Man in Mauritius is the expat.com blog of the month! To celebrate this, there was an interview and here it is!
Tell us about yourself.
I am from Bristol, in the West of England. A great city, famous for Concorde having been built there and the birthplace of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the railway, bridge and ship engineer.
Aardman Animations design and produce Shaun the Sheep and Wallace & Gromit films there too.
When and how did you decide to move to Mauritius? Is it complicated to settle down there?
I had an offer to live and work in Mauritius and it seemed an opportunity too good to miss. It is a big challenge to pack up and move home, no matter how small the distance. So, having stored, sold or given to charity all my furniture and other possessions, I packed my remaining belongings into two suitcases, a rucksack and ten cardboard packing cases, caught the plane and moved 7,000 miles away!
It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to be moving home, country and changing jobs at the same time but, if you do this on your own as I have, you just have to get on with it and be positive! It can be fun to find out where things are, where to shop, park and eat for example but at times you would like it to be a bit easier! My new work colleagues went out of their way to make me welcome and help me when I needed advice or support especially in the first few weeks. The expat.com website was very useful to introduce myself, get some real time advice and to find out some of the basics.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
I have never lived abroad before but I am absolutely loving it and wish I had done it earlier. It is a good question to ask how many countries I have visited! I wrote down a list quite quickly but kept remembering places that I had been to but forgotten about. It is just over forty countries mainly in Europe, Africa and Central and North America.
What do you like the most about Mauritius?
That is a difficult one, there are so many things! Here is a list, in no particular order.
- The people and the many cultures on the island. Everyone has been genuinely friendly and kind to me here; as a visitor it is really appreciated to be welcomed with a warm smile and a friendly introduction. I like the way people greet you everyday with a handshake and real interest in how you are and what you have done since you last saw them.
- The climate and the natural beauty of the island – I am stunned by the microclimates here, you can drive for a five minutes and the weather can be completely different! The rainbows, often two together, are wide and the colours strong. The sunsets and sunrises are breathtaking. The views of the mountains, lit up in warm sunshine or silhouetted dark against the sky. The turquoise lagoons, the blue, blue sky. Who can beat what nature provides for you and on Mauritius; it is spectacular.
- The food. The spices are amazing and the cooking, a mixture of French, Indian and Chinese, I absolutely love it, the spicier the better. The fish is fresh and fantastic, especially the tuna, which is without doubt the best I have ever tasted. The street food is also delicious and simple, who can resist a fresh dholl puri, farata or some gateaux piments?
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?
There are obviously many things that are different here to England, that is obvious. I don’t wear a suit and tie to work, I would die of heat exhaustion if I did! There are less choices for things to do in the evening. There are hardly any coffee bars here, there only seem to be bars in the tourist areas near the beach. Public transport is limited, there are no trains or metro/underground, I am very surprised how many miles I have driven in the seven months I have been here.
There is a huge difference in the cost and choice of food, drink, clothes and entertainment. I absolutely love the fact that all the car parks I have used, except at Caudan Waterfront (before 4:00pm) and the airport, have been free. In the UK this is very expensive (and painful if you overstay and get a penalty!)
Many of the brands in the food shops I do not know and choosing can be difficult but with experience it is fine when they become more familiar. The pace of life here is slower, this takes a while to get accustomed to (like the driving!) but it is actually so much better.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
I miss my family and my friends the most, also comfort food like ‘Twiglets’, my favourite snack!
Any ‘memories of an expat’ you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
I have so many good memories already from the time that I have been here from the actual excitement of arriving at the airport, to receiving my ten packing cases, occupation permit and going to the office for my first day at work, first night in my apartment, my new home. Some of the sunsets I have seen, my first day at Champs de Mars watching the horse racing, learning how do dive in the warm waters at Le Morne, a Muslim wedding, exploring the island, making smoothies in the morning from locally produced fruit, walking in the forests in the South. Lots of really good memories and many of them are on the blog but if I had to pick one it would be the sunset on the 19th of January.
Getting food poisoning just before a week of travelling in Southern Africa is by far the worst experience!
What does your typical day as an expat in Mauritius look like?
Waking up to sunshine and the occasional dog barking! Getting my Italian expresso pot on the stove to make my morning coffee before taking a shower. Ignoring the 16 suits, 9 jackets and 17 sweaters I have brought to Mauritius and choosing a shirt and light trousers to wear. Making a fruit smoothie with nuts and oats for the best start to the day. Driving to work and listening to news and sport podcasts. Setting a good example to other road users on how to drive well! Then making calls, dealing with emails and attending meetings. Having lunch with colleagues and finding out what they have been doing followed by more meetings or perhaps travelling to the factory.
Then after work, going to the gym or food shopping, perhaps home in time to watch the sunset from the balcony or a swim. After that, as shower, prepare dinner or go out with friends for a meal. Last of all, catch up with friends and family on WhatsApp or Skype, read for a little bit then bed. The weekends are usually filled with lots of outdoor activities; it is great to be out in the sunshine.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
In October 2015. The blog is a photo diary of what I have been doing and easy to share. It has also been a nice new hobby and surprised me how much I have enjoyed the writing and photography for it. The feedback has been really great so far.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
I have made no new friends with the blog as yet, but it has certainly kept me in touch with those who are already friends. So, to those who are reading this, get in touch!
Why did you register on Expat.com and what do you think of the website?
I registered for advice, support, local knowledge and the opportunity to meet people on the island who had or were experiencing the same issues as me. The website is so useful, gives instant up-to-date answers from people there and really helps with settling in fast. It’s been invaluable so far.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat.com members who would like to settle in Mauritius?
Find out what you cannot get in Mauritius and do not assume it is going to be the same as the country you currently live in.
Embrace the local culture.
Learn to speak French/Creole.
Keep your eyes open and explore! Mauritius is so much more than the image you see from abroad, the one of 5 star hotels, deserted, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons under a beautiful blue sky.
Never turn down an invitation, you never know what you might enjoy, who you might meet and what you might learn, so much better than watching TV!
Explore, dream and discover!
Man in Mauritius
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