Why living abroad is not meant for everyone

Living-abroad-girl-at-airport-resized

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 😉

Advertisements

What is wrong with you Mauritius?

17103309_1386365494772006_6618505639025748612_n

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.

what wrong with you

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…

 

 

Am I becoming a bad Mauritian?

ellen

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 ;).

im-all-ears

Toronto I love you

20161016_175712_001

Dear Toronto,

You and I might never have met. Truth be told, you were never my first choice in the first place. You were the guy I found interesting but never dared to make the first move…The guy I kept checking out but kept at bay.

Because, it was a minefield. You were the epitome of the unknown. Too far, too cold…I kept finding excuses to convince myself that it would never work. I had been flirting with Australia and Germany for a while. And Germany’s European charm gave him the upper hand.

Though the language was a barrier, it was quickly put in the back burner. If I had to learn German to get closer to Germany, I was willing to. Hell knows I was determined to learn German and hell I did! Ich spreche Deutsch (I speak German).

Yet, you kept making goo-goo eyes. And, it didn’t help that everyone kept talking about you. Apparently, you weren’t that bad. My friend told me that once I would get to know you, I would have a change of heart. Before I knew it, you were asking me to come over. So, I looked at Germany and bide him goodbye. “Tschüss”, I said.

The first time we met, I was thrown off balance. You seemed cold, unsympathetic and constantly in a hurry. And you didn’t understand why I stiffened every time you hugged me. I on the other hand couldn’t comprehend why kissing on the cheek made you uncomfortable. Certain of your ways annoyed me. I felt like I had rushed in a relationship. I hated you with such a passion but I was stuck with you for a year.

If we were to cohabit, it would be better if I didn’t have any ill feeling. So, I decided to try to see eye to eye. I stiffened less when you hugged me and observed you on the sly. I learned that you weren’t as cold as I thought you were. If I smile at you, you would smile back at me. If I asked for help, you would help me out. You were growing on me.

I relished every time you held the door for me. I liked the fact that you respect my space. I appreciated that you did not honk when you saw me walking the street in shorts. I loved that I could leave my friend’s house at 9 pm and return home alone. I love the fact that you make me feel safe even when I am alone.

It warms my heart every time you say “hi” to your driver and thank him when you arrive at your destination. I like it when you tell me “take care” every time I tell you “have a nice day”. What can I say? I love politeness. I have always find this attractive. I admire the fact that you give equal opportunities to disabled people. It gives me hope in humanity when I see how you treat and protect your dogs.

It turned out that I had so much to learn from you. Provided that I gave you a chance. Thank you for this beautiful adventure. Thank you for all these beautiful people I met and those I have yet to meet.

P.S do let me know what you love about your host country in the comment section below if you are living abroad ;). I am all ears :).

Signs you grew up Mauritian

 

  1. You were threatened by your parents that you’ll end up sweeping the floor or in a sugarcane field if you did not get good grades when you were a kid.

threatened-by-parents

2. If you didn’t go to a private high school, you had to endure a single-sex high school.

high-school

3. You flirt in French but swear like a sailor in creole when you are angry.

swearing

4. The first time you meet someone, you speak in French. Depending on the response, you will decide if the rest of the conversation is going to be in French or in Creole.

enchante

5. You know at least one Mauritian friend who did not know how to speak creole because his parents forbid him to speak in that language. Or you are that Mauritian who was forbidden to speak in creole.

cant-speak

6. It is difficult for you to stick to only one language when talking to someone. Chances are, you will be mixing some french words, creole and English. Just like in this video:

7. You REALLY know how to dance the sega just like in this video:

Or you can manage it just like in this video:

Or you suck at it just like this guy in this video:

8. Either  category you fall, you always tell yourself that foreigners don’t know how to “casse lerein” (Make their hips swing) when you see them dance.

disaproving

9. If you don’t know how to make a rougaille, you’re not a true Mauritian.

cooking

9. You use “Ayo” to express annoyance and “fouf” to express frustration or annoyance too.

annoyance

10. Tea is very important. You drink it in the morning and it is important to have a “tea break” around 3 pm or 4 pm.

tea

11. You’ve been told your whole life that Rhum can solve coldness and some health issues…

rhum

 

12. When you meet another Mauritian and he/she asks you your last name and the place you live, you are sure that they will do a background research on you.

background-research

13. You didn’t listen to sega when you were in Mauritius but you found yourself indulging in Cassiya when you were feeling homesick abroad. Cassiya’s video:

12. That instant bond you get when you meet another Mauritian abroad when you hear him/her speak creole.

instant-bond

Don’t forget to like and share this blog post if you like it ;). And leave me your thoughts on the comment section below. Cheers :).