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Cultural Continuity : Vietnamese Keep Traditions Alive in Mauritius

Hà Shu: 

“Vietnam is always in my heart”

Living in Mauritius since the past eleven years, Hà Shu (Huỳnh Thi Tố Hà) was born and grew up in the city of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. She shares that it is love that brought her to our small island. “I think maybe it’s called destiny because I met Pierre, my husband, at the right place at the right time as we both of us wanted to settle down. We met in Hong Kong where I was on my business trip and Pierre was travelling to his parents ’s home town. I must say that most importantly he has a good character and unique talents that fit me and make me a complete person. For me, he is my noble man,” she utters. 
Speaking about adaptation to life in Mauritius, Hà Shu says that it was not difficult for her. “For me, everything has a first-time experience. If you are an open minded and a social person, I think it won’t be that difficult to adapt to a completely new environment. I have been lucky to have had great support from my husband and his family since the whole time I have been living here. Besides that, I used to work for an international company where I had many chances to meet and work with people come from different countries like US, EU, and Asian; so, more or less I was able to engage my lifestyle here easily.”
The Vietnamese expat manages her family business which deals in the supply of uniforms and corporate gifts to hotels, corporates and schools around the island. Hà Shu is also a part-time registered Vietnamese Interpreter specially for the court and police whenever her services are needed. As Vietnam celebrated its Independence Day during the month of September, Hà Shu shares that she got the opportunity to meet with some other fellow Vietnamese friends who live in Mauritius. She confides that the feeling of love and pride for her motherland is always rooted in her heart. 

“We have been lucky to have been able to gather many Vietnamese for Jenny Wong kids’ birthday party about two weeks before the Appreciation Day. We did have a really great and joyful time together. Besides that, we also received many nice wishes and messages from our dear friends from the Asian community in Mauritius which headed by Mr. Johan. I wish to underline that Vietnam is always in my heart,” she asserts. 
The woman expat finds it interesting for Mauritius to have a multi-cultural society and foods. “It is a great thing that all religious communities are granted their own public holiday,” she declares. However, she trusts that the lack of labour is a real issue in Mauritius and wishes that the country would do better at that level.                                                         

“Mauritius needs more workers so that we can produce and even export more products. For Vietnam, I greatly appreciate that with the updated education system now, we will soon have a new generation of youth who will be able to fluently speak two to four languages like Mauritian people.”
Hà Shu strongly encourages those looking for a work-life balance to settle in Mauritius. “If someone is looking for a work-life balance and nice place to raise their family, Mauritius is definitely a very good destination. So, don’t hesitate to come to build your life here. Besides that, you will be surrounded with beautiful beach, beautiful nature, friendly birds, among others. It is really remarkable to be living in Mauritius,” she states. 

Tuyen Ngo: 

“Although being far from my motherland, the national day is a very important day for me”

Born in the province of Dong Nai in Vietnam, Tuyen Ngo made the big move to Mauritius nine years ago. “At the age of 41, I moved to Ho Chi Minh city, previously known Saigon, for higher studies and working. I’m now living in Baie du Tombeau with my family since I left Vietnam nine years ago,” she utters.
It is love that brought the Vietnamese woman to our country. “When I first met my husband, I had never heard about Mauritius before. Frankly speaking, I was a bit scared of the unknown but love conquers all. I decided to come for a two weeks trip and discovered a very peaceful and friendly country.” 
Tuyen Ngo shares that she has very well integrated the Mauritian mode of life. “In Mauritius after a day at the office, everyone is in a hurry to get back home and there is no such night life here. In Vietnam, we would meet our colleagues and friends for dinner and drinks at a street food stall or in a restaurant to chat after a day at work. Now I spend my time cooking delicious food for my family and learn how to cook Mauritian dishes with my mother-in-law as a way to adapt myself to the local lifestyle here,” she states. 
However, she does confide that she had difficulties to adapt to the food in Mauritius. “The biggest culture shock when I first arrived in Mauritius was the food. For breakfast the Vietnamese likes to eat noodles or pho and something with soup whereas local people tend to eat breads or French baguette in the morning and also less of vegetables for other meals.” Despite all, Tuyen Ngo finds common aspects between the Vietnamese and Mauritian life. “The common aspect between the Mauritian and Vietnamese people is the care and respect for our elders, parents and grandparents. Also, both are very religious and, in every festivals, we can see lot of devotees of the different communities attending the ceremonies,” she says. 

