I think that most of the pleasure being in this island stems from its people. The people are so nice here in Sri Lanka. I wrote this piece several days in my trip but I decided to wait till the end and post it, but nothing changed my opinion in the time I spent here.
Everybody beams a smile at you, first shy but when you salute them the smile is all over their faces. No matter how much English they know they always ask you where you are coming from and try to engage you somehow. In spite of the obvious relative poverty people look happy and content in a way that you encounter only in Asia, as I could tell. Even that tourism came to the island a while ago, before the war with the Tamil Tigers, the people of this island were not perverted by it. I am not talking about politicians, whose cause I will never sustain in any country, but the general individual you encounter on the streets. You have the same level of happiness that is displayed in Burma, the place that I considered till now to have the nicest inhabitants. People need money and always want to do something to be paid by the tourists, and sometimes is a little annoying, but they do it gracefully and with no rancor if the deal did not go through even if they went out of their way to help. How a people so close to India, and probably under its economical influence, can be so different? Is the difference in attitude coming from religion, the gaudy Hindu religion of India vs the tranquil Buddhism of the Island? I really donít know but I noticed this tranquility in everybody I met and got help from in this trip and I want to gracefully thank them for this.
Most of the people speak English, an inheritance in learning the language maybe from the colonial times. But like in many other isolated places, the language was preserved with original expressions and you see signs that use words that are long out of use, like footboard for the train steps, subway for the underground passage, etc.People address you very deferent keeping a pleasant distance and giving you the space to breathe.
When you travel and never know the exact situation of the ground and especially coming from the world of set prices, you may occasionally get annoyed if you feel that the price was higher than is supposed to. And not a few times, you enter the game and start haggling for something that in the end it can be just few cents. I read once a piece of Sebastian Junger that talks exactly about this, based on his own experience and I knew how real and, in hindsight, how stupid it is. Everybody I met here Sri Lanka let me feel that they try to help, make you feel good and make your stay enjoyable. They do expect to be paid, for sure, but they really try hard and you feel that they care.
This world of Sri Lanka is very relaxed and a minimum income is what they are looking for. One told me that if you make lots of money you will do bad things and ruins friendships and yourself. And how real this thing is. Even in Kandy, that is the second largest city, everybody is so courteous and salutes you and even the rare encounters with aggressive touts is not as bad as in many other places in the world. I had an exchange in Kandy only with one street guy, the type of tout that was trying a regular scheme and when I hushed him away he tried to protest but left.