Did you ever wonder where is the best place to live in the world? If you’ve travelled a lot, you must certainly have thought about that, as most people do. Deciding on what would be the best country or city to suit oneself is a highly personal decision. What suits me may not suit you but let me nevertheless share my top place in the world to live – Mauritius.
This tiny island in the Indian Ocean has built a reputation for luxury tourism over the years. Warm weather and lovely beaches certainly attract a lot of tourists every year – over a million per year. That’s considerable given that the population of the island is nearly 1.3 million. But some people do chose to settle there. French is widely spoken and as a result, quite a few French people tend to come and settle there. This fact speaks highly of the country as just half an hour’s flight away is Reunion island which belongs to France and is in effect, part of the EU. If the French eschew Reunion island and even Guadeloupe and Martinique to settle in Mauritius, surely, there must be something attracting them…
If you hail from Europe, especially from Britain, then choosing a place abroad to settle will mean that the local weather will be a strong factor. Most British expats choose Spain, France, Australia and America as their destination and I bet in America it’ll probably be sunny California or Florida unless they have to go to New York for work. Well, in Mauritius, the warm sunny weather is a well-established fact used to attract tourists. There are occasional cyclones that break up the torrid heat and mild winters to give a respite from the constant humidity. Sometimes it’s good to have a little cold to freshen up the air and make us look forward to the next warm weather. Living in Singapore for example means being assailed constantly by the heat all year round as it sits close to the Equator. The downside with the tropical weather of Mauritius means that there are plenty of mosquitoes to drive you mad. There’s no escaping that when you’re outdoors, especially on the beach or in nature.
Let’s talk money now, the deal-clincher! Here are the basic facts – the cost of living is high but the local currency, the Mauritian rupee, is weak compared to the euro or pound. So if you could somehow keep earning your income from Europe while living on this lovely tropical island, well, you’ll be as close to paradise as you can imagine, lacking nothing money can buy on the island, mostly rum! There are several international banks operating there, which means transfering your money over would be easier and cheaper. You could also do most of your work over the internet but the connection speed unfortunately still tends to be low.
There’s just enough cultural difference in Mauritius to make it exciting to live there and discover these differences without feeling like a complete stranger and being unable to integrate.The population of the country is varied – half are hindus, and the remainder is mostly split among Chinese, muslims and christians. There is strong influence consequently from the East yet the inhabitants tend to be western in their outlook and taste. Fashion is definitely western and jeans are as common as in the US. On top of all this, Mauritius is often associated with Africa, the closest continent, weather for sports or economic associations. The country is part of SADC – the Southern Africa Development Community. While this may not be particularly useful to someone who just wants a peaceful life, it does mean that culture is not homogeneous. There is also emphasis on attracting foreign labour, skills and investors and the international banks set up in the country facilitate that for everyone, whether it’s investors, workers, expats or simple tourists.
I mentioned the widely-spoken language already – French – but English is the official language. Although not widely spoken, every Mauritian will understand you if you speak English. Being the official language, all official procedures and documents will be in English. So unlike Spain where the Brits need to hire a translator for anything official, you’ll get along just well with your English. But why this dual language in the country? This is due to historical reasons: the French first conquered the island a few centuries ago but the British captured it from them. During the treaty of Paris, which formalised the handover of the island to the British, the latter agreed to retain the custom and religion of the French on the island. So the French language remained.
For an idea at the easy-going lifestyle, see this piece on the simple life in Mauritius that makes a good comparison. For me, this is one of the most important reasons – the lifestyle – but I know for many others, the weather will be first on the list. The language and culture will certainly help with integration and who knows, perhaps call Mauritius a second home…