Not finding quality women’s wear, the Vietnamese woman decided to launch her own business in Mauritius. “I used to work as an accountant for a company in Vietnam. When I came in Mauritius and went out shopping women’s wear, I found that the quality here was not quite good and not trendy. As Vietnam and Asian countries are known for the quality and latest trend in fashion, I decided to build my online retail shop. The ladies in Mauritius want quality at a good price and as long as you give them what they want I believe there is a good prospect.”

Speaking about Vietnam, Tuyen Ngo celebrated her motherland’s Independence Day in her own way despite being far away. “Although being far from my motherland, the national day is a very important day for me as it means independence and freedom for the whole nation. On that special day, I cooked special food for the family and taught my son about the history of Vietnam.” Additionally, the woman expat reveals that she is close to other Vietnamese expats in the island. “Currently in Mauritius, we have about nine families who have Vietnamese nationals. Being far from our family and friends, we meet as often as we can for occasions like birthdays, moon Festival, Christmas and the Tet holiday (do Banh Chung), which is the Vietnamese New Year which is celebrated same day as the Chinese New Year here. We decorate our home with flowers and lanterns to welcome the new year. The most important is the get together with family and friends around a table with delicious food.”

What can Mauritians learn from Vietnamese and vice versa? “My Mauritian family and friends like Vietnam’s foods too much: Pho, nem, salads, among others. They always ask me about recipe and try to cook it.” Her advice to expats looking forward to come to Mauritius – “If you would like to come and live here, Mauritius is actually a safe country. As a multi diverse country you should be prepared to adapt to traditions and customs. Also, as a tropical island be prepared for the hot weather especially during summer.”


Nguyen Thi Hai Yen (Jenny): 

“I often prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes and share stories about Vietnam’s culture with my family and friends in Mauritius”

The Vietnamese national shares that she had the privilege of calling Mauritius her home for the past eight years. Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, also known as Jenny, says that she embarked on a new chapter of her life when she met with her Mauritian husband. “I was born and raised in Vung Tau, Vietnam, and my journey to this beautiful island began when I met my now-husband, a Mauritian citizen, while he was travelling in Vietnam. We fell in love, and after a period of long-distance relationship I decided to move to Mauritius to be with him. Our love story transcended borders, and I embarked on a new chapter in my life. At that time, I had no idea that this island nation would capture my heart and it has become an integral part of my life. Over the years, I’ve witnessed both the challenges and the beauty of living in Mauritius, and it has been an incredible experience that has shaped who I am today,” utters our expat. 

A home maker, Jenny however helps her husband in his business. “My role as a housewife has allowed me to focus on creating a warm and loving home for my family, which I find deeply fulfilling. While I may not have a professional analysis of a specific domain, I do have some observations about Mauritius as a whole. Mauritius is known for its strong tourism industry, which has been a significant contributor to the economy. The tourism sector has seen substantial growth over the years. One area where Mauritius can continue to improve is in sustainable tourism practices. As the demand for eco-friendly and responsible travel increases, Mauritius could focus on minimizing its environmental impact and preserving its natural beauty. Additionally, diversifying tourism offerings beyond traditional beach resorts could further boost the industry and provide visitors with a more comprehensive experience of the island,” she affirms. 

Jenny asserts that her life in Mauritius has given her the opportunity to observe the country’s strengths and potential areas of improvement. “It’s a nation that values its cultural diversity and natural beauty, and with careful planning and commitment, it can continue to thrive and offer a high quality of life to its residents and visitors alike.” 

For the Vietnamese national, the adaptation to the Mauritian lifestyle has been a gradual process and a rewarding experience. “At first, it was challenging because of the language barrier, as my first language is Vietnamese, and Mauritian Creole is the most widely spoken language here. However, I learned English, which is one of the official languages, to communicate more effectively. I also embraced the local customs and traditions. In terms of blending my Vietnamese culture into my life in Mauritius, I have indeed tried to do so through our daily meals. I prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes for my family, and they have come to appreciate and enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. This has been a wonderful way to share my culture with my Mauritian family and friends.”

