Lately I have been thinking that terming me as a “martian” would be suitable. After all, if you remove the “u” and the extra “i” in Mauritian, you get the word martian…Honestly, this is exactly how I feel since I landed in Toronto. Every time I say that I am Mauritian, I get the clueless look. I feel like I am a rare species. I have lost track of the number of nationalities I have been attributed and stereotypes that I had to break. Yes we have running water, we also have WiFi, 3G, 4G and not all Mauritians are fishermen.
Okay, blame it on the fact that there is no cultural representation of Mauritians and no one talks about it. But, I was never prepared to become an ambassador of my country. Least have to bring the subject every time I meet someone. For, I can always expect to get the question “where are you from”? which is always followed by: “Where is that?”
I still remember my dad telling me that I need to be prepared to be asked about my country. I remember laughing it off and telling him that I’ll just say the basic. You know an island in the Indian Ocean next to Madagascar. And that we are multilingual since we speak French, English and créole.
But, it turned out that the basic does not surfeit when people ask me what language I am talking when they hear me speaking creole. “But I hear some french words. What kind of language is that?” Or having to explain that there is no average look for a Mauritian. “You guys are really from the same country?” When they see me hanging with my Mauritian friends from different ethnic groups. Or how come I know so much about Indian and Chinese culture.
I guess that I have never been so culturally aware or talked so much about Mauritius’ history . Well, long story short: The french colonized Mauritius and brought slaves from Africa and Madagascar to cultivate the land. Later, the English overthrew them and took over the island. With the abolition of slavery, many slaves flew. To make up for the loss of labor, the English brought Chinese and Indians. So, basically the Mauritian society is made up of European descendants, Chinese, Indians and Africans. And creole is the language that our ancestors invented to be able to communicate with each other despite their different nationalities and language barrier. It is a mixture of french, English, African and some terms from Hindi and Chinese.
Consequently, Mauritians’ cuisine is a blend of Chinese, European, Indian and creole food. And we do not have a “typical Mauritian look”. Just scratch that part. But we do have some common character traits: we are very friendly, we smile a lot, we are helpful, we are usually late and we always use “ayo” to express different kind of emotions. From fear to irritation and surprise. And Mine Appolo is a huge thing. At least for most of us. I can go to the extent of saying that it is a national anthem. Chili must always be part of our dish. And yeah flip-flops are mandatory! Hey after all we are a tropical island and gorgeous beaches are ever present and it is our duty to maintain the islander lifestyle!
Ever since I am here I feel like I have become a representative of my country. And it is so much pressure! I have never been so aware of my “créolité” . And paradoxically, I am learning more about my own culture and my country.
Oh and yeah here’s a video on my island made by a compatriot:
*Back to being a brand ambassador again* Hahaha.
Do let me know if you’ve ever felt the same way while living abroad in the comment section below. Cheers 🙂