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…

 

 

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Am I becoming a bad Mauritian?

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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 ;).

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 :).

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.