The only thing that the expat found most surprising when she arrived in our tiny island was the relaxed pace of life. “It’s more relaxed and laid-back compared to the hustle and bustle I was used to in Vietnam. While it took some time to adjust to the “island time” mentality, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of work-life balance and the emphasis on enjoying life and spending time with loved ones,” she claims. 
However, Jenny underlines that Vietnamese and Mauritian society have common characteristics such as the strong emphasis on family and community. “Food plays a central role in both societies, and gatherings often revolve around sharing meals. Additionally, there is a deep respect for traditions and a strong sense of hospitality in both Vietnamese and Mauritian cultures.” 

Speaking about the celebration of the Independence Day of Vietnam during the month of September, Jenny does not hide that she did not mark the day. “I do not really celebrate the Vietnamese Independence Day but despite being far from my motherland, I still celebrate other festivals like the Vietnamese Lunar New Year also known as Tet, the Mid-Autumn Festival (Têt Trung Thu) and the Vietnamese Women’s Day which is celebrated on 20th October. It’s a way for me to connect with my roots and pass on the Vietnamese traditions to the next generation. I often prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes and share stories about Vietnam’s culture with my family and friends in Mauritius,” she declares. 

When it comes to the Vietnamese diaspora in Mauritius, the expat confides that the diaspora in Mauritius is relatively small but close-knit. We have a small circle of friends who have similar backgrounds and experiences, and we often come together to celebrate Vietnamese festivals, birthdays, and other special occasions.” Jenny trusts that Mauritians can certainly learn from the strong family values and work ethic that are central to Vietnamese culture. “Additionally, the Vietnamese emphasis on resourcefulness and resilience, determination, and adaptability in the face of challenges can be valuable in various aspects of life. On the other hand, Mauritius’s multiculturalism and tolerance can serve as an example for countries striving for harmony among diverse communities. The way Mauritians celebrate and respect each other’s festivals and traditions is truly inspiring,” she asserts. 

Her advice to expats looking forward to come to Mauritius is to embrace the local culture and making an effort to learn the language, even if it’s just a few basic phrases in Mauritian Creole or French. “Also, building relationships with the local community will enrich your experience and help you adapt more easily. Be open to making new friends and engaging with the local community. Mauritius offers great opportunities, but embracing the local way of life will enhance your experience. Additionally, take the time to explore the natural beauty of Mauritius beyond the tourist hotspots. The island has so much to offer in terms of hiking, wildlife, and cultural experiences. Finally, be patient and open-minded as you adapt to a new way of life, and you’ll find that Mauritius can be a welcoming and rewarding place to live.”


Uyen Vu Dian: 

“We teach our kids to sing the Vietnamese anthem “Tien Quan Ca”

Mother of two children, Uyen Vu Dian has been living in Mauritius since 2016. The Vietnamese woman shares that her decision to make Mauritius her new home was influenced by her husband. “My decision to settle here was influenced by my husband, who is Mauritian. Since he was already working here, together, we chose Mauritius as our place of residence.” 

For Uyen Vu Dian, transitioning to life in Mauritius was a slow process. “I’ve slowly embraced the local lifestyle and integrated elements of my own culture to the daily routine. It took me some time though to adjust to the local cuisine and learn the language. After seven years, there are still more discoveries and progress to be made on the language front. There is a part of the Vietnamese culture that I try to instil in my children so that they can also feel a bond with their relatives in Vietnam, especially when it comes to language and communication with the elders. Whenever time allows it, I also try some Vietnamese cuisine and share the same with my Mauritian friends and relatives,” she states.
Involved in imports and online retail of children’s wear and accessories, the Vietnamese woman runs her own business “MOSO KIDS”. She is of the opinion that the business sector is very competitive in Mauritius. “It is a very competitive space with lots of players and several incumbents. Given that Mauritius is very reliant on imports with limited onshore manufacturing, there are many challenges, and we have all experienced some of it during the pandemic. Following the pandemic, the cost of running a business has gone up with the depreciation of the rupee together with the increase in shipping fees and commodities. Having said that, generally there is a sound legal framework in Mauritius in terms of the ease of doing business here and there is fair opportunity for young entrepreneurs,” she says.

