoor ovens or dishwashers. That means I do the cooking over a stove (usually twice a day) and James does most of the dishes.

2. You can really only carry so many groceries at a time so we go to the shop almost everyday. It is a bit tiring. Also, the refrigerators here are small so we can't keep much food at a time anyway. Note: Don't take your car, your well-stocked grocery store, and garage for granted!

3. There are not many restaurants around our apartment and local people do not seem to go out to eat very often. There are small take-away shops, and some food-truck style eateries but we're never sure what to order there. We have some research to do regarding restaurants.

4. Dryers are not used here but our little outdoor washer is nice. We just hang our things on the provided drying rack and it all takes less than a day to dry because, even with air conditioning, it is so hot here.

5. It is so HOT. Really. I cannot express how different this has been for us. Yes, it is hot in Tennessee in the summers and I've experienced that - with the humidity it is brutal. But here, with the lack of central air conditioning, the sun being closer to the earth, having to walk many places, and wearing clothes that at least cover your shoulders and knees makes for very warm morning, days, and nights. It is HOT.

6. Personal space is different here. People stand and walk very closely to one another and you just can't get freaked out about it.

7. The best mode of transport is the tuk tuk! Like taxis, some are metered and some are not. It is best to find a metered tuk tuk but if you cannot, settle on a price to your destination before you get in. Traveling by tuk tuk is fascinating because they ZOOM in and out of traffic and squeeze through cars in between lanes. I haven't seen a collision... yet. Here's a quick video of my morning commute to the Sri Lankan Press Institute:

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