Grande Baie, Mauritius Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Grande Baie, Mauritius

Grande Baie, Mauritius 08/10/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of Foreign Service Officer.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is highly sought after here-- wealthy foreigners are buying up a great deal of property for vacation get-aways and hotels are expanding their turf. U.S. government employees live very very well in spacious homes with a pool and/or beach access. There is an excellent set up for embassy families that offer the perfect place to raise children-- especially since full time nannies are so affordable.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The ingredients for just about anything you would make as an American is EXTREMELY expensive here. If you eat like a Mauritian, you can eat very cheaply.... it's a good idea, for a family member with the time and will, to take some cooking lessons from a maid/cook to make local dishes. Eating from sit-down restaurants can be pricey so expect to pay what you would in the U.S. if not more. If you go to a food stand on the road you can get excellent (albeit VERY unhealthy), very cheap food.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Home wares, linens/bedding, more clothes, shoes, electronics, peanut butter, tortilla chips.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many KFCs abound. Very good Mauritian, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Thai cuisine too. GOOD Japanese food and Mexican food is completely absent.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Maids tend to outrageously over price expats who don't know better... as of this date don't pay more than 100 Rs per hour plus her/his transportation costs (bus fare) which is generally 25-100 Rs per visit to your home.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

English TV is available through an expensive South African cable package.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None really! Almost every one in service jobs knows English fairly well.... Mauritians absolutely love if you try Creole, so do try to pick up a few phrases--- you'll get much, much better deals that way. Those who request goods/services in English get an inflated price.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

YES! Very much so. Barely anything is wheelchair accessible and skilled care givers for those is little to null

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are very very cheap, though not efficient and there is no map or route available so you have to learn the route yourself by testing it out and exploring one day. Taxis can be pricey. You really NEED a car to enjoy life in Mauritius, otherwise you'll be very isolated. My biggest qualm is that you CAN'T WALK to get around-- it's very dangerous because there aren't many sidewalks on the island and you have to walk on the main road with crazy, crazy drivers going way too fast down narrow streets. I feel very sedentary living here since I used to walk everywhere living in DC.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High speed internet is not quite as fast as standard U.S. internet but its fine, and the cost is US$60.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local cell phones are very cheap, almost every Mauritian has one.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Get vonage or skype!

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

NO. Unless you have a business contract or work at the Embassy, do not expect to find a good job as a non-Mauritian citizen. The only other option is entrepreneurship of some type or teaching English--- even if your spouse works at the Embassy you can plan on waiting as long as a year before your work permit clears, its a huge problem for us.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative-- ladies should cover up a bit more than usual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Depending on where you go and what day, it can range from good to unhealthy... most places are moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Mauritius is a very very safe country for those who are cautious and use common sense... don't go wandering aimlessly through unknown neighborhoods, be careful walking alone or in dark alleys, have a cell phone or friend with you at night, etc.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Varies WIDELY across the island-- Grand Baie is usually warm and sunny whereas Floreal and Curepipe are notoriously rainy and cold nearly every day of the year.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very very small world... you'll soon know every English speaker on the island if you frequent their popular night spots.

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2. Morale among expats:

Not very high morale... Mauritius is a beautiful place but there is a lot of useless complaining by people who seem to be professionals at it. You must realize, as another person said here, Mauritius is not Hawaii-- you won't have every U.S. luxury at your feet set in this tropical paradise. BUT, if you love the beauty of sitting on your terrace in the late afternoon listening in perfect weather over looking a lush green, or being woken up in the morning by the cute little birds singing lovely songs, or sitting at a cafe near a beautifully ornate Tamil temple sipping coffee and people-watching then you'll do very well here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Very limited... same old clubs and bars mostly in Grande Baie. Living on other parts of the island mean commuting 1-2 hours to get to Grande Baie just to go out at night because many areas in the south have no public nightlife.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Again, this is an excellent place for families. Children can drain their energy running around the beach and embassy families generally have pools for the kids to play in a nice sized backyards. For young couples and singles it's different--- Young couples will do well here IF they love outdoors-y athletic activities like watersports, hiking, mountain climbing etc. If not, there are so few cultural events here and the nightlife is so repeative and dismal that its a very isolating place.

Many of the upwardly mobile and English speaking young people 18-35 leave the country for college/university, graduate school, and work so the island can seem isolating for expats without young children. Locals are so used to the come-and-go brief stays of tourists, so they never go out of their way to bond with those who don't intend to be permanent residents. Plus, the island is a mainly family based culture so people generally just hang with their families and don't seek to meet new people. For older people or older childless couples that may want quiet activities and lots of time alone, this is a good place. But, by and large, the young childless couples and singles start to despise the social and cultural isolation that can come with living in Mauritus.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Mauritius is presented as the racial/ethnic utopia, but the only reason there isn't any racial strife is because ethnic groups keep to themselves in this family based-culture and Mauritian culture is generally very reserved and demure. Under the surface, however, a lot of colonial racism is preserved (many clubs here are whites only) and francos, muslims, hindus, and Creoles are at odds with one another for land ownership, corporate control, and representation on the local media (TV channels).

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many sites to see, religious sites, interesting holiday rituals, watersports, beach activities, and low cost lessons at just about anything: music, french, waterskiiing, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Crafts, fabrics.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, but it's difficult here if you're hesitant to give up your American diet and expectations for quality of goods.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of luxury and convenience.

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3. But don't forget your:

Clothes (especially for those with larger/taller sizes and large feet!) and shoes... electronics (theyre expensive here!), cosmetics, BOOKS!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Use Netgrocer.com to buy your guilty American pleasures-- it's much much cheaper than splurging at the local groceries--- Taco shells can cost up to US$9 for a small box! Get magazine subscriptions through Amazon.com if you have the pouch. Bootleg DVDs are ubiquitous and less than US$2 each here, if you don't believe in buying them, you'll have to bring your own from home as there's no other option. If youre an avid reader, stock up on books-- the are very slim pickings here.

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