Monday, April 30, 2007

On "Dropping In"

I was brought up here in England, by Sri Lankan parents. So, my life has been a mixture of Sri Lankan traditions and customs and British ones too.

One of the truly great Sri Lankan things that I have got used to is "dropping in". I suspect that hardly anyone who reads this will have any problem in understanding exactly what I'm talking about. My childhood was full of visits and visitors.

At a moment's notice the family would pile into a car to go and drop in on some, usually Sri Lankan, Uncle and Aunty. It was always a pleasure for them to see us. We'd turn up, kids would play, drinks and food would be served then we'd wander off home. The next weekend there was every chance that the Uncle and Aunty would turn up wholly unannounced at our place and the hospitality would be returned. There'd be no phone calls to prearrange things, no formal invitations and certainly no planning or worries about "what if they're not there?" The answer to the last question was a simple detour to go and drop in on someone else.

It's a concept that the average Englishman finds hard to handle. It only really happens between great friends among the English. An Englishman's home being his castle and all whereas a Sri Lankan's home is everyone else's too. With the English it tends to be the norm that one has to be invited, then the invitation is accepted, or declined, and you arrive within four nanoseconds of the allocated time.

A Sri Lankan, like my Dad, gets invited somewhere, then forgets about it anyway. Then he remembers, invariably after he has double booked for the night. Then he will turn up at the venue, anytime from half an hour to six months late.

This dropping in is extended to people staying too. I can remember a vast array of people that would be regular guests at the family home when I was a kid. They would arrive, we'd be shoved into another room somewhere and all would be quite happy about it. I was talking to a Sri Lankan friend who was brought up in the UK recently and she said that it was the same for her childhood, it was more than likely to have been many of the same people too!

At my parents' house now it's common for me to turn up and find any one, or two or three, of their friends there, who have dropped in. This can even be Brits, those that have known my Mum and Dad for years and understand the whole dropping in concept.

Frankly I love the whole idea. It's a wonderful example of Sri Lankan hospitality and warmth. The one thing I'm unsure of is whether it's a concept that other nationalites do, or is it uniquely Sri Lankan?

What do you reckon?


Darwin said...

Maybe I've been out here too long, but I'm not a huge fan of dropper-inners. Not that I have a house or anything, I'm still in rather rubbish student halls. So I don't like it too much when people drop in unannounced as I like to have my room and the shared kitchen neat and tidy for when I have guests. My room is rather good but a shared kitchen, one can never be sure what state it'd be in... I'm too much of a Monica (off "Friends") that way!

Lady divine said...

That is soooo true!!!!
Well I was born in Dubai (to Sri Lanka parents) and lived there for about 15 yrs... and even there, among the Sri Lankan community it was the same!!:-)

But I also saw it happening to my friends who were Indian, Pakistanis as well as Syrians and Russians.. But it was mostly among relatives and close family friends...

So I guess it's a big part of out culture.. It's always nice how our poeple accept our visits with a good heart and treat visitors well no matter what..

That's the kind of unity that needs to be treasured and taken forward..:-)

S said...

Like you, I've been born and brought up over here but I'm a sucker for hospitality (both giving and receiving).

I think I'm unusual in that regard - English people, regardless of colour are quite fussy over their own space. I tend to be better friends with those who aren't.

Regions of Sri Lanka are similarly diverse - apparently ppl from the South (like my parents) are the most hospitable.

Anonymous said...

You think that's what the guys from the velu-air did last Sunday. Just dropped in uninvited ?

Beatrice Hannah said...

Living in very rural sri lanka reminds me of living in very rural scotland. When I was a child every granny prided herself in how quickly she could put soup and fresh baking on the table when people just dropped in.

It took me several years while at uni in england to learn not to cook enough for a few extras who might turn up.

Now I am a skanky individual, who's house is usually a tip unannounced visitors can cause a spike in my heart rate, but I do love the idea. Sometimes in the UK I would do baking, but if there is no one to share it then all that effort seems a bit pointless.

I wonder if that style of hospitality is not so much about the country, but how traditional the culture remains? Sadly Scottish culture seems to be changing rapidly, many of the traditions from my youth seem to be dying out (and I'm not even that old). I wonder if I could still drop in unannounced on my mother's neighbours? xxx Bea