Saturday, June 1, 2013

An expat in Sri Lanka: The Good, Bad and Ugly - Part 1

"What is it really like living in Sri Lanka as a foreigner or expatriate*"
* An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing.

I am asked this particular question quite often. My network abroad, tourists visiting Sri Lanka, locals, expat Sri Lankans, and people I don't know but somehow find myself in a conversation with... All, eventually ask me this question.

So, I guess it makes some sort of sense for me to answer it here. Please note that these are my personal opinions, from my perspective, experiences and filtered through my lenses, cultural conditioning and biases. It may or may not resonate with you, but I kindly request you bear it in mind as you read on.
If you're reading this you are either a local in Sri Lanka; a Sri Lankan living abroad; an expat like me residing in Sri Lanka; a tourist / traveler currently in Sri Lanka; or a foreigner living elsewhere in the world.

Either way, what's important is that you're interested in something I have to share about life in Sri Lanka. I honestly believe we all learn things each and every day for ourselves, and from each other. We may eventually determine something from our everyday existence, but when we are placed in an environment that challenges our conditioning or thinking (one that we might not usually be exposed to), there is huge opportunity to learn more rapidly. The challenge is to be open-minded and to recognize beauty or something worthwhile in these instances or situations.


When you first move to a foreign country, as every expat will tell you, it's hard work. From settling in, to making new friends, to adapting to your new environment, and learning how to do things.

It's harder work if...

  • there is a civil war in the country and widespread military presence is foreign to you (i.e. when I initially moved here, the civil war had not yet ended);
  • you don't speak the local language;
  • you're used to living with four seasons and instead there's only one (or two, if you count the monsoon period in a tropical country!);
  • you experience culture shock (gah, the initial early days!)

 ** Please note, the full blog post has been removed as parts of the blog content will be edited for inclusion in an upcoming publication by the author. More information will be made available on the Adventures in a Tuk-Tuk Blog in due course **


Wayne Griffith said...

Very interesting, I did not think it could reach 7 parts. This is very interesting and could become a reference text for Sri lanka. I do not quite understand it, but it seems, being an expat in Sri Lanka is quite interesting. nice post.

lativa tango said...

you are being bloody kind eva, but i did love those lines on the post office and the damn passport visa dump...they still operate in the bloody babylonian era, i myself moved out of the country to canada years ago....but every time i visit my a month...i can't wait to get out.

yes, the damn people are a mix of nice and kind to the brutal; and hateful,...well what do you expect out of the oppressed who in turn will easily become the oppressor. todays victim is another of yesterdays possible victimiser's - golden bamboo

Eva Stone said...

Thanks for the comment. I suppose each person sees things from their own set of experiences. We can learn from different perspectives as well. Thanks for sharing yours.

Craig Purcell said...

What is the job situation in Sri Lanka for Architects ?

Eva Stone said...

Hi Craig, Apologies for the delayed response. I have to admit I'm not sure about the job situation for architects in Sri Lanka. It's not my area of expertise. However, I did come across an interesting write up on a Sri Lankan architect returning from London and his experiences that might have some useful info.
Best wishes, Eva

john odonnell said...

Hi Eva,
Great entertaining reading.
I am visiting Sri Lanka in August & searching for a good dentist who does bridgework.
If you know of any good dentists a contact would be greatly appreciated.
Best Wishes

Eva Stone said...

Hi John, Thanks for the comment on the blog. Happy to know you find it entertaining. Unfortunately, I have had some difficulty with dental work in Sri Lanka. I've tried the expensive ones, the not-so-expensive ones, young and old, but somehow I haven't found one that I can confidently recommend. If you're on FB, perhaps you can ask on one of the expat forums to see if there's someone willing to recommend a dentist.

Dave Ducker said...

Hi John,

Just had some work done by Dr Shuba at Lanka Hospital, a couple of crowns down and a bridge put back, all good so far. Can't comment on others as I was given her name and went straight there.

Aisha de s said...

Hi Eva,

Do you have any tips for finding work in Sri Lanka and obtaining a visa? My heart is set on moving from the UK to Sri Lanka but not sure where I could find work as I have only very limited knowledge of Sinhala.


Eva Stone said...

Hi Aisha,

I've previously highlighted checking out Sunday Observer Jobs or Sunday Times Jobs online or Sri Lankan job search engines like to see what kind of jobs are available. The Sri Lanka expat forums on Facebook can also be a source of job opportunities. It will also depend on what skills and industry experience you have. You could also approach employers directly via their websites as some do list job openings. As you would expect hospitality and tourism is always looking to fill a wide range of positions given the growth in the number of hotels and establishments in Sri Lanka. But there are also other job openings.

With regards to visas, you'll need a work visa before coming over. There are cases where people have entered on a different visa and then managed to secure a job (through either opportunity, persistence or contacts) and have then left and re-entered on the work visa, but this is not the officially accepted way.

Hope this helps you.


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