I grew up in Canada, lived half of my life in Switzerland where I was born, and moved to the Seychelles March 2015.
Where are you from, Corina, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm 28 years old and I am a Swiss-Canadian citizen. Before I moved to the Seychelles this March (2015), I was living in Switzerland. I did my Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and all of my working experience in the German part of Switzerland. Before I came to Seychelles, I was working in accounting and finance and was also in a 6-year relationship which I ended about four months before I came. I haven't been working since I've been here. I have been searching for a job for the last few months and luckily I found one. I will be starting a new job at an international school as soon as I get my Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP). This can take up to 10 weeks.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Seychelles?
I came to Seychelles the first time last November (2014) and fell in love with the country and the people. Seychelles is not only a tropical paradise, but the people here seem to live very freely and are full of life. I had such a great time and met some good people (one of them is my boyfriend today). I just knew I had to change something in my life back home. The desire to "break out" has been with me for years, but I never really had the courage to do it. These holidays opened my eyes as to how unhappy I was back home and gave me the courage to take the chance. Having the offer of a place to stay here, I decided to come. What was there to lose?
What were the procedures to follow for a Swiss national to move there?
I came here and still am on a visitor's visa. The first three months are no problem to come here and are free. After that, you have to get your visitor's visa extended every three months and pay SCR 5,000 for the next three months. You also need confirmed accommodation/letter of invitation if you are staying with locals, evidence that you have enough funds for your stay, a return ticket and a valid passport. Apparently, you can do this up to 12 months. I'm not sure what happens after that.
Otherwise you need a Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) if you are working or setting up your own business. This costs SCR 700 per month. Your employer will apply for a GOP for you. With a GOP, you can stay as long as your contract lasts. There are also other visas. When you get married to a Seychellois, you need to apply for a dependent's visa. You can also apply for a residential visa, which is quite expensive but doesn't allow you to work. It is ideal more for very wealthy or retired people.
What has attracted you to Praslin?
Praslin is the second largest island in Seychelles. You can get almost everything you need here and can access the island by plane or boat. It is much more laid back than Mahe, which I like, but also less dangerous. It's actually very safe here. Praslin's nature is also very beautiful, especially the stunning beaches!
What are the types of accommodation which are available there for expatriates?
For me, it wasn't difficult to find accommodation because I was already invited to stay with locals whom I had met in November. If you do not have such an invitation, it can be quite hard to find affordable accommodation. Most places get rented out through mouth-to-mouth or are more expensive for expats. Unless you have a job (and GOP), usually your employer will give you accommodation. Most of them have staff houses.
Is it easy for an expat to find a job in Praslin?
Most foreigners come to work in one of the many hotels and resorts here on Praslin. It's usually the big resorts (like Raffles, Lemuria, etc.) which have jobs for foreigners. It's law here that you can only hire an expat if you can't find a Seychellois who is suitable for the job. So depending on your qualifications and/or language skills, it can be easier or harder.
How do you find the Seychelles lifestyle?
The Seychelles lifestyle is very easy-going. What can't be done today can be done tomorrow. I must say, from my experience, that you can rely on people and everyone is very helpful. I have also been to many festivals here. The Seychellois love to party and have a good time. Everything is just much slower. No one seems to be stressed or in a hurry.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
The first few weeks, I was still in my European pace and seemed to think that I have to be doing something productive every minute. That changed quite fast as I personally started to realize that I'm not here on a two week holiday and have time to see and do everything I want. I started to slow myself down and really just took it easy. Time doesn't really matter here as much as it does in Europe. Living with a Seychellois, I have met many locals and the people around here know me now. I have had to learn things about their mentality which is different from ours in Europe. Once you get to understand them, things get a lot easier.
What does your everyday life look like in Praslin?
As I am not working yet, my usual everyday life is very slow. I sleep in until around 9:30 to 10:00 am. Then I get up, make breakfast (usually eggs) and start to tidy up the house (sweep the whole house, fix the couch covers, make the bed, etc.). Then we start cooking for the whole day, which takes some time. On some days, I will be doing laundry or some gardening work. After that, we shower and run some errands, for example go food shopping, go pay the flat, go pay utility bills on the other side of the island, just go buy things in general that we need, etc. These simple things usually take a few hours, because we need to wait for the bus or until we get a ride with someone. There is always lots of waiting involved in the Seychelles. When we get home, we eat a late lunch which we've already prepared and then rest... Siesta as they call it in some countries. In the evening, I am alone (as my boyfriend works nights) and have time for myself, read a book, exercise, watch a movie, etc.
Not all days are exactly the same. Sometimes we go to the beach or do other activities when there is nothing to be done at home. The last few weeks, we have also been renovating our flat. So that has been keeping me busy.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
Even though I know it's hot and humid here, it "shocks" me every time how hot and humid it actually is. But I can say you get used to the heat and I actually enjoy it. This means no heavy winter clothes for me as I am a summer person. Other than that, I wasn't very surprised about anything as I was trying not to have any expectations before coming.
Any particular experience in Seychelles you would like to share with us?
The whole "moving to the Seychelles" was a special experience for me. I gave up my whole life in Switzerland as it was, moved to a foreign country all by myself (with no job) to some people I hardly knew. It could have turned out as a big mistake, which I was aware of, but it didn't. It turned out to be an eye-opening, one-of-a-kind experience. I have learnt so much in the past seven months, not only about this country and the people here, but also, and most importantly, about myself.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Praslin? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
For a European, it is of course a lot cheaper here than it is in Europe, but also the salaries are a lot less. For Seychellois with normal salaries, I think it's quite expensive, especially in terms of food and drinks. Living costs are very fair. For an expat with a job and paid accommodation, it would be easy, financially speaking,to live here. Otherwise, if you were to come here without a job and without knowing anybody, I can imagine it would be quite hard to meet people on your own.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Very popular here (obviously) is beach time! Many people go to the beach on the week-ends to swim, relax or hang out with their friends. Sometimes, we even make a little barbeque. Near where I live, there is a shop which plays live music on the week-ends. We often go there. Some evenings during the week, I go to a resort and listen to the live music and have a drink. Otherwise, there isn't much going on during week nights. On the week-end, there is only one discotheque which we sometimes visit. Other than, that you can do any water sports you want, snorkel, rent a bike, go to the national park Vallée de Mai, etc.
Your favorite local dishes?
Grilled fish with lots of chilli and coconut curry.
What are the differences between life in Switzerland and in Seychelles?
There are many! The main ones are the salaries (which are very high in Switzerland), the mentality/temperament of the people (the Seychellois share everything and help out others in need and have a bigger temper and are very passionate whereas in Switzerland the people tend to keep to themselves, are resentful and sometimes dispassionate), hectic/stress level (definitely high in Switzerland) and the availability of products/food (in Seychelles, you buy what you get, there is not much of a choice).
What do you like the most about Praslin?
I like it how safe I feel here. I have no problem with walking around alone at night.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Cheese, good chocolate and having more people around who I can have a decent conversation with in English or German. Sometimes, even though there usually are a lot of people around, I feel lonely because everyone is speaking Creole which I'm learning by the way.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Seychelles?
Look for a job from home first because it may take a while to get one. Accommodation in guesthouses and hotels are expensive. Other than that, have no expectations and be patient. Oh, and use a good mosquito repellent!
What are your plans for the future?
I will be starting my new job in the next month, so I'm sure that will keep me busy for a while and give me a another way of seeing the Seychelles. I have long-term plans here and might just stay forever. Moving here has been the best decision of my life.