Living the Mauritian Dream: Our first two weeks on the island12th Dec 2020
Week two in Mauritius and we are absolutely loving it. After an incredibly challenging but mandatory two-week quarantine, we are now finally able to explore our new home. So far, everything feels like one big holiday and it hasn’t fully sunk in that we are actually living here permanently, but I am sure that will change over time.
The first thing that really hit us was the weather. It is supposed to be summer at the moment and we were looking forward to some really hot weather, but it’s actually been very unsettled. On the plus side, we did experience our first ever anticyclone as soon as we arrived, which is one of the reasons why the weather has been so unpredictable. It’s not as dramatic as a cyclone, but we did experience some very strong winds, and hot weather. Getting acclimatised to a truly tropical climate is something we definitely need to get used to!
It has taken us a while to adapt to the island life, too. I think, as South Africans, we are accustomed to a more contemporary and fast-paced life, so it takes some getting used to the slower, calmer side of things. A big shock for me was the completely European feel – being so close to Africa, I had expected Mauritius to feel less like Europe and more like Africa, but Mauritius has a very rural and leisurely charm and its people have worked hard to retain its French authenticity.
Before our move, I spent a lot of time reading up on how the country has made monumental strides in IT, and had naively expected the country to be more forward-thinking and more western than it is. There are definitely some great innovations, but there are also a lot of areas that can do with some improvement, especially when it comes to shopping. I find the shopping frustrating as there is no large supermarket like Woolworths that sells everything. Instead, you have to go to different shops to get different things, and online shopping doesn’t exist at all.
Lots of people talk about how cheap things are in Mauritius, but I think that really depends on what you are buying. I had to get a local SIM card so that I could make calls. The phone contract was substantially cheaper that what I would have paid in South Africa, but a package with a contract plus mobile phone handset costs a great deal more here than back home.
Part of the old-world charm is due to where we stay. We are living in the western part of the island in a place called Tamarin. It is an old fishing village that has recently developed into a residential area with a moderate holiday resort, but the locals have still retained its relaxed feel. The village is very picturesque, and surrounded by hills, and you see a lot of surfers around, which really adds to that quintessential island lifestyle. The workday is much shorter than in South Africa, which is something we are not going to complain about!
We are renting a four-bedroom house that has a stunning sea view. The house is slightly dated but is clean and neat, and the decor is in keeping with the traditional village feel. We could have gone for a more modern home, but the rent is a lot more and these homes tend to be found inland, so we would probably have had to sacrifice our sea view.
We chose Tamarin as they have a really good school, and our children started school almost immediately. School is a great way for the children, and us as parents, to make friends in the local community, which is really important. The Mauritian academic year is the same as in South Africa, so the children have been thrown straight into exams. It’s great as it means that the teachers can assess where they are academically, but it also means that we haven’t really been able to experience everyday schooling. For now, we definitely know that the kids need to spend the holidays catching up on their French as it is widely spoken here, and some lessons are even taught in French.
Another big difference in schooling that we noticed straight away is the discipline. South African schools tend to be much stricter when it comes to things like wearing uniforms, for example, so the kids are really getting used to the laid-back vibe and going to school in ordinary clothes.
I have spent the first two weeks joining several expat groups on Facebook and we have met lots of South African families through that, and at school too. They are all super friendly and extremely helpful, which is really nice, as it has helped us find our feet more easily.
All in all, although it’s early days, we really feel that our move to Mauritius was worth it. The lifestyle is completely different to what we are accustomed to, and we definitely need to be mindful of how people live and operate here. Yet, quality of life is so important, and is one of the main reasons for our move. If anything, our first two weeks on the island have taught us how to de-stress, and that is something we can definitely get used to.