-Where were you born?
In a Los Angeles suburb, USA.
-In which country and city are you living now?
I'm in Colombo, Sri Lanka
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my husband and our live-in staff of 2.
-How long have you been living in Sri Lanka?
-What is your age?
I'm 39, now and forever.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Sri Lanka?
My father is Sri Lankan, but he settled with my blue-eyed, blonde American Mom in L.A., so we'd visit his family every now and then. It wasn't until I graduated from college (University) that I thought I might like to live in Sri Lanka for 2 or 3 years to get in touch with my roots.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
No, a tourist visa is given for 30 days on arrival, and it can be extended for a fee. And there are jobs that will give you a work permit. I was referred to one through one of my cousins.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Honestly, I didn't even try. But I haven't found it difficult to get here. Good medical care here is pretty affordable here too.
-How do you make your living in Sri Lanka? Do you have any type of income generated?
I work as a freelance writer now, mostly working for U.S.based companies. I have worked here and don’t think it’s difficult to find work. The difficulty is finding work that pays anything like what I'm used to making. To make comparable salaries, it's better to find a job with an international organization before coming here.
-Do you speak Sinhala and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I have learned some Sinhala, though it is possible to get around fairly well without it. I think it is important to learn local language and customs, if for no other reason than to have a better idea about what is going on and how to get things done.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course! But I believe every situation has its positives and negatives. My quality of life in Sri Lanka is better in many ways than in the U.S., but there is definitely a price to pay for it.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I plan to do more of the same – travel while enjoying having two bases of operations.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I live in a home that was bought by my husband, who is a local, before I arrived. I’m not sure if foreigners are permitted to own property or land here, actually. If they are, it might be heavily taxed. But real estate is not one of the areas that is significantly less expensive.
-What is the cost of living in Sri Lanka?
Most things are much less expensive than in the U.S., but it also depends if you're making a local or a foreign salary. A few years ago, one of my neighbors, a local in a very modest home, told me she was making a salary of $30/month--and that's what she and her mother lived on. She recently married a guy who makes $300/month, but I haven't noticed any major improvements in their lifestyle. Maybe they're saving up.
-What do you think about the locals?
I'm talking about the general populace here, not the people I spend my time with who are very worldly. Because it was a British colony, there is a tendency to treat fair-skinned foreigners better than other locals. They understand that foreigners come here with money that goes much further here, and therefore prices are adjusted to make the most of this, but that's just good business, since in most cases we can afford it. They are friendly people, and generally laid-back, which may be the biggest challenge to Westerners. Their idea of meeting deadlines is very lax.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Sri Lanka?
The work ethic and communication can be a challenge, BUT the country is beautiful, weekend trips are affordable, Sri Lanka has among the highest number of holidays per year to enjoy them, the weather is warm (though the seasonal humidity can be draining) and the people are lovely.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Sri Lanka?
Be patient. But that's helpful anywhere, isn't it? And be prepared to throw your rulebook of political correctness out the window--treating people as equals who are not used to it may not get you very far, unfortunately, so you may have to be the Ugly American and shout and demand every now and then. Then go back to deep-breathing-patience.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Sri Lanka?
I include some of my adventures on my blog, which is http://malayna-dawn.typepad.com, where you can also find links to order my novel, Echoes Across Time (a fictionalized version of my story).
I send my friends to the Tangerine Tours site to think about where they'd like to go when they visit: http://www.tangerinetours.com
And Sri Lanka Tourism has a good site: http://www.srilankatourism.org