Identity is so important to many of us living abroad. When you grow up in a country that is not your own, you always feel a sense of yearning for your ‘home’ country and it can take a while for young people to figure out who they really are. My family moved to the UK again when I was nine years old. I had lived in Seychelles for seven years and called it home although I had been born in the UK.
When I arrived back in the UK 7 years later, I didn’t feel so out of place as I had plenty of family there too. The only place that felt a bit strange was at school. I had to speak in English all the time, I knew I had an accent and I knew that I wasn’t considered British.
These days when people ask me where I’m from, my response changes depending on where I am in the world. Here in the UAE, I am British first and Seychellois second. In the UK, I am just from Seychelles. I hardly refer to myself as British when I am in the UK.
Now let’s talk about the term ‘Creole’ or Kreol in Seychellois creole. This word, mostly used as a noun and sometimes used as an adjective, is so nuanced and again the meaning changes depending on where you are and who you’re talking to. It’s all about context.
So what does this word mean to me?
Creole describes my ethnic identity in the best way possible. There is something very distinctive about Seychellois Creole culture and identity and the term Creole encapsulates that perfectly for me. Is Creole a race? No, not to me, although I know that this is not the case for every Creole person around the globe. In Seychelles, every Seychellois is a Creole ‘irrespective of colour, race, ancestry or social position’ (Penda Choppy, 2018). Creole also highlights the slave ancestry of Seychellois people although this aspect of Creoleness is sometimes ignored as the term Creole has been romanticised in society.
I didn’t start thinking about my racial identity until I was in secondary school in the UK. It was there that people seemed to be interested in finding out what ‘colour’ I was. The first time I heard this question, I replied with something like ‘well I’m brown’. Friends then started saying that I was ‘brown like a cup of tea’. When I started to apply for jobs or needed to fill out a form to disclose my ethnicity, I started to think about my race/ ethnicity even more. Most of the time I would tick the option ‘Any other mixed background’ as that was the option that I felt described me most accurately (although not accurate at all). I find it interesting that I didn’t consider ticking ‘Any other African background’ even though Seychelles is an African Island Nation in the Indian Ocean. Other times, I would tick ‘Other’ and write ‘Seychellois’ if there was a space provided to specify my ethnic identity even more. This dissociation with Africa is very common in Creole communities and perhaps I had internalised this as a young person and may explain why I didn’t think to tick the correct option.
Now, being a little bit older and wiser, I would most definitely tick the option ‘Any other African background’ as that is the best fit for Seychellois Creoles in my view. Seychellois Creole is an African ethnic group. Seychellois Creoles can be black, white, asian or mixed. What we need to remember is that race is a social construct that was invented to divide people into specific groups. When the idea of race was invented by white colonialists, the intention was to keep the white race at the top and to ensure that black people stayed at the bottom and remained divided from other groups. This is why it’s so difficult to define your race if you do not fall exactly into the predetermined and prescribed black, white, asian or native categories. In Seychelles, all Seychellois take pride in their Creole identity and it is not questioned. It is only when you leave Seychelles that this identity is sometimes called into question and needs explaining.
I would be interested to hear about how other Seychellois living outside of Seychelles describe their racial or ethnic identity. I also wonder whether this is even something that Seychellois living in Seychelles even think about. Let me know in the comments how you identify. Which box would you tick?
I have copied the list of suggested ethnic groups by gov.uk below. This is the list you may be familiar with when asked to indicate your ethnicity in the UK.
English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British
Gypsy or Irish Traveller
Any other White background
Mixed / Multiple ethnic groups
White and Black Caribbean
White and Black African
White and Asian
Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background
Asian / Asian British
Any other Asian background
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British
Any other Black / African / Caribbean background
Other ethnic group
Any other ethnic group
Penda Choppy, « The pepper in the pot: The uneasy relationship between Creoleness and
Blackness », Études Créoles – Vol. XXXVI n°1 & 2 - 2018 [En ligne], consulté le ..., URL :