Reunion could be called a success story of multiculturalism. The culture (and food) here is a mix of French, African, Chinese and Indian and creole people make up the majority of the population. There are temples, churches and mosques all close to each other and a distinct lack of religious tension here. Perhaps this is because no one single ethnic group makes up a majority on the island; instead there is a ‘melting pot’ of cultures. In the east where I live the Indians (les malbars) are more numerous which of course means that I am assumed to be a native Reunionnaise girl. I think it’s due to my tan really (which has been noted by the locals to have significantly darkened since I arrived), either I’m seen as a creole girl or tamil. Apparently there are also lots of Patels on the island (of course, we’re everywhere!) which makes me seem like even more of a local gal.
What I have found, which makes me love this place even more, is that everyone is just so friendly! They are so open, inviting and welcoming. They go out of their way to help and don’t expect anything in return, it’s so refreshing.
They are also a very confident people. Women walk around in clothes designed to show off every curve in their bodies and even some (a lot) of the girls at school dress like this too!
The men on the other hand give out compliments like they’re going out of fashion! My ego was boosted more in one day at school than a month at uni in London. I was told countless times how beautiful I was; I had several boys so star struck that they couldn’t take their eyes away from me; one student compared me to an ‘ange’ due to saying my name with the French accent; another said I was said so ‘magnifique’ that he couldn’t even think of any questions to ask me. I must admit I would settle in this country just for the sheer number of compliments I receive a day 😉 I’m telling you there wouldn’t be any self-esteem issues in the UK if boys were a bit more like this.
That being said, there are a lot of problems with unemployment in Reunion. It has the highest unemployment in France at 30% and the area where I’m living has a 40% unemployment rate which in turn means that there is a lot of alcoholism and some juvenile delinquency and problems with prescription drug addictions. But so far I haven’t found any of these guys so it’s fine.
Also all the women here look so young! Many of the female staff members at the school are around 40 and have 2 kids but you’d never think it looking at them; they all look 10 years younger. It must be the sun or something about island life that’s keeping them all so youthful, I don’t know what but I’m determined to find out.
One thing I have to mention here is ‘faire la bise’ – the French practice of kissing people on both cheeks – it’s fine when you’re just meeting a couple of people for lunch, but man it can get tiring when you walk into the staff room and you have to do it to around 20 people. So many of the teachers were shocked to discover that it’s not the norm in England, they can’t figure out what we would do instead; I’m afraid this has only served to reinforce the idea that in England we’re all cold and reserved.