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Moving abroad with your family

Interview
Published 4 months ago

The excitement and anticipation when moving abroad goes hand in hand with the anxiety and stress, and all of these feelings are heightened when moving as a family. In any event, embarking on your next great adventure abroad with your family means different priorities and preparation. We at Expat.com spoke to Halima about her experience of moving to Mauritius from Paris with her husband and two children, and what advice she would give other families who are thinking of moving overseas.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where did you move from and where are you living currently? How long have you been living in Mauritius?

Hello, my name is Halima and I am French-Mauritanian. My spouse is French-Senegalese, and together we have two kids aged 15 and 5 years old. We moved from Paris and have been living in Mauritius for 5 years now. I used to work for Deloitte in Paris as a marketing specialist when my husband was offered a job as an investment advisor in Mauritius. After having discussed the opportunity, we decided to go for it, but little did we know that it was going to be the beginning of a lifetime experience.

Where were your children born and how old are they? If they were born before your move, what was the process of moving with young children like?

Our oldest son who is 15 now, was born in Dakar (Senegal), and we actually prepared him psychologically before the move and talked a lot about the radical change it would bring to all our lives. It's part of the bargain, but we all know that it’s never easy to leave our friends behind to start everything from scratch. The beginning was not easy for our 10 year old at the time, and it took him time to adapt to his new life. Our youngest son (born in Paris) was only 5 months when we moved, therefore it went very smoothly with him. Before moving from Paris, we decided to get rid of all of our furniture and only took some of our personal belongings with us.

Is there anything that you found made the process of moving with children easier that you could recommend to other families?

I highly recommend families moving with children to contact (via forums) families that are already settled in with children, to have a connection even before being in the country. I believe kids have the capacity of reassuring each other and communicating positively, and that could come in handy when kids go through radical changes in their lives.

Is there anything you can do to prepare for your family's move beforehand, or is there anything that's best left until you arrive in your new home?

From our perspective, I believe the most important preparation was psychological. For people who are coming from big and dynamic cities in particular, Mauritius can be too quiet at the beginning, and can seem boring. It is therefore important to be ready and aware of what it’s really like to live on an island. Some people will find it suffocating very quickly, but, as far as we are concerned, we adapt easily and love embracing new cultures. Because it is one of the most important decisions to make, I would recommend that families find temporary accommodation upon arrival. It is important to have enough time to look properly for the house or apartment that suits you perfectly.

What was the easiest part of moving to Mauritius with a family? What was the hardest?

The easiest thing about moving to Mauritius was not having to pack coats and boots, and only worrying about swimsuits and summer clothes - that felt so good!! On the same day of our arrival, we headed to the beach to observe the sunset, and that’s the type of memory that remains engraved in our minds forever - we felt very blessed.

The hardest part of moving to Mauritius was the distance. We are family oriented, so it’s been tough to handle the distance with our loved ones and see our kids missing their cousins. We also miss travelling the world without spending a fortune, but the quality of life in Mauritius compensates for what we are missing.

How have your children found life in Mauritius? Are they in school here, and, if so, how are they finding it? Did you find the process of enrolling them in school straightforward?

As mentioned earlier, our youngest was only a few months old when we moved to the country, therefore everything went so naturally with him. However, with our oldest son, things were not easy at the beginning. He found it difficult to fit in at school at first, because there were already formed groups that were reluctant to welcome newcomers. I wasn’t worried about him because he is naturally very kind and sociable; making friends has always looked so easy with him. He is now very happy and blossoming at school. He has made a lot of very good friends and is having a blast living here, he says.

Our sons go to l’Ecole du Nord and enrolling them was very straightforward. They are both happy in the school and we couldn’t have asked for more.

What have you and your children enjoyed most about living in Mauritius? Are there any places or activities that you enjoy most as a family?

We love having space, enjoying the nature (beautiful tropical gardens), going to the beach and contemplating beautiful sunsets and turquoise waters. Above everything else, we love the weather, which allows the kids and ourselves to do so many activities throughout the year, and that is priceless. We love spending weekends in hotels (there are good deals for Mauritian residents very often) and just relax and enjoy ourselves together. We also like hiking sometimes and exploring the island. I must put emphasis on the fact that we have met beautiful people on the island. We call them our expat family, and it is such a blessing to spend quality time with them as much as we can, as they make living in Mauritius fun!

Do you have any tips for families looking to move abroad? Is there anything in particular that you found helped you and your family adjust to your new home?

Mauritius is a beautiful country with its own history and multicultural population. I cannot insist enough that it is very important to respect that aspect of the country to have a peaceful life. I see a lot of people arriving with their western standards and constantly complaining about the Mauritian ways of doing things. Let’s focus more on the great things (and there are numerous) that the country offers, and less on the things that are not the way we would want them to be.

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