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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What is wrong with you Mauritius?

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Mauritius, like every  12th of March we renewed our vows to mark your 48th anniversary. I may be 15,000 km away, but know that you are in my heart more than ever. After all, you shaped me into the woman that I am today. You taught me diversity, tolerance, diplomacy, respect, and hospitality. You also gave me that infectious Mauritian smile.

From a very young age, you exposed me to different cultures. You made sure I understand and respect different religions and traditions by including this in the school curriculum. Multiculturalism forms part of my identity. Consequently, I can relate to French, English, Indian and Chinese culture.

To avoid deviating from tradition, you tell me that we stand as “one people, as one nation”. Yet, you leave me speechless every time you remind me that I am a creole or descendant of Indian, Chinese or French.

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See, I think that it is high time that we define our relationship. Sometimes I feel like you are dithering. What are we? Where do we stand? When are you going to make an honest woman out of me? Once a year, every year you tell me that we have a bright future together. You tell me beautiful lies and I fall for you.

I forget about your best loser, that system that aims to make sure that each ethnic group has its representation in the national parliament. The raison d’être might have been understandable when you were just born back in  1968. It was supposed to hold us together. We had been left to fend for ourselves when we received our independence from the British.

Imagine people from different parts of the world (China, India, France, Madagascar, Africa and England) with four major religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) and different cultures trying to cohabit together on a territory of only 2,040 km2.   Nobel prize-winning economist, James Meade predicted that we would collapse. But, look where we are right now! We have managed to achieve economic development and sustain peaceful coexistence amongst diverse communities.

Instead of learning from the past and moving forward, it seems that you have a lot of emotional baggage. Otherwise, I don’t understand why you keep bringing the Best Loser System (BLS). We are past that. Why do you insist that each political candidate declares their ethnicity to make sure that everyone has a fair representation in parliament? Aren’t we “one people, one nation”? Or is this just a rhetoric and a slogan that you flaunt each year?

It has been 48 years now and you are still confused about our relationship. You boast that we are multicultural so I celebrate Chinese new year, Diwali, Eid, easter, Christmas and you name it…But, you have a problem if I consider marrying out of my ethnic group. This leads me to that question: what is “Mauritianness”? Is it the homeland of my ancestors that you seem so hell bound to maintain or is it that hybrid culture that we created?

There is another thing which bothers me, do you have a complex of inferiority? Why do you insist on following global trends that do not suit you? Why do you rely on foreigners to solve your issues? Here I am with my work experience and my educational background but you don’t seem to see me. Instead, you would rather spend millions on exported labor and expertise that you could find right here. This does not make sense at all!

Mauritius, you and I, we can work this out together. You are and will always be my belove. But I am getting tired of our ambiguous relationship. It is high time to get your shit together. I have high hopes for you Mauritius. Live up to them…