Definitely, she underlines, Mauritius can improve and will improve. “The government in Mauritius has made some efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and the inflation. There are further improvements to be made in terms of access to capital, especially venture capital, and the competitiveness of Mauritius as a business destination to start new industries. I also think that the time is ripe for the government in Mauritius to enter into a DTA (Double Taxation Agreement) agreement and a trade agreement with Vietnam to bolster investments on both sides.”
Her biggest culture shock she says was the vibrant diversity of cultures, languages, food and traditions in Mauritius. “Coming from a place where the culture is more homogeneous, it did require some adjustments and learning to fully understand the culture tapestry.” When it comes to similarities between the two countries, Uyen Vu Dian states that these include strong family values, a shared love for traditional cuisine and a rich cultural heritage. “Both cultures emphasise close-knit families, respect for elders, the celebration of culture traditions and festivals,” she utters.
Being miles away from her motherland, the expat does not fail to teach the Vietnamese national anthem to her kids. “Independence Day in Vietnam is celebrated on the 2nd of September. We teach our kids to sing the Vietnamese anthem “Tien Quan Ca”. We share the inspiring stories, and history of the Independence to our children to captivate their interest.” She also is part of the Vietnamese community group in Mauritius. “We have a small community of Vietnamese residing in Mauritius. We often organise various events like the Full Moon festival, Vietnam Women’s Day, Lunar New Year or Independence Day. These are important events for us and it is our way to stay connected and joyfully celebrate our cultural heritage.” 

Uyen Vu Dian is of the opinion that Vietnamese and Mauritian people can learn a lot from each other. “Vietnamese can learn cultural and religious tolerance. Peaceful co-existence within Mauritius and the neighbouring countries. Mauritius has showcased the beauty of co-existence; it promotes openness to different worldviews and perspectives. There is a lot to learn when you embrace diversity. Vietnamese can also gain insights from Mauritius’ multilingual education system to enhance our global communication skills. Multilingualism is also an important building block of a tolerant society,” she asserts. 

Mauritius, she adds, has emerged as a successful offshore business hub, attracting foreign investments and fostering economic growth with limited natural resources - it is a feat in Africa. “By studying Mauritius’ experiences and post-colonial history, Vietnam can develop a skilled workforce, a robust legal framework to enhance its own offshore industry and global competitiveness.”

What can Mauritians learn from Vietnamese? “Vietnam has experienced significant economic growth in recent years. Our strong work ethic and entrepreneurial mindset has contributed to this. Mauritians can potentially adopt some of these approaches to foster their next phase of economic development. Mauritius could learn from Vietnam’s education system’s focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Vietnam has focused on these fields to compete globally in the tech and engineering sectors. Vietnam has a history of overcoming adversity, after years of war. Resilience and resourcefulness is playing an important part when we face challenges. These mindsets can be inspiring for young Mauritians in their pursuit of personal and professional goals,” she affirms. 

Uyen Vu Dian confides that she is grateful to all the opportunities life in Mauritius has given her. “Mauritius has given me the chance to explore different things and grow professionally and personally. My experience here has been a rich journey and I relish every moment of it. Most people have been very receptive and welcoming, which I am very happy and grateful for. I am still learning and discovering new things every day. This is why I also take every chance I can to meet my clients personally, and understand the local nuances.  Overall, the experience here is positive.”
Her advice to others who wish to relocate in Mauritius is to be open to new experiences. “For expats considering a move to Mauritius I would offer the following advices:

Research and understand the culture: Understanding the way of life in Mauritius will help you integrate more smoothly.
Explore the Island: Mauritius has beautiful landscapes and beaches. Take your time to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of the island.
Build Local Connections: Try to connect with both local and fellow expats. Building a social network can be valuable for support and to fully enjoy your time in Mauritius.

Consider the Cost of living: be mindful of the cost of living in Mauritius, which can vary depending on where you live.
Seek Legal Advice: If you are planning to work or reside long-term in Mauritius, it is advisable to seek legal advice regarding visas, work permits or any related legal documents.

Finally, be opened to new experiences and opportunities. Enjoy yourself!”


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