Sri Lanka: What to Wear

Friday, 15 April 2016
If you are a male headed to Sri Lanka, not to worry. You don't really have to adjust your wardrobe unless you only wear tank tops and shorts. That being said, men mostly wear collared shirts with pants/trousers or sarongs (!?) so t-shirts are a bit casual for day-to-day wear but no one is going to say anything because you're a guy. Also, if you are Western, you are likely going to be taller than the general population of Sri Lankan men. James seems to tower over everyone and he is about 6 feet tall. Therefore, people are unlikely to step to you for any reason unless you are being disrespectful to certain religious beliefs. Who would do that anyway!?
When it comes to females, fashion is more diverse in Sri Lanka and it is difficult to know which rules to follow. In my experience, and from what I've observed over the last 6 weeks, there are certainly rules: 1. Most women do not show their shoulders in public. I really paid attention to this because I couldn't believe it when it is SO hot. Perhaps one in 20 women (young and old) will wear a blouse that is sleeveless. If a woman is wearing a sleeveless blouse you will almost never see her also wearing a short skirt, etc. Most women wear short-sleeved shirts and long skirts. The photo below shows ladies waiting for the bus on a Tuesday morning.
That brings us to the next rule. 2. Most women do not show their knees in public. Long skirts or trousers are the norm. I wasn't brave in preparing for this post because I didn't take lots of photos of women in Sri Lanka because I didn't want to be that tourist or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Not many women wear pants.
LOTS of ladies (I mean, everyone) has a much-needed accessory. What is it? An UMBRELLA. I was pretty taken aback by this because we're here in the dry season. It is literally 94F+ everyday with 89% humidity. [Diatribe: It seems even hotter because there is no consistent air conditioning in Sri Lanka and the common mode of transportation is the tuk tuk that is open-air. When you sit for 10 minutes at a red light or traffic jam you think you are going to die.] The reasons the ladies use the umbrellas are two fold: 1. It is very hot and it helps to keep the sun off of them while walking from one shop to the next. 2. They don't want their skin to darken. I had a hard time understanding that reason because in our culture tan skin is embraced. I prefer to keep the sun off of my skin because I'm old and I don't want skin problems so I love the idea of the umbrella! Here an umbrella is essential - especially when it's not raining. 
Women wear saris (a common fashion here) and I also regularly see ladies wearing hijab and in other parts of Sri Lanka, somewhat rarely, burqas.

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