I saw this on Conan of all things, with comic Charlyne Yi explaining how Sri Lankans kept mistaking her for a boy. And telling her so. There’s a lot of stuff things Sri Lankans say to, well, anyone that can seem rude or odd to outsiders. Questioning gender is one of them, here are a few others.
Pretty much a classic greeting is ‘oh you’ve put on’ or ‘oh you look thin’. Not that neither is put in a positive way. Just recently my landlord stopped me as I was heading out to say that I was getting fat. Quite cheerily, which was the spirit I took it in.
When a Sri Lankan asks you where they’re from they don’t mean city or town, they literally want to know the address and what kade it’s next to and the nearest milepost. The question ‘where are you from?’ isn’t satisfactorily resolved until the asker knows exactly where you’re from, such that they can connect it to some place they know and come there if needs be.
Needless to say, to more privacy conscious people, this comes off as rude, though it is in fact quite the opposite.
If you go to the beach for any period you’ll get ‘oh you’ve got dark’, disapprovingly. It happens less often, but if you get fair this is commented on glowingly.
It is pretty common to be asked if you’re married by people you’ve barely met, not excluding security officers or trishaw drivers. If the answer is no they’ll usually follow up with a ‘why not’ which is a rather expansive conversation among strangers. Again, asked with the best intentions. I’m sure they’d try and fix you up if you asked.
And those are a few things. I think these questions come because Sri Lankan identity is more social than individual, or at least more skewed in that direction. Hence there’s no need to take things personally because they aren’t really personal questions.
For the poor miss Yi caught in the airport though, it must have been quite befuddling to have to pull out her passport to prove she was a woman.