Why living abroad is not meant for everyone

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I have always been fascinated by the idea of living abroad. Blame it on my older cousins going abroad and returning home with a new accent and the pictures of their awesome brand new life. Or the fact that it’s kind of a cultural thing in my country. There’s this idea that you’ve not succeeded until you have been abroad. Many Mauritian youngsters go overseas at some point of their life and then they come back. Or some immigrate.

In a few months, my little cousin will be flying to Malaysia for four years. I hope that he will make the most out of this new adventure. Still, his upcoming departure made me reflect on certain things. Namely the fact that living abroad is not meant for everyone. We derive this idealized idea that moving abroad is glamorous and adventurous from movies, blogposts, books or Tv shows. It is so misconstrued that we are led to believe that we have not lived until we have moved overseas. Trust me, it is far from being all that great. It shakes your life up. After all, it requires you to break up with your old life and move thousand of miles away from everyone you know.

It is landing in a foreign country and realizing that you do not have any relative or friend here. Fortunately for me, my high school friend had landed six months prior to my arrival. She is by far the only person closest to what I would term as my family abroad. I will not lie, moving abroad is hard. Language barrier and difficulty to acclimate can be quite tough. It is far from being effortless and easy as presented by the media or the Instagram pictures of your friends living abroad. Nobody ever talks about the hard times. In fact, most people would rather talk only about positive things as if homesickness, accent shaming, body changes (gaining weight or losing weight),  language barrier, and culture shock were taboo. I have seen so many people with regrets who head back home early or become jaded or depressed and refuse to integrate.

It is a battle out there. Adapt or perish.  Sometimes it is so harsh that it makes you wonder why you came here in the first place. I always ask myself this one question: is that what I really want? I spent a lot of observing and listening to people to try to fit in. After all, a huge part of living in a foreign land is about integration.

Truth be told, I had a hard time with greetings since people do not kiss on the cheek here. They hug and it made me uncomfortable at first. You know some foreign body pressing against mine. Plus sometimes I had a hard time finding my words in English  ( I still do sometimes). I would stop mid-sentence because I couldn’t find the equivalent of the French word. So, I ended up speaking less because it made me so shy and embarrassed because I just could not find my words. Consequently, I ended up becoming frustrated and shy. I am slowly but surely coming out of my shell by putting more effort in my “conversational” English haha.

( brief note: even though English is the official language of Mauritius, our conversations are mostly in French and creole. At school, we are taught in English but if you do not understand something, you either ask your teacher in French or Creole to explain it to you. As a result, we are better at writing in English compared to speaking it. Parliament and court are in English though. Complicated much huh?)

Oh, and did I mention that sometimes you will get mad at your host country? Blame it on the fact that you will sample two ways of living so you end up comparing. I have so much admiration, love, and hate for Canada. It’s like a relationship actually sometimes you hate and love your boyfriend/girlfriend. Cause as much as you love so many things about them, sometimes some of their quirks just piss you off. Sometimes I get mad at Mauritius and Canada. Sometimes my loyalty see-saw.

To live abroad is to experience a split of personality. Travel changes you for the better or the worst. Though I had my ups and downs, I do not regret my decision at all. It has shaped and continues to shape the person I am today. I have become more independent, responsible and learned a few things about myself. But I also believe that it is not meant for everyone. You need to to be prepared psychologically, be mentally strong and, flexible to change. After all, living abroad entails having a lot of changes happening at once. Bear in mind that you run the of the risk of feeling guilty about leaving and resentment of where you have ended up. Have I missed something? If it is the case, do not hesitate to leave a comment below 😉

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Travel to escape or to seek?

 

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While I was packing to come to Toronto in October, I did not know what to expect. I just knew that I was finally realizing my dream of living abroad. Everything else was put in the back burner. I had put up with the critics, raised a few eyebrows and disregarded my fear of the unknown. “Are you sure you want to take that leap?” I kept being asked. But, my mind was already elsewhere…I had been wanderlust for a while and holding back was out of question. Tomorrow was foreign and enticing.

Three months later…Do I regret it? No! But, lately I have been asking myself a few questions. Namely the motivation behind the desire to go abroad. “So what brings you here? “, Is the recurring question I get from people who come from other countries too. We all come here with our stories and our motivations. Sometimes it is economical, sometimes it is just to follow our love one…What motivated me to travel 15,264 km away from my home country?

I read somewhere that you either travel because you are seeking something or because you are trying to escape something. So, am I a fugitive or a seeker? Either possible scenario raises a question: What am I escaping? Or what am I seeking? Are these questions really worth my time or am I just making a fuss of nothing?

See, there are so many cliches about travelling. We are led to believe that it gives you endless possibilities. So, we end up idealizing leaving it all behind as if it was the solution to our struggle. We think that the place we are in is not the right one so, we pack our bags, bide goodbye and move to another country. And of course with hope that our issues will just vanish by magic. But here is the thing: this is just bullshit. Traveling will not take care of your issues. Chances are, you will be bringing them with you. So, just scratch that option.

