Finding family happiness in Mauritius

  • Family on the beach in Mauritius
Published 11 months ago

Anne, a German expat, moved to Mauritius in 2016 with her Mauritian husband and their little boy. Anne and her family felt that Mauritius is the ideal place to raise a happy child, who can play outdoors, get energy from the dazzling tropical sun, and learn to exist among different cultures. And they were right! Mauritius is their paradise in which dreams come true.

Hi Anne, can you please introduce yourself? Where are you from and what brought you to Mauritius?

Hi! I'm Anne from Germany. However, I left Germany many years ago and spent ten years in London where I met my Mauritian husband. Kevin had been living in London since he was 16 but one of his dreams was to return to Mauritius. I also knew that London wasn't anymore the right place for me either. But it was after we had our son Lucas in 2015 that we started talking about where we would like to live and raise our child. Mauritius used to come up very often as an option, but for me it was too far away from my family and too risky in case I didn't like to live there permanently. On the other hand, Kevin was not keen on moving to Germany. So we decided to compromise and move instead to the North of England where housing is more affordable than in London, and the commute to London is manageable (if you can say this about a four-hour commute).

All was going according to the plan, until we booked a holiday to Mauritius, just before I had to return to work after my maternity leave. This was not my first time in Mauritius. One day while driving to do some grocery shopping and grab a coffee, Kevin asked me ‘don’t you feel at home here?’ and I said ‘yes’ naturally and from the bottom of my heart. Nothing happened there and then but when we got back to London in January when it’s grey, wet, and cold, I felt like I don’t want to be there. Also, the job I was returning to was no longer as exciting as it used to be eight years ago because it meant travelling abroad every other week and leaving my little boy alone. The excitement about moving up North was getting less and less, and after a week back in London, I told Kevin that I wanted to move to Mauritius. He was over the moon, quit his job a few days later, organised the shipping, sold the flat, and we arrived in Mauritius only three months later, in April 2016.

Family of three

What is your favourite thing about Mauritius, and what is your least favourite thing?

My favourite thing is the freedom I can give to my son regarding space and outdoor lifestyle. Also, the friendliness of people who enjoy interacting with children. My least favourite thing is probably the language. I don’t speak French, and even though the official language in Mauritius is English, people speak more in French and often feel shy or uncomfortable to speak English.

What has surprised you the most about Mauritius?

How expensive life is. This applies mainly to the amenities that a foreigner is used to and that locals would probably consider a luxury. Groceries in the supermarkets are more expensive than in London, clothes are pricey and so are ice-cream, coffee, toys, etc..

What are the features of today’s job market in Mauritius?

I am the wife of a Mauritian, so I’m already a holder of a residence permit. Interesting jobs are available in various fields, and there are opportunities for skilled expats.

What are the year’s biggest holidays in Mauritius? What is some essential etiquette in Mauritius?

Divali, the Hindu New Year, is big and so is Ramadan. In my opinion, essential etiquette here is an open mind to culture and religion. Various religious festivals are celebrated and different cultures interact on a daily basis. Also, hospitability is a big thing, and food and drink are always plentiful.

In a work-related environment I have come to learn that very often people only understand a task when given clear instructions without the expectation that a person will take some initiative on their own.

On the beach

How do you find the lifestyle in Mauritius?

For our little family, Mauritius is perfect. We came here to find a safe environment to allow our son to grow up with plenty of outdoor space surrounded by multicultural people and to grow up bi-lingual (or quad-lingual like he actually is now). At the same time, we still get to do the things that my husband and I enjoy to do – go to a café, restaurant, enjoy walks in nature/beach, and have a BBQ at home with friends.

What would you say are the biggest differences between raising a child here and in England or Germany?

The good weather plays a big role. We wake up at 6 am (well, Lucas wakes us up at 6 am). The sun is out and the morning routine goes so much easier. On weekends, we have our breakfast on the terrace and Lucas plays outside. And basically, this is what he does the whole day! Even at the end of a working day, my husband, who picks him up from the nursery, stops at the beach with him almost every day. In London, every weekend we would wonder 'what we could do? Go again to the shopping center?' In London travelling around takes at least 1.5 hours and then you never know if the weather will stay nice. Also, in London paying a part-time childminder was costing me 2/3 of my salary! In Mauritius, it is much cheaper (this changes when you are looking at private primary and secondary schools). Furthermore, people here always smile at children – they love children and they don't stare at you when your child cries for example. The opposite, people come and try to cheer up your crying baby/toddler.

Have you been able to adapt to Mauritius and the society?

I would say yes, but I believe my Mauritian husband plays a big role in that process. Also, an open mind and my strong ‘let people live their life the way they want’ attitude. I don’t take things personally if they don’t affect my life very badly. Not everything is paradise in Mauritius but I believe nowhere in the world everything is perfect.

What do you do in your free time?

My son keeps me very busy but since I came to Mauritius I started horse riding. This is a childhood dream coming true. I go to the staples once a week for one hour. If I’m not out and about with Lucas, I use every free minute to sew. This is another dream of mine – to create a fashion label. In fact, Mauritius has encouraged me to not give up on this dream because here the craft trend and local designer market is only just emerging. So I have started to work on my little fusion fashion label called Henosis (the Greek word for "oneness", "union" or "unity"). I would like to create pieces that reflect my life here and the local fusion of different cultures – European, Mauritian, Indian, and African. Currently, I’m obsessed with Indo-Western clothing, as I have to attend a Hindu wedding and I love sarees. But I always feel like I am wearing a costume when I am in a traditional outfit. This is why I would like to create less traditional styles that can be worn by anyone but with the beautiful elements of the original clothing.

Horse riding in Mauritius

What new habits have you developed in Mauritius? And what old habits have you quit in Mauritius?

New habits are spending time outside. Also, hiding from the sun rather than spending every possible minute in the sun – this is a very local behavior! Lastly, I’ve almost stopped eating chocolate because it’s just too hot (crazy for someone who used to eat a whole chocolate bar per day).

What is something that you would like to do in Mauritius but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I really want to climb all these amazing mountains and go on a whale watching trip.

Please share your most memorable experience in Mauritius.

Oh this is a difficult one! There are so many… But I guess the morning beach ride on the East Coast with the staples is my favourite one. The owner of the staples had prepared a breakfast picnic and we would ride in small groups along the beach at Belle Mare. The sun had just risen, the blue water was beautiful, and riding along this scenery was very fulfilling.

If you could do the move to Mauritius over, what would you do differently?

Nothing really. Maybe I would have planned long in advance, as the spontaneous decision was very hard to digest for my family back home.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

I love the curries and the pickles! I love the local cakes! But a lot of it is just super oily which I don’t like.

Family holiday in Mauritius

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My family! And German bread…

Give us some useful tips that expats-to-be in Mauritius will benefit from.

I believe when moving abroad, ones’ expectations and reasons need to be clear. I’m was blessed because I didn't have to go through the Mauritian bureaucracy to obtain or renew permits but I understand it is a hassle.

As an expat, life is different than for locals. It is not that easy to mingle with locals and to become friends. Also, certain ethnic groups tend to stick together, which again makes it difficult for expats who want to interact with them. I can only compare with London, but making friends there was definitely easier than over here. So it takes a bit of effort I guess. To reduce your cost of living, go to the local fruit and vegetable market and shop in small independent shops in Port Louis. Though you have to feel ok with the shop assistant trying to charge you more than they would charge a Mauritian.

Enjoy the beach and nature here as much as you can!

What are your plans for the future?

Stay here as long as we like, maybe forever. Work on my fashion label, grow my career, and maybe have another baby.