Although Natalya’s post transcends the boundaries of China, AMWF, and Xi’an, it gets to the heart of the benefits of travel, living abroad, and expatriating. Seeing a country and its culture firsthand, no matter whether you travel to Sri Lanka or China, has lifelong consequences. Natalya’s story also highlights the conversational bluntness and giggles, friendliness, fresh fruits and vegetables at every corner that I experienced whilst in China.
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If anyone visits Sri Lanka from a modern country, they are in for culture shock. That is what happened to me when I went there. One of my parents originally came from Sri Lanka, so I had already experienced some of their native culture, but it was not enough to prepare me for actually living in the country, which I did for three months. I went to visit family, and I was expecting that it would be different from what I was used to, but I was not expecting that it would be like a completely different world, which it was.
The biggest difference between the Czech Republic, where I live, and Sri Lanka is the way the people behave. In my experience, people in Sri Lanka are very friendly and very caring, but they do not filter what they say the way people tend to do in first world countries. They will be blunt and tell a person exactly what they are thinking, even if it sounds judgmental and rude to someone who is not used to it. They will even comment on a person’s weight and tell them to their face that they look like they have gained a lot of weight, whereas in Europe, this would be considered a very rude thing to say. Many of them speak English, but there are very few who speak it fluently. A lot of children are taught English in school, and as adults, they can speak what someone from an English-speaking country would consider broken English. If you are speaking in a language that they don’t understand, they will often laugh quite a bit in order to try to relate to you in some way. It can be easy to perceive this as offensive, and think that they are laughing at you, but the truth really is that they don’t understand what you were saying and just want to participate in an interaction with you.
The climate varies widely on the island. Even though it is a small island and you would think the temperature would be fairly uniform throughout, this is not the case, due to highly varying altitudes. In the regions closer to the ocean, such as Colombo, the capital city, the weather is generally warm. In the more mountainous regions, such as Ragala and Nuwara Eliya, the weather tends to be more cool and rainy. Also, if you live in a more temperate climate, you might be surprised to see that in Sri Lanka, the summers are the rainy seasons, and the winters are quite hot.
There are many things to like and dislike about Sri Lanka. Starting with the positives, it is an absolutely beautiful country, full of gorgeous landscapes. There are pristine and clean beaches scattered throughout the border of the island (although the beaches in the larger cities tend to be dirty and polluted). The mountainous areas have many tea plantations and are covered with tea bushes, as Sri Lanka is very well known for its production of tea. Also, there are animals of all kinds roaming the land. Driving is a challenge, as you not only have to watch out for other cars and the occasional pedestrian, but also cows, stray dogs, stray cats, and even chickens walking around.
It can be disturbing for many to see the poverty in Sri Lanka. Animal lovers will be sad to see so many stray and emaciated cats and dogs walking around. Most people see these starving animals as pests and do not have the ability to show them compassion because the people too are simply fending for themselves. There are also many beggars on the streets, many more then you would see in a first world country. There is much less governmental assistance for these people in Sri Lanka than there is in more developed countries, so many of these people are visibly emaciated and in very poor health. Seeing all of the suffering on the streets of the cities in Sri Lanka can be very disturbing for someone who comes from a more prosperous country and is not used to such a sight.
Although there is poverty, there are beautiful landmarks and sites to visit as well. One is the Kandy Botanical Gardens, which is full of all sorts of beautiful flowers and other plants. Sri Lanka’s tropical climate enables the growth of all sorts of unique flora, and you can see a large sampling of what is available on this island in this location. I found that fruits and vegetables that I ate in Sri Lanka were of much better quality and had much fresher and more intense flavors than the ones that I am used to eating in Europe. There are banana trees all over the place, for example, and the bananas are smaller yet are more packed with flavor. In addition, there are many fine restaurants and shopping centers. If you are coming from a first world country, you will find that your money goes very far in Sri Lanka, and you can make quite a few purchases or live quite a luxurious life on relatively little. That was one of the parts of the trip that I personally enjoyed the most.
The life in Sri Lanka, overall, is quite unstructured and carefree compared to the bustling atmosphere that is typical of wealthier countries. Although people work there, they do not tend to have their lives revolve around work like people often do in the developed world.
Overall, I enjoyed my trip to Sri Lanka. Though I disliked some things, there were others that I found to be amazing. The trip was educational, and it was very eye-opening learning about the culture and seeing how people live there. Seeing the poverty was very sad, but it also made me appreciate everything that I have. I would definitely recommend a trip to Sri Lanka to anyone who is looking to expand their travel repertoire.
Bio: Natalya Pobedova is a travelling nomad and backpacker from beautiful Brno Czech Republic. She is 27 and makes a living as a freelance web developer to support her traveling needs. She also runs a budget flight search website for backpackers as a hobby: http://www.travelsiders.com/. She dreams of visiting Brazil and speaks Portuguese fluently. She visited 14 countries already and most of them are in Europe.