But is it always paradise?
Our expat parent in the hot seat this month is Chantelle – who also goes by the blogging name Seychelles Mama.
Living the expat life on an island might sound idyllic, but it’s not without its own sets of challenges for a young family. Chantelle talks us through her life with husband, a toddler and a newborn on this tiny Indian Ocean island.
OG: Tell us more about your background, how did you come to live on a tiny island paradise?
C: I am from the UK, born in Wales but grew up in Plymouth. I had my first taste of expat life at 17 when I moved to San Diego with my family for almost 3 years. When we, begrudgingly, moved back to the UK at the end of my dad’s posting. I went to University in my hometown of Plymouth (having only applied to that university thinking that really we wouldn’t have to leave the US anyway!)
I met my now husband while at University! We moved in together after we graduated when he got his first job in teaching. Not long after this we started looking at ways we could move abroad, we soon discovered that there were many opportunities to do this through his career in teaching. He applied for a job that came up in an international school in the Seychelles, a dream opportunity that we never thought would come off. He obviously was the best man for the job as he got it and here we are!!
Both our sons were born here. Arthur has just turned 2 and his baby brother Freddie was born in August. As I do not have a working visa it’s a great time for us to have started a family and allowing me to be a stay at home mum; something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do had we stayed in the UK!
OG: What were your first impressions of the Seychelles?
C: A group of six of us arrived at the same time as the school had hired other teachers, I was the only non-teacher of the group. We were greeted at the airport by the head teacher. It was at this point we were informed that there was a severe water drought going in and that mine and Mark’s house was without water. Oh, and that we were going out to dinner that night at a nice restaurant owned by one of the Board of Governors.
When we arrived at our house there was mixed emotions! The house itself was pretty nice, with a definite small holiday apartment feel to it. However, it was very hot and really very dirty. The previous tenants had worked at the school and had left only a week before, but they had left it in a real state.
So, we had no water and the house was kinda grubby! But we dumped off our suitcases walked to the bottom of our road (about 25m) and discovered this view!!
We quickly stopped worrying about what the house looked like and were so excited to see our new surroundings!
OG: How much interaction do you have with the local community or other expats?
C: I’d love to say that we had a big group of friends that were “local”, sadly this just isn’t the case. There is pretty much a divide. Not that you can’t talk, or even be on really good terms with local people. It just, in general, doesn’t seem to happen that you are in social circles together.
They love kids here, LOVE them. Especially girls! Arthur is always fussed over. Seychellois people love that we had him here as opposed to going ‘home’ to have him like many expats do.
The majority of our social life is linked in some way through the school. We have made some amazing friends with other teachers working at the school. There are regular social events organised through either the board of governors of the school, or the PTA. These events see you mixing with people from all walks of life and it’s lots of fun making friends with types of people that you know you would probably never have the chance to meet in “normal life!”
OG: What facilities and activities exist for young children?
C: This is something that’s kind of disappointing living here I have to say. Once kids are in school, there are after school clubs and holiday clubs that the school put on.
On Praslin, there are a couple outside play parks, they are in terrible condition, and frankly pretty much unusable. We never go there. There are no indoor play areas like soft play or anything like that. Of course, we do have beaches and swimming pools at our disposal which make for fantastic places for small (and big!) kids to play at. Arthur also loves it when we go for walks in the national park.
I’d love if there were some mother and baby groups here but sadly it’s not the case. The most social interaction Arthur has with other kids is when I take him into school once a week to visit the reception class (3-4 year olds). This is one of the reasons we wanted to have another baby close in age for Arthur. I think as an expat people will always come and go in our lives so it will be nice that he will have a little brother with only a 2 year gap!
OG: What does the typical family unit look like (locals vs expat)?
C: Local family units are very, very matriarchal. It is very common, in fact, is probably go as far as to say it’s almost the normal for dad’s not to be on the scene. As maternity leave is very short, I think it’s just three months, it is normal to have help from extended family looking after kids.
For expats, domestic help seems to be very normal. Since being pregnant second time around we have been told by various expats that they can recommend a good nanny to us. This is not something that massively appeals to me, however, we are in the process of getting a cleaner.
OG: Can you explain more about the schooling system?
C: At the International school on Praslin kids start at 3 years old in reception 1. The school now goes right through to A-Level.