I think that I fall in the second category. I am the seeker. But, not with the typical line “I went abroad to find myself”. I opted for life abroad because of the promise of freedom it offered. It is only when you are miles away from home that you discover what you miss the most, what makes your heart beat, who you really are when no one is around to keep you grounded.

I have learned so many things about myself during these three months. I am allowing my new environment to mold me, shape me and transform me. All while remaining true to myself. Life abroad has shown me my strength, my weakness and my ability to think on my feet.

Everything I have learned so far can be sum up by Cesare Pavese’s quote: “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it”.

How about you? What motivated you to go abroad? Are you the fugitive or the seeker? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below ;). Cheers 🙂

 

 

 

I’m a martian in Toronto

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

 

 

To hug or not to hug?

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Greetings have never been so awkward to me until I came to  Canada. See, back in my home-country, we are not used to hugging. When you meet someone, you have three options:

  1. Shake hands
  2. Kiss on the cheek (We call this “faire la bise”. But men don’t give each other the cheek kiss.)
  3. Or simply say hi.

The first option is only applicable in the business environment. Kissing on the cheek is only with your close ones and saying hi is meant for acquaintances. Now, imagine my surprise when a friend informed me before landing that Canadians are “very fond of hugging”. Did that mean that I was to hug everyone to say hi?

To avoid any public embarrassment, I remember asking a friend of mine how I was supposed to greet her the first time we met. We had been chatting before I came and it was the first time that we were finally meeting. “I guess we say hi”, she said eyeing me as if I was the most bizarre thing she had ever encountered.

Three months have passed but the greetings have not become any less awkward. I always dread the encounters, waiting for the other person to make the first move. My mind always races with the appropriate greeting gesture. Should it be a hug or a mere handshake?

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During five seconds, I stand by and wait for the other person to take the lead. All while, asking myself whether it is not that apparent that I really don’t know how to deal with it. I smile but I am mentally telling myself that “this is definitely awkward”. And I still do not know on which level of relationship the hug falls.

Plus, there are so many kind of hugs. Quick hugs, friendly hugs, loving and romantic hugs. Sometimes it is a side hug. Other times, it is a hug accompanied by a pat on the back or swaying back and forth and sometimes there is a lot of distance between the two people. And I really don’t know which one to choose or how to react.

Blame it on the fact that it is not a Mauritian culture to hug. We just don’t hug to say hi. Period. Not with friends, not with colleagues and definitely not with casual acquaintances If you do something like that in my country, people will be perplexed and might just stare at you. Or out of politeness reciprocate it all while thinking that this is weird.

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Or, in the worst case scenario, think that you are trying to get close fast. As in the romantic sense…Literally and figuratively! Hugging is considered as something very intimate.

I might not be used to hugs but the handshakes are not any better. Especially when greeting someone of my age. I always have the urge to ask: “Are we doing business? Is this some kind of company meeting?” Honestly, I find the handshakes very frigid. And it gives me the impression that the other person is very cold.

Anyway, I am slowly but definitely adapting. So, just hug me already! Just the other day, I hugged all my friends goodbye. I guess that I am progressing! Someday, I will definitely become a pro in hugs. Now if you want to share your thoughts and feelings about this post or want to share your experiences about dealing with new greetings when abroad, feel free to comment below.

 

Navigating life abroad

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Not so long ago, I was googling Canada and making a list of things to do. Toronto seemed enticing with its multiculturalism, food, accents, languages and people of different nationalities. Everything held the promise of tolerance and diversity.

And before I knew it, here I was in Toronto. My life packed in three suitcases and my heart pounding. I still remember being awed and a little frightened as the city stretched before me.

I can’t believe that 72 days have passed since I first set foot in this country. All I can say is that it has been a roller coaster of emotions. From dealing with homesickness to the thrill of finally living abroad and realizing my dream. Truth be told: I am both happy and sad. I guess that I am navigating through my life’s major transition. Home is now behind me and the world awaits ahead…

I kept being asked why I took that leap. Would it suffice to say that wanderlust took over me? Once upon a time, a Mauritian was bored in her island…So, she decided to move 15,808 km from home to spice up her life. I guess I needed to shuffle my surrounding. Blame it on my gypsy soul.

Sometimes I feel like I neither belong here, nor there. I carry my country in my heart while I’m adapting to the ways of living in Canada. The fast-lane life, the coffee culture, the new way of greeting and the slang. I have been listening, observing and adapting. I feel like I have lived in two countries and sampled two different ways of life. As if, I am caught between two worlds.

I am unlearning, relearning, improvising, stepping out of my comfort zone and dealing with the unexpected. New places, new habits, new challenges and new people. Starting anew is thrilling, terrifying and oddly addictive.

And I found myself saying that the future looks good. But then comes the nagging question: where do I want to spend my life? And then I go back to Rachel Wolchin’s quote: “If we were meant to stay in one place we would have roots instead of feet”. Only the future will tell…

If you want to share about your experience, feel free to leave a comment below.