A rather startling, but somewhat happy, thought came to me as I was travelling outside of Sri Lanka recently. And this particular thought was about turning into a local Sri Lankan i.e. going native! I know I know… you're thinking, "What the heck is she talking about?" Well, although it sounds a little strange, I think I'm going native and turning more Sri Lankan as my expat life in Sri Lanka heads towards its seventh year.
I'm sure there are expats around the world who have succumbed to what I'm describing in their respective countries of choice. If I were to guess, it primarily happens to those who enjoy where they're living and what they're doing; wish to continue their expat life there; and can't help but adopt the place and culture as their own. More often than not, I suspect it's an unconscious thing that creeps in.
Having experienced this startling but happy thought, I decided to put together a little checklist of things, which we could also call symptoms (if we were diagnosing an affliction), that might indicate you were becoming more like a local Sri Lankan.
Initially, I pondered whether to call it "Lanka-fluenza" or "Turning Lankan". The former sounds too much like an illness or affliction and a little negative, so that doesn't work for me. The latter is probably closer to going native in Sri Lanka, so I've stuck with that.
So, here goes…
You could be going more native and turning Lankan if:
- You understand and automatically respond in a similar fashion to non-verbal communication Sri Lanka style (i.e. head wiggles that mean "hari hari" or "okay")
- When a fellow foreigner speaks to you, you automatically answer in Sinhala rather than your native tongue or the appropriate foreign language
- The majority of your group of friends are Sri Lankan
- Over time you prefer to eat more local cuisine and have developed a spicier palate
- You start to think more in Sinhala as each day passes (so you can converse with your local community etc)
- You give locals a "free pass" for little mistakes because you "get" the local culture, its ways and limitations.
- You have been "adopted" into a Sri Lankan family and get the full treatment like one of their children
- You start to drive like a local embracing the chaos, being free and easy on the horn and using more intuition than road rules to survive the traffic
- You have more views and opinions on local politics in Sri Lanka, and even your province, than on global matters.
- You want the rest of the globe to see Sri Lanka the way you do.
- You want to see the island prosper and grow, and want to participate in making that happen
- When you watch foreign news programmes and they are disparaging Sri Lanka, you want to defend the Sri Lanka you know
- You see the advantages of living in Sri Lanka outweighing the disadvantages
- If you had a choice to travel, you would rather travel around Sri Lanka than outside of the country
- Even though your extended family and friends constantly nag you to return from Sri Lanka, you can eventually see yourself growing old and living out your life in Sri Lanka
- You miss Sri Lanka as "home" when you're abroad
I'm sure there is more to add but this is a fairly decent starter list
If you've ticked off quite a number on this list, then I'd say you're well on your way to being adopted as a Sri Lankan. If not now, then sometime in the future...
Now I wonder how many items on this list would be ticked off by expat Sri Lankans who live abroad?