At the local government school (non fee paying school) school starts at 4 years old. There are nurseries where kids can attend but this is paid. I’m not sure of the price but it is less expensive then the international school. The government school does run IGCSE’s but a very minimal amount of children get entered into exams there which unfortunately means that many children are leaving the government school with no qualifications what so ever. I hear that in the future (sometime) there will be some kind of diploma to give kids some sort of qualifications but this is not currently in place.
The international school follows the British Curriculum. As Mark works there we get a fantastic rate on school fees, regardless of this though we would have sent Arthur to this school.
OG: You recently had your second baby in the Seychelles, tell us more about the health facilities
C: The maternity care has been totally fine. There have been things I’ve not loved, but I’ve heard plenty of other complaints from other parents around the world about the way things have been some where they are, through my blog! I’ve written a post about pregnancy in Seychelles as an expat and another about having a baby here as an expat if you’d like to know more.
For local people health care is free. As expats, we pay as we go but it’s not really expensive. We have health care through Mark’s work but it only kicks in if we have to be hospitalised for something – not things that are through choice though, such as having a baby!
Despite living on a tropical island, there really isn’t too much to be worried about in terms of dangerous animals! We have Mosquitos but no malaria, dengue fever is around but it is very very very uncommon! There have recently been a new influx of ‘Seychelles hairy caterpillars’ the hairs on them are very itchy but not dangerous.
The worst thing on land is the centipedes which have a nasty sting but again it’s not anything life threatening.
OG: Tell us more about island lifestyle, what does a typical weekday or weekend look like?
C: There are no dress restrictions here, it’s a catholic country but by no means strict. People wear what they want! For us it’s mostly as little as possible in the heat! Arthur has spent most his life so far living in just a nappy, or nothing at all!!
When we moved here I thought we’d literally have to be catching our own fish for dinner every night, we had no idea what was available in the supermarket…..now, three years later we do eat fish (I never did in the UK) but certainly not any we have caught ourselves. It’s always locally caught though which is wonderful! Availability of food has improved SO much since we moved here. We have to do most of our cooking from scratch however this means our food is generally much healthier than off the shelf items! Our ‘menu’ is still pretty western though….just minus the fast food chains!
Weekdays have been just myself and Arthur, and now Freddie too! Mark works as Deputy Head at the international school. A typical weekend for us will involve a trip to the beach, Arthur and Freddie both had their first beach trip at 1 week old! Or a walk in the Vallee de Mai – a UNESCO World Hertitage Site of preserved rain forest, or a trip to a hotel for lunch and a swim.
With Mark being deputy head of a school (and even before as ‘just’ a teacher) there is always some work to be done over the weekend too. Of course, there’s still normal house stuff to be done, washing, cleaning, cooking….the boring stuff that follows you wherever you live in the world!!
OG: What are the biggest challenges as a parent in this country?
C: The biggest challenge as an expat parent in the Seychelles is not having family near by, obviously! We often feel guilty for being away from the grandparents but we tell ourselves that the time they do spend together is often extended and full of great times!
I have often worried about the amount of time Arthur had to spend with just me but I know this will be helped now that Freddie has arrived, and of course when he starts going to school… I’m sure soon we will be missing these days!!
As much as I love that we cook healthy here due to mostly cooking from scratch, there are certainly days where I’d love a bit of convenience food for us all particularly snacks. In the UK there’s such an amazing variety of healthy kids snacks that I’d love to be able to get my hands on, or more to the point for Arthur to get his hands on! I know that sounds like a really minor thing but sometimes it’s exactly stuff like this that gets on my nerves!!
OG: What are the things you love most about your island life?
C: What I love most about living here is the sheer amount of time we can spend outside, life is simple! I am honestly so happy that we get to raise our kids here!
Also, as much as I would love to have some support groups such as mum and baby classes these also come with their own negatives. I like that we raise Arthur how we want to with no judgements! We have a wonderful group of friends here, who pretty much are our “expat family” and I know we can always go to them if there’s something we need help with, there’s always an offer to babysit Arthur which I am so greatful for!!
In terms of babies, this is something that the Seychelles is always stocked up on!! You can always get the basics you need for babies whether this is nappies, wipes, formula, baby food, baby wash…..it might not always be your preferred brand but if you build up a good relationship with your local shop they will order stuff in just for you!!
We found that cloth nappies worked best for us as it meant we never had to worry about not being able to get a good brand!
Thanks to Chantelle for sparing the time to talk to Our Globetrotters during this special time in their lives with the arrival of Freddie.
You can catch more about island life with kids on Chantelle’s Blog, Seychelles Mama.
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Images © Seychelles Mama