The first episode in this series earned us a lot of reactions on different social media platforms. We’re glad it reached such a big audience and triggered many interesting contributions. As usual the idea was not to write fairy-tale type of articles for comfort reading.
Some days ago, someone who curiously seemed inspired by our Part 1 article (The Road Kills), claimed everything was pink on the island and that the roads are safe. The article was written very clearly by an author probably living in fairy tale-candy-marsh-mallow type world. With a pseudo like ‘Mermaid’ I can only deduce that. Anyways.
I have seen so many foreigners settling-down in Mauritius and failing it because of their wrong attitude towards the country and its people.
Understand one basic underlying fact: We are not a backward, under developed country with scarcity of grey matter. You are not an alien with advanced knowledge and/or technology and you are not landing here to educate anybody or conquer anything. If you have this mindset, you won’t last long – unless you derive a sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain and frustration to yourself.
Foreigners are welcomed on the island. Mauritians are known for their warmth and their culture of hospitality. In the early days, agriculture was the main pillar of the economy with sugarcane as the leading economic sector. All the plantations and mills belonged to people of European origin (mostly French). Many households could sustain a living through income derived as laborer’s, factory workers and similar activity – the management always being held by European-origin people. This did not affect the social demographics because it was a generally accepted fact the Asian-origin people were not as competent in administration & management as the European-origin counterparts.
Despite the history of slavery and indentured laborer, our ancestors kept to their roles and worked hard. I remember my grandparents always referring to their ‘employers’ as ‘almost-Gods’ and always referred to them as ‘Missier’ (or Mister) in any conversation. I’m not being a racist here, but ‘white skin’ people earned their respect. This respect showed by my grandparents was transmitted to my parents.
My parents did not experience the same intensity of respect because they were not employed in the same industry – Mauritius started by that time to develop other sectors. From my parents to me, the values were not passed because at this time the concept of equality started to flow around. The country gained independence in 1968 and a nation was building up. There came free education and access to other employment opportunities (public sector, for instance).
In the 80s tourism was introduced. Again, the first tourists were white-skinned people flying down mostly from Europe. The respect and admiration came in again because they were the ones able to pay air-fare and afford stay in ‘concrete and modern’ buildings (most of us were living in thatched roofs and iron sheets houses). They were seen as ‘successful’ people having acquired means to travel by air, while having a motorized vehicle was impossible for most of us. The perception of respect took a second breath and our culture of hospitality also kicked-in, turning our tourism industry into massive success. This is a bit how ‘culturally’ we were tuned to accepting that foreigners can contribute to the progress of the island. From sugarcane to tourism, it was proven,
With the introduction of the manufacturing sector; textiles mostly – the social configuration took an upturn. For the first time, our ladies were out to work and earn salaries in a ‘covered workspace’ and were not just helping hands in manual works for their husbands. The purchasing power increased and was supported by new dynamism in commerce. Courts Mammouth, the first hire-purchase shop landed in Mauritius and people started getting access to modern consumer products; color TV, video players, washing machines, HI-FI sound systems…. (I witnessed the change from Black & White TV to a color one and I can tell you that was a revolution). This was the first economic revolution,
Our youngsters could afford traveling by plane (it still was difficult, but accessible) and many of them traveled to big cities for advanced education. The wealth building process was working to its best.
Successfully shifting from a mono-crop agriculture economy to tourism and thereafter tackling our own ‘industrial revolution’ played a very positive role in building the entrepreneurial mindset of Mauritians. We believed in ourselves. From then, the progress continued and continues. We are now talking about cyberisland, world-class financial service industry, the best commercial port of the region, you name it, Mauritius is always building something new every year. One of our strengths is that successive governments have always kept the same direction, that of modernization of the island and its transformation into a hub of excellence in whatever it undertakes. We have not reached this point yet, but many are working towards it, for decades.
(In a previous article I did mention that many among us have developed a culture of arrogance and feel the world is rushing to our feet. Unfortunately, these are the ones hindering the marvelous culture of hard work and progress that Mauritius is generally about. Without them, we would have been much further in our development. Not afraid to say many of these hindrances are spoilt brats that have inherited from the sweat of others, their parents particularly. They do not know the value of ‘work’).
We wouldn’t be able to achieve any of these without the participation of foreigners. This is the reason, at the base, we understand that foreign participation is important to our development. On the other side, we also reckon that we have built up a nation of educated, trained and skilled people who can stand on their feet. Foreign contribution is now viewed as ‘partnership’ rather than a need in itself. We are not surprised to see demonstration against ‘new hotel projects’ (for example) – it is not only about losing access to public beach, it is more about the ‘conquering’ attitude of certain foreign promoters. The cultural behavior towards foreigners has shifted from benefactors to partnership, with equality as base. Previous generations didn’t feel equal because probably of lack of education, means and track record. Current generations have it all, almost.
A foreigner relocating to Mauritius is no longer an alien with super-powers. He is still needed, but again, as partner to the economic drive. Mauritius can afford a selective immigration strategy exactly because we can now afford choose our partners. The island is not a refugee camp that is obliged to every foreigner who wishes to settle-down here.
It is not because the political situation in South African is uncertain that Mauritius has the duty to accept every South African. This is in reply to someone who thought we were not doing enough to facilitate immigration process.
Basically, in this second article of the series ‘The Mauritian Experience, how not to fail it’ we wanted to highlight the shift in culture in a fast-moving country.
A foreigner might not necessarily understand the different layers of behavior and it remains our duty, as natives & relocation professionals, to highlight these points. Foreign professionals who claim to be experts in Mauritian life might not have such ‘backstage knowledge’ because these are not learned in books but lived in real-life !