A guy walked up to me last time in the mall while I was doing my shopping. He wanted to sell me something. Usually, my Mauritian instinct would make me sit through it and with a polite smile. But, I caught myself cutting him off by bluntly saying that “I am not interested”. I was shocked by the words that came out of my mouth. And, the fact that I did not have that embarrassed smile that Mauritians have when they have to say something negative.
Truth be told, Mauritians have a high context culture. We do not say directly what is on our mind. Especially, if it is negative. As a result, a large amount of our communication is done in a non-verbal manner. You can learn a lot from our gestures, pauses and facial expressions. Do not dare to be too direct or you will be considered as being offensively blunt. Most of the times, when Mauritians are directly saying something not nice be sure that they have some issues with you…(But again, there are a few exceptions.) Being Mauritian means reading between the lines and interpreting facial expressions.
I remember making plans with some of my Mauritians friends. We were supposed to go out, but no one was in the mood. Instead of cancelling the plan, we just stopped talking about the plan and talked about other things. This was a hint that no one wanted to go out. At some point, one of just asked: “so what happened to our plan?” To which, a friend responded: “this is typical Mauritian behavior. No one wants to be the want to say that he does not want to come”.
Six months that I am living in Canada and I can feel myself changing. After all, you cannot go abroad and expect that your host country’s culture will not rub off on you. I am getting used to the fast paced life. I always use the left side of the escalator because I want to be quick and I am always standing up ready to leave before the bus stops.
Yet, I always catch myself thinking that my reintegration in Mauritius will not be easy. Since, this kind of attitude is not very “common” in my home country. I am sure that if I do this, I will be told: “bis la pas pou arrete meme là mamazelle? Kifer ou presse coumsa?” (Isn’t the bus going to stop anyway miss? Why are you in such a hurry?). While in Canada, people always seem to be in a hurry, Mauritians have a more “relaxed” approach toward life. In fact, Mauritians have a very laid back attitude. But, that does not mean that we are lazy. Far from it! Just blame it on the fact that we are a polychronic culture.
We have a very different notion of time…Punctuality is not one of our traits. In fact, we are poor timekeepers. If you are scheduling a meeting with someone, expect them anywhere between fifteen minutes and half an hour late. Except, if it is a business meeting then they will make it a point to be on time. Every time I schedule a meeting with my Mauritian friends who are in Canada, I always expect some of them to be late. And I am sure to hear them say “I’m still on Mauritian time”. This basically suggests that it is a normal thing.
But to people from other cultures, this might be quite irritating. My friend from Quebec is always texting me to confirm the time when we have to meet. “Make sure you come on time”, she stresses. Last time, we were waiting for one of our Mauritian friends and she just remarked: “considering he’s Mauritian, I expect to wait for him for at least two hours”. It is not rudeness, I guess it is just a cultural thing.
Though I still make my black Mauritian tea every morning, my approach toward life and my way of thinking have changed. I noticed it every time I think individually instead of collectively. Or talk about money…Last time when I talked about making some money to my aunt and I was quickly rebuked. “Money is not everything in life,” she said. I had almost forgotten that it is indecent to talk about money in Mauritius and we do not put a price on everything we do for someone. Or otherwise, people will label you as being “money-minded”. “Li mari content casse ça” (He really loves money). I used to feel very uncomfortable when people talk openly about money in Canada. But, I got used to it.
Sometimes, I wonder if I will forget my Mauritian culture. Will I become one of those Mauritians who after living abroad for a long time pretend that they can no longer speak in French or creole? Will I be one of those expats who can no longer identify themselves with the Mauritian culture? I have been reading about reversal culture shock just like I read about culture shock before coming to Canada. I always wonder how the trip back home will be. Will I have to adjust to my own country again? If you have ever experience reversal culture shock, by all means leave your experience in the comment section below. I am very interested to hear about your experience. If you wonder how your trip back home will be, do not forget to share your thoughts too ;).