Behind the Pen ∘ Sri Lanka

To accompany our new releases we’re returning to our Behind the Pen series of interviews with the authors of Culture Smart!. In the series we take a closer look at who our authors are, how they became conversant in a culture they were not born into, and what they’ve gained from their cultural experiences abroad.

As the series continues to grow and evolve, we now count over 100 authors as part of our team, who work with us on our mission to bridge understanding and build relations between people of different cultural backgrounds. Our authors come from all walks of life, among them diplomats, foreign journalists, NGO workers, educators and storytellers.

Meet Emma Boyle a freelance travel writer and reviewer who has traveled extensively around Sri Lanka, the island she has called home since 2003, and throughout Asia and Australia. Emma is the co-author of a number of Rough Guides including Sri Lanka, Cambodia, India, South East Asia, and Australia, and her work has been featured in The Guardian, The Sunday Times travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveller, Suitcase, and The Telegraph, for whom she is the Sri Lanka expert. Emma also works with The Sri Lanka Collection, a representation company that represents boutique hotels in Sri Lanka to the UK travel trade and media.

How did you first come to be involved in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan culture?

Sri Lanka was the last country I visited on my round-the-world trip in 2003. I had a route that navigated central and South America, Australia and New Zealand, based around writing placements, and Sri Lanka was the final stop. I met my now husband, and the rest is history.

Could you share with our readers an experience you had in Sri Lanka which you think conveys something essential about Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s culture?

I think experiencing the 2004 tsunami and the final years of the civil war made me realise just how resilient the Sri Lankan people are, and how kind. They look out for family, neighbours, friends and colleagues as well as strangers and foreigners, especially during times of need.

On first arriving to Sri Lanka, did you commit any faux pas? What in your opinion do most foreigner’s get wrong?

Foreigners forget that Sri Lanka is a very conservative society. While bikinis and skimpy clothing are fine for the beach, you should dress respectably in towns, cities and rural areas, and when using public transport. Sri Lankans tend to judge by appearance so looking clean and tidy will always make a better impression. Anger won’t get you anywhere.

Is there a big difference in culture between the younger and older generation of Sri Lankans? What would you say is the young generation’s best cultural asset?

Yes, generally speaking, traditions are upheld by the older generation. The younger generation adore social media, socialise a little more freely (especially in towns and cities) and draw on experience gained from working or studying overseas to foster ideas and advocate change.

What do you miss most about Sri Lanka when you are not there?

The ocean, the delicious curries, and our dog Chilli.

How would you sum up the Sri Lankans in five words?

Diverse, curious, hospitable, resilient, kind


Emma’s Culture Smart! Sri Lanka is available now! To mark the title’s publication enjoy 25% off the RRP from our shop throughout May with the discount code NEWCS25. It is also available as an eBook here.

You can find out more about Emma Boyle and her work via her website: and follow her on Twitter @EmmaBoyleWriter


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