Elayni & Eddie are the type of people that you just want to be friends with. Chilled out, fun loving and a little quirky in their own individual ways, you just can’t help but instantly warm up to them. We met them one Thursday morning at a local coffee shop; the perfect setting, as this very coffee shop is the reason that the married couple swapped their lives in South Africa for their new lives here in Mauritius. We were interested and excited to find out more about their new island adventure. Here’s what happened…
So tell us more about what brought you to Mauritius and the reasons why you chose to move here.
Elayni: I used to work for Vida-e-Caffe in South Africa. The person I used to work with over there put me in touch with the person who owns Vida here in Mauritius. There wasn’t a plan to relocate or anything like that; it just so happened that there was a job opportunity over here and I thought ‘Yeah okay, why not?’. So they flew me out here for a job interview for three days, which was a whirlwind experience. He (Eddie) wasn’t here. So anyway, I said okay. It was either that or staying at home and so we ended up coming here. I arrived in July (2016) and Eddie joined me a month later. We didn’t plan any of this, it just happened to work out this way!
What is your role at Vida-e-Caffe?
Elayni: I’m the Operations Manager, so I manage the shop from a stock point of view, maintenance, training… pretty much everything that makes the place run smoothly. I also put new ideas into place.
Whereabouts in Mauritius do you currently live?
Elayni: We live in the North. Our head office is based up there and my boss lives there too. When you don’t know the country too well, everyone sort of says ‘the north is so nice, you have to live in the north!’ – so that’s what we did.
And how are you finding it?
Elayni: It’s good! Me, personally? I’m struggling a little bit to adapt. I think Eddie has fit in really, really well.
What are you struggling with?
Elayni: I think just in general it’s very different to what I’m used to. Not just work wise, but lifestyle wise. It’s a lot slower paced. Things tend to take a lot longer than what they normally would in Johannesburg where it’s really fast paced. And I think sometimes with the language barrier, things can get a bit difficult and tedious, because what you say and what I say can sometimes get confused. It doesn’t always make sense and there’s miscommunication… So I think these little things are things that I still need to get used to, but otherwise it’s really nice. It’s a beautiful island! I’m not complaining. It just takes a little while to adjust yourself to somewhere new. But I think he (Eddie) is, like, totally loving it!
Eddie: I enjoy it. In general, I usually adapt anyplace. I’m very easy going. I think I can live anywhere and be happy.
Elayni: Yeah, I think he would be happy anywhere. Like you could move him to Antarctica and he would be happy.
Eddie: The only thing that gets me here is the heat. We have fans and air-con and everything going all the time… and it’s still not enough! We were quite courageous when we got here. I mean, I’ve lived in Thailand and handled the heat there and we got here in winter and I was fine. But in December… I kept saying ‘I need to change into another shirt’. In regards to the communication barrier, I think a lot of smiles and hand gestures help and you just get by! *laughs*
Okay, so now that we know what you’ve struggled with, can you tell us what you like about Mauritius?
Elayni: There’s definitely a particular energy here. There are so many different people here and there’s no drama and everyone gets along. There are so many different religions and cultures here but everyone’s just chilling! And also, everyone is super welcoming and friendly and you don’t always get that when travelling. People can sometimes be standoff-ish. But here it’s not like that.
I was on the plane and the guy I was sitting next to was like ‘I live in the West. When you get there, give me a call and we’ll go for coffee and I’ll show you around the island’! Even a restaurateur we met was like ‘it’s my day off tomorrow, let’s meet up and I’ll show you around’!
Eddie: We went there for dinner once, and now it’s like we’re friends for life!
Elayni: He was really sweet, though.
Eddie: A lot of places you travel to you’ll get the impression that everyone’s friendly, but once you’ve stayed there a little bit longer, you see that below the surface, it’s totally different. But here, you can see that everyone is genuinely so welcoming and friendly. We stayed in Jo’burg, then we’d move to another suburb and we’d know like, maybe two neighbours. But here we know everyone around us, even though there’s a language barrier. It’s like everyone is a friend. There’s a little community here. It can take ten minutes just to leave home because everyone wants a chat!
Talking about home, are there many other expats around the area where you live now?
Elayni: No, we’re very local. We’re like slap bang in the middle of Grand Baie, but we’re not in the expat areas. It’s nice. It’s close to work and the neighbours are really friendly. You always know that if something ever went wrong or if there was a problem, we’d be okay. When speaking to other South Africans (back in South Africa), there was this idea that if you lived in Mauritius, you wouldn’t really ever see any other South Africans – but we didn’t really move to Mauritius to hang out with South Africans. It’s good for us and we’re enjoying it. Part of living in a foreign country is meeting the local people.
Moving on, how are you finding the work/life balance?
Elayni: Work life for me is hectic. It’s long hours, especially as there are many branches (of Vida-e-Caffe) around the island and they trade 365 days, from 8am in the morning ‘til 10pm in the evening - and you have to be constantly available. But there isn’t so much fast paced stress that there is in South Africa.
Eddie: There’s a different culture when it comes to coffee houses here. In South Africa, there’s more of a grab-and-go kind of thing, but here people are hanging out, even at 10pm at night.
Elayni: It is long hours and working six days a week, but it’s been 8 or 9 months and I’m kind of used to it now. It’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve.
Are you working the same amount of hours you were working in SA?
