For the past months I have been watching and following a few expat groups on FB to get the lowdown for our planned relocation to Mauritius.
It’s made me realise two things;
Firstly; people don’t take the time to use the search option in a group, they just post the same question as a 100 before them did without looking whether there is some info in the thread already, sorry, pet hate….can you tell? 🤔 😂 Inevitably you’ll still get 200 different opinions and many ‘search the thread’ and even a rude comment or two.
Secondly I know and realised that people have very diverse opinions on matters but it’s amazing how few people can be ‘big’ enough to live and let live. We live on an island now and there are so many people of different nationalities, cultures, personalities, income groups, beliefs, means, ability etc and each experience life differently. My mother taught me that everyone you meet in life will have different priorities. And that is something that I have carried with me and often used as a yardstick when confronted with an opinion or point of view from someone I have never met.
It seems there is a big debate on cost of living vs choice of lifestyle. Two things that for me sort of go hand in hand?
I Googled a bit on the topic and this is what I found
Living on an island we profess to live like the ‘locals’ do but the truth is we don’t really, do we? Not all locals live in nice 3 or 4 bedroom houses, with a pool and a garden and being able to rent or own a car. Not all locals have the funds to educate their children at one of the many private schools found on the island. Not all of the locals are able to frequent the many malls buying the overpriced items and clothing as many (but not all) expats are able to do.
Having said that, what people, local as well as expats should keep in mind that although the rand trades stronger than the Mauritian Rs on any given day is that the positive difference in the two money units are more than often slurped up in the daily expenses of living on an island where a majority of the produce and products are imported, an island where renting a home could cost you either the same as rental in SA, slightly more or a heck of a lot more depending on your lifestyle choices.
Personally we chose a home that would give our family some space and enjoyment to compensate for being in a strange country and away from our family and friends. We had to give up some other pleasures but for us this was something we felt was important to our family. We’re not rich, we’re not well-off, we’re a middle-class family whom had to leave all that was familiar behind in order to be together.
Taking into account many different factors and yes once again, everyone has different priorities. We prioritize our needs and wants to suit our budget, we choose a lifestyle which makes up in small ways for what we’ve had to leave behind.
Life on an island is idyllic and romantic if you spend a short time here and spend the majority of your time on the beach. Living here permanently vastly changes the mind about that.
Just to give a rough idea;
Renting a 3 bedroom apartment/duplex/house could set you back anything from around R8000 to R70000 depending on your personal tastes and requirements. Note that the upper-end prices are much more common for the nicer places than the lower-end and often the cheaper the place well; Need I say MORE? We were lucky to get more house for our buck here than we would have in SA but we are still paying much more than we paid for our smaller rental in Cape Town.
Because we still have one school going child, not having a car was NOT an option, as I need to take him to school and fetch again in the afternoon. Hubby is also away for roughly 18 days at a time so we cannot be without a vehicle. Here is where lifestyle choice trumped cost of living because we chose to live in the north and the school is very inconveniently 😋 located smack bang in the center of the island which means a 160 km daily commute. Currently working on a getting a lift clubsorted so as to cut down on costs and time spent on the road. So to move on to the next topic; Renting a smallish car like a Nissan Micra or Toyota Yaris could set you back at the very least around Rs12000 a month which equates to around R5000 a month which is double what I paid in Cape Town for my beloved little 4×4 Huyndai Terios with all the bells and whistles. Throw in petrol at more than R20 a liter and we are ready to go? Or are we?
So far I have only highlighted two of the biggest budget factors in any one family. I haven’t even touched on school-fees which for expats are set sky-high should you enroll your child at any of the International schools available. We’re talking hefty deposits and stiff monthly payments to the tune of R10 000 or more per child. On this we were fortunate not to have been forced to make a lifestyle vs cost of life decision as we were blessed as there is an ACE school in Mauritius which is the curriculum both my kids were on before relocating here and finding this school influenced our decision greatly. Not only a Christian school but also the school-fees are exactly what we’ve been paying in Cape Town for the past year so for us this was an ‘affordable’ option. Note that there was a stiff nonrefundable deposit required on enrollment.
On top of these expenses are things like relocation fees, storage, flights, dependant visas and loads of other things. If your company is paying good for you. Not all expats have the same advantages and these are expenses that can leave on well out of pocket before you’ve even set foot on the island.
Having covered accommodation, transport and school. Food prices differ from shop to shop and on your diet and personal tastes but I will say, you can choose to shop at the most expensive shops and buy the most expensive products or you can plan, budget and shop with intent. I have made a decision to try and shop at the market for local produce as much as I can as it is cheaper to buy your fruit and vegetables. The local Foodlovers are not very budget friendly so I check in every now and then just to keep up with the prices. Alcohol and meat are very very expensive and since moving here we have decided to cut back on meat and try other alternatives like lentils, tofu and the likes. I will let you know how that works for us meat eating expats. 😉🍖 The wine is still a non-negotiable…..but at the cheapest bottle going for around R90 as opposed to around R45 for a half decent bottle back home we might have to reconsider at some point…🍷
There are loads of other expenses that I can touch on but this blog was just to give an overall feel of living on an island. One cannot live here without money as anywhere else in the world. What used to be a holiday destination has now become a favorite place for many people to come and live permanently and the island is a hub of different nationalities and cultures living side by side and each experiencing the island life in their own unique way.
My final thoughts on the topic is that priorities differ. What is important for me is not necessarily important for others. One needs to respect other people’s choices and priorities. Our choices are based on what we can afford and we try and marry that with what we ‘need’ first and foremost and then with what we ‘want’. In our family ‘needs’ trump ‘want’. It is important that my kids have their priorities right.
We live on an island and yes, it’s part paradise and part not. Move here, don’t move here. It’s your choice. You might find it cheap, I don’t. I reserve my right to my opinions based on my experiences and my right not to have to justify my choices as I’ll respect your right to do the same because it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. We all need to do what makes us happy and for us that was moving closer to hubby. The rest we take in our stride as we are used to. Creating a new normal as that’s our thing.