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Mauritius - Lifestyle & culture

Modern Mauritian culture is an amalgamation of the cultures of the various groups that have settled in the country over the course of its turbulent history. Over the last five hundred years, the island has been settled on by French and Dutch colonists, people from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Madagascar and a small population of Chinese merchants.

The two primary cultural influences in this mix are French creole and Indian, resulting in an ethnic majority that is creole speaking but still observes many of the religious traditions and customs of the Indian subcontinent.

Many elements of Mauritian culture – such as the island’s famous cuisine – represent a harmonious blend of cultural influences. However, at some levels Mauritian cultural groups can be insular, and there is little intermingling between the major cultural and ethnic groups.

Customs and traditions

Mauritians are laid back and easy-going. However, there are a few things to be aware of when interacting with the local population:

  • Hindus typically remove their shoes when entering a home or a place of worship. If you’re invited into a Hindu home or temple, check whether your hosts are barefoot, and if so, remove your shoes.
  • Mauritian trade is built on barter, whether you’re dealing with a shop owner or a taxi driver. As a tourist, you need to ensure you negotiate the best prices on everything from clothes to curios and taxi fares.
  • Mauritians alert to the business opportunities offered by tourists may attempt to provide you with services ranging from boat charters to airport shuttles. Their sales pitches may be aggressive – don’t be intimidated, and be firm but polite when not interested.
  • Although English is an official language of Mauritius, the majority of Mauritians prefer to speak French and creole. It’s worth taking the time to brush up on your basic French. Local people are likely to warm up to visitors who make an effort to communicate in their language.
  • Mauritian culture is conservative, and Mauritians tend to dress accordingly. Although they have become accustomed to different habits from tourists, it’s considered polite for men to wear shirts when not on the beach, and women are encouraged to dress modestly.
  • Mauritians follow some unconventional road rules and driving on the roads can be alarming for foreigners. Watch out for motorcyclists on the roadsides, and bear in mind that it’s the norm for cars to straddle lanes when on the open road.

Culture and nightlife

The type of nightlife available to you will depend on where you’re staying in Mauritius. For the most part, nightlife centres on activities at the many resorts throughout the island, which have bars and restaurants, and host Sega shows and dancing. However, these venues offer few opportunities to mingle with locals or to get a feel for the local culture.

If you’re eager to explore Mauritian nightlife outside of the resort scene, however, there are some good options:

  • On the southwest coast, you’ll find the C Beach Club, which is the perfect venue to enjoy a beach party hosted by international DJs.
  • The Banana Beach Club in Grand Baie is an established beach bar that’s regarded as one of the island’s premier party venues.
  • Big Willy’s in Tamarin Bay has become the centre of Mauritian nightlife for visitors staying near Flic en Flac and surrounds.
  • If you’re looking for a fun pub night, head to Lambic in Port Louis. This hall serves up smooth jazz and a variety of international beers.