Elayni: No, I’m working more hours here but it’s different. It’s a different type of pressure. You can have a pause and have a coffee. And when you get home at night and you don’t feel like cooking, you can walk across the road to a restaurant that will cook up a nice meal for you. It’s that type of cultural experience that makes you feel a bit more social. Here, it’s not like you can just call for a take away - you have to actually go out to get it, which I think makes you feel like you’re being a little bit more social and experiencing a bit more of that lifestyle.
So on that day off that you do get, what do you tend to do to relax?
Elayni: *places hand over face* I face-plant the beach. Like, literally! Literally, that is all I do!
Eddie: Sundays are brunch, beach and barbeque – that’s pretty much what we do on Sundays.
Elayni: When we’ve got a bit more time, we want to explore the island and go hiking…etc. We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to see at least some of the island so far.
What about you, Eddie? Are you currently doing anything for work here?
I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical since we’ve been here. I’m starting to set up my own little thing between here and South Africa, but there’s quite a lot of red tape in setting that up here because of all the loose stones. But in a month or so, we’ll be up and running on that side.
Talking of red tape and bureaucracy, how did you find the move here? Were there any resources that you used?
Elayni: The people that run this company work with an external company that works to get the occupation permit. It was more on this end to get the dependency paper work that took a bit of time. So, he’s ancient *gestures to Eddie* and his birth certificate is written in Afrikaans…
Eddie: We had to get one word translated into English, which was a pain. The guy knew what it meant, but we still had to get it done, as it needed to be in English on your birth certificate or translated. So, we went to the South African embassy that said they don’t do that anymore. They said, ‘you have to get it done in South Africa and it will take six months’.
Elayni: If you don’t know someone who knows the drill, it’s difficult. It’s not always clear how to do it yourself. It’s not clearly established or communicated anywhere.
Eddie: Despite all the bureaucracy, we’re from South Africa and we’re used to these things taking a long time. At least here if they tell you one week, they keep their word.
So you mentioned earlier (before the interview) that you’ve got some dogs in quarantine at the moment. Tell us about the process and your experience of bringing your dogs over to Mauritius.
Elayni: IT’S CALLED HELL. It was a lot more difficult getting our dogs here than it was getting us here! Getting our permits and everything was much easier than it was to get the dogs’ paperwork. And then there’s a lot more bureaucracy and so much paper work and underlying payments… and they don’t advertise it anywhere, they don’t put it anywhere. There’s nothing.
Eddie: And you get to the point that you think the guy is making the things up as he goes along. You can’t actually believe it.
Elayni: Whilst the dogs were on the flight, we found out that we need a customs clearance officer. They were meant to be landing in a few hours! We were like ‘what is a customs clearance officer’. It’s basically someone to officiate and tell them that, ‘yes, these are your dogs’. Which you then have to pay Rs 3000 for! Maybe, just maybe this should have been highlighted somewhere…
Eddie: In addition, with the customs formalities you have to pay tax on the value of your dog. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t even need proof of how much the dog cost. They justify this because people are bringing the dogs in for breeding, which is impossible as part of the prerequisites is that the dogs be sterilised. So how can they be brought in for breeding?!
A lot of that reflects the culture around dogs here. You see all the strays on the street…
Eddie: Now, now… Don’t get me started on that!
For any of our readers that want to bring a pet to Mauritius, what would be your advice to them?
Both: Just make sure you use a reputable agent and speak to expats who have done it before and make sure that you have all of the facts clear. If the process and everything was clear, it would make things a lot easier and avoid a lot of the stress and frustration. It’s not a cheap process either by the way…
Would you recommend moving to Mauritius? Do you think you did it the right way, with having employment secured beforehand?
Eddie: Definitely. Just make sure you have someone arranging your work permit for you.
Elayni: I think Mauritius is different to other places like Australia… etc., where you can get hired on your skill set. Here its very much dependent on who you know and whether you’ve been requested to work here.
Eddie: There are many opportunities here to do your own thing, but just make sure you have all your things in order and plan a little bit. We did everything a little bit off the cuff. We decided to move in May, gave the lease on our flat up in June and we were here in Mauritius by July!
Finally, would you say that you are happy living on the beautiful little island that is Mauritius?
Elayni: I think so. Yeah, I think it just takes a little while to get used to, but we’re okay. You can get fresh baguettes daily, so I’m happy! *grins*
Eddie: I think we’ve settled in well. I can get up at 5am and do three hours of fishing before I start my day. Literally, I just walk over to the beach. By 8am I’m ready to start my day. You also kind of feel like everyone’s your friend. You go down the pub and watch the match, and you’ve seen a few people there a few times, so you say hey.
Elayni: I think we need to get out a little bit more, meet other expats and speak to more people here. I think that’s one thing we need to start doing more.
Any other final thoughts that you’d like to share?
Elayni: Well, I’d really like to meet maybe one or two close friends. The kind that I can just call up and say: ‘I’m going to face plant the beach, are you coming with?’. But I want to meet people that I actually like and get on with and don’t just become friends with because of where we’re both from.
By Sabah Ismail & Khalid Khadaroo
Sabah and Khalid are a husband and wife team with two young children, hailing from the UK. Having recently set up home in Mauritius, they are on a mission to meet others on the island who have done exactly what they have done: packed up their homes and lives in their home countries and moved to pastures that are brighter, bluer and more beautiful – Mauritius! They also wish to highlight issues that expats face here just to make life on the island little bit easier. To be interviewed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org