Continuing the expat advice series, FT Residential focuses on Mauritius. We invite readers to participate in a short survey and share their expat tales from around the world and the lessons they learned.
Before moving to Mauritius, my husband and I didn’t know much about the country. In ice-cold December 2015 in South Korea, we were flipping through photos of the tropical island’s blue lagoons, sugarcane fields and lush beach resorts, and the more we saw, the more enthusiastic we became. But the everyday reality of island life is different.
In a small society of about 1.2m people you would expect to make friends easily. But locals and expats inhabit two different worlds. Sadly, even local groups from different backgrounds — Hindu, Creole, Chinese, Franco-Mauritian — keep their distance from each other. They stay where they have been taught they “belong”.
We had hoped to rent a place in a neighbourhood where Mauritian kids play outside, and learn Morisyen (the Mauritian creole language) from our neighbours. Expats laughed at us for being so naive and strongly advised us to live in or near the Grand Baie coastal village in the north of the island. Not wanting to isolate ourselves from the people we already knew, we listened to their advice.
In the north you feel you are on holiday because of how touristy, affluent and developed the area is. Being a cozy person, I struggle with how big the houses are, and the unused space in our four-bedroom home.
Life in Mauritius stops after dark which, given relatively short days, means after work. Most restaurants close on Sundays and Mondays, and nightlife is limited to a few bars and clubs.
For leisure, our best bet is the beach and hiking with our adopted Mauritian dogs. We consciously restrain ourselves from sightseeing every weekend because within two months there would be nothing more to see. In hindsight, we are grateful that we did not have a car during our first eight months. A year and half later, there are still places we haven’t been to and that we are looking forward to visit.
What I wish I’d known before moving: Even though English is the official language, locals speak a French-based creole.
Maria Iotova is an editorial manager for a website for international expats. She and her husband, a university facilitator, moved from South Korea to Mauritius in December 2015.
Photographs: Sapsiwai/Dreamstime; LOOK/Alamy; Maria Iotova; Robert Harding/Alamy
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