What to Wear

Due to the conservative nature of the country, it’s important that we dress appropriately. Sri Lankan dress is modest, especially where you’ll be working, and all volunteers must dress smartly whilst in the local community and on projects. This includes having your upper arms and any cleavage covered. For most of your projects you’ll need to keep your ankles covered as well, so wearing full-length trousers or a full-length skirt is required. At the weekend you’re free to wear what you choose, but many volunteers still like to wear modest clothing whilst travelling to avoid attracting any unwanted attention.

We’re not trying to be the fashion police, but we’ve been banned from projects before for volunteers ‘chancing it’ and wearing low cut tops or see-through skirts. The dress code is there so we can continue the work we do, not so we can boss you around.

Living and working in another country is different to being on holiday there. These are some examples of appropriate clothing for both male and female volunteers.

It's best to stock up on collared shirts and trousers in neutral colours to be safe. Patterns are not seen as smart and smart dress is required for the majority of projects. Try shopping for light materials such as linen or cotton. Essentially you want to look like these guys:

These team members are all at the psychiatric facility and all look like practitioners. Nice work, guys! 

These team members are all at the psychiatric facility and all look like practitioners. Nice work, guys! 


Ladies

You want to look professional and make sure that the clothes are loose and aren't patterned in a way that could cause distraction. It's best to aim for neutral plain clothing to be on the safe side. 

We get it ladies, the struggle is real, but please see the following test below to make sure your clothes are 100% Sri Lanka appropriate.

The main things to consider are:

  • Is it opaque? **Please grab vest tops to wear underneath your shirts. 
  • Does it cover your shoulders/cleavage?
  • Are your trousers/skirts full-length?
  • Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help. i.e Linen or cotton
  • Is the pattern bold? Neutral, plain colour collared shirts and skirts are preferable over bold, bright or loud patterns.
  • Is it loose enough? i.e. It shouldn’t show the outline of your figure, buttons shouldn't be popping and it should drape off your body. 
  • Does it look smart and presentable? Would you see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it.
This shirt would be great it if it was plain but the stripes can be distracting for the service users. Full-length, loose trousers and a loose plain shirt are key! 

This shirt would be great it if it was plain but the stripes can be distracting for the service users. Full-length, loose trousers and a loose plain shirt are key! 

Full-length, loose trousers and a loose top are key! 

Full-length, loose trousers and a loose top are key! 

An opaque, full-length skirt is a priority to pack for any temple projects. . 

An opaque, full-length skirt is a priority to pack for any temple projects. . 

This outfit is not professional enough to work in the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects.

This outfit is not professional enough to work in the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects.

A pair of nice, flat, smart sandals will complete any of these looks. 

A pair of nice, flat, smart sandals will complete any of these looks. 

Any t-shirts should be loose with a high neck.

Any t-shirts should be loose with a high neck.


Too often skirts and shirts that look OK in a store are totally see-through in the sun. Hold your clothes up to a window to check if they are suitable. Always grab vest tops to wear under shirts to make sure you're covered. 

You can see right through that skirt! Please hold your clothes up to the light to avoid these accidents. 

You can see right through that skirt! Please hold your clothes up to the light to avoid these accidents. 

This shirt is totally adorable and is otherwise appropriate, but it's see-through. Avoid sheer materials! 

This shirt is totally adorable and is otherwise appropriate, but it's see-through. Avoid sheer materials! 

These trousers are great for weekend travel, but 3/4 lengths are not appropriate on projects.

These trousers are great for weekend travel, but 3/4 lengths are not appropriate on projects.

You'll need to grab some nice sandals to wear to your projects too, as ones like these aren't professional enough. Invest in something more sturdy and smart. 

These are considered "bathroom slippers" and are not suitable for projects. 

These are considered "bathroom slippers" and are not suitable for projects. 

Tight clothing is also a "no-no." Keep it loose, you'll not only be cultuarally appropriate, but more comfy too.

This one's tough, as the shirt is great, but the trousers are way too tight! 

This one's tough, as the shirt is great, but the trousers are way too tight! 

Please avoid any low necks too!

Please avoid any low necks too!


Gentlemen

Boys, we’re not leaving you out: Here’s a handy video with great advice from previous male team members. We know cleavage isn’t likely to be an issue for you, but those naughty knees are, so please keep them covered in smart, full length trousers. 

The main things to consider are:

  • Is it opaque? White shirts will go see through if you get stuck in the rain. **Please grab vest tops to wear underneath your shirts. 
  • Are your legs covered? Boys, it's important you wear full length trousers rather than shorts. Chinos or smart linen trousers are both perfect.
  • Is it going to be cool enough? You’re going to be hot whatever you wear, but loose, breathable fabrics help
  • Does it look smart and presentable? Would you see a Healthcare Assistant or a teacher wearing this in your own country? If the answer is ‘no’ please don’t pack it.
This outfit is not smart enough for the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects. Just lose the glasses, cool guy. :) 

This outfit is not smart enough for the psychiatric facility, but you could wear it to other projects. Just lose the glasses, cool guy. :) 

Looking great! Loose trousers and shirt are the way to go! 

Looking great! Loose trousers and shirt are the way to go! 

All good here! 

All good here! 

You just need some nice sandals to finish off your look! 

You just need some nice sandals to finish off your look! 

 

Tattoos and Piercings

Check out our YouTube video for advice on body art

As we’ve said before, we’re well respected in the Sri Lankan community and seen as teachers and practitioners. As a result, tattoos and piercings need to be covered up and taken out. In Sri Lankan culture, body art is associated with drug culture and criminality.

Therefore, in the local community, please keep piercings limited to one stud per ear. Small nose studs are also fine. If you have additional ear piercings, a facial or tongue piercing you’ll have to take it out whilst at projects or replace with a clear, plastic retainer. Enlarged lobes must be replaced with flesh coloured or clear retainers.

No visible tattoos are permitted. Our volunteers with tattoos cover them up with clothing or with strategically placed bandages and tube grips. Yes we look like the walking wounded, but it’s better than the alternative, which is that our students’ parents assume that we are involved with drugs and won’t let their children continue to come to our lessons.

If you've got tattoos, this is your best friend! 

If you've got tattoos, this is your best friend! 

David’s not injured, but he does have a large tattoo on his forearm that needs to be covered up.

David’s not injured, but he does have a large tattoo on his forearm that needs to be covered up.

Tattoo or injury? We'll never tell! 

Tattoo or injury? We'll never tell!