Stephanie left Ascot for
Kerkennah one year ago
The Kerkennah Islands are a group of islands lying off the east coast of Tunisia in the Gulf of Gabes. The two main islands are Chergui and Gharbi. Once used as a port and look-out point for the Romans, Kerkennah is now known for its peace and tranquility, with many affluent Tunisians choosing to build their second homes and spend their holidays there!
Stephanie, originally from Ascot moved there in June 2007, with her Tunisian husband and two children, Jasmine aged 10 and Adam aged 8. With her husband's family all originally from Kerkennah, they have now built a huge villa there.
She describes her life on the island to No Marmite In Tunisia.
How long have you lived in Kerkennah and why did you move there ?
We will have been a whole year here on the 3rd June, time has flown by. We moved here for a more simple/stress free life. Having sold 2 of our properties and paying all our debts, it has given us a debt-free/mortgage-free life here in Tunisia. Our remaining properties are rented. We hope to start a business, but, not wanting to jump in at the deep end, are still relaxing and gathering ideas.
How is life different on the island as compared to Britain ?
Mainly that the sun shines 99% of the time! It is very family orientated for us here, my husband has a large family and people are always in and out, the door is always open. Homeschooling my children is obviously a big change for the kids, but they, as well as I, enjoy it. Being on a small island, there isn't much to do/places to go, but there are a lot of beaches and sea. Finishing school and going straight to the beach is always an option.
How do your homes differ ?
We lived in a 4 bedroomed, detached in Ascot on a housing estate, moving to our 5 bedroomed villa here, but the house here is 3 times the size! We are 5 minutes from the sea (but beach there is not great) but do have sea views. It is lovely to have all the space, although it does mean a lot more cleaning, and that involves a lot of time sweeping floors!
How do you find the people of Kerkennah compared to the British and is there any difference between the people of Kerkennah compared to the mainland Tunisians ?
People here are very laid back and friendly, everyone knows everyone, and that includes all their business too! But it does mean that living with houses around you and knowing all the neighbours, you feel safer. Kerkennians like to say that they are much more friendly and trustworthy than mainland Tunisians, but I guess that would be the same as comparing a small British island to the people of London!
How is the crime rate compared to mainland Tunisia and to Britain ?
Obviously crime here is minimal, and we rarely hear of anything. If anything, a couple of houses have been broken into or the odd drunken fight between themselves is about all that happens.
Compare the price of food/household bills/general cost of living in Kerkennah as compared to your life in the UK.
Cost of living is very cheap. We don't have a mortgage here which is a huge plus, bills/council tax are minimal despite heating/air con/electric oven etc. Fruit and veg along with sandwiches/cakes are very cheap compared to UK, but a big shop in a general store doesn't seem to be that cheap. Although I have found out that if you eat like a Tunisian, it doesn't cost much, but all the nik-naks and extra rubbish that we buy in UK (ie crisps, chocolate etc) do cost a lot.
How do you get to Kerkennah from mainland Tunisia ? How long does it take ?
Car ferry is from Sfax taking just over an hour. Cost is 650 millimes per person and 4400 millimes for a car. Comparing it to £50 for the hour ferry ride from Southampton to Isle of Wight, I would say it is a bargain! We have seen dolphins by the side of the boat which is exciting, but generally as I have done it quite a few times it is pretty boring. I would recommend using the toilet before getting on the boat or bringing a peg for your nose for the onboard one! Our house is about 20 minutes drive from the port in Kerkennah to the capital of Remla.
What are the main tourist attractions on the island of Kerkennah ?
None really. There is a touristic zone with 5-6 small hotels, but they seem to have diminishing numbers of European and increasing Tunisian clients. People come to relax and swim, apart from that, there isn't much else!
What is the weather like compared to the rest of Tunisia ?
It seems to be sunnier here than the north of Tunisia and they have less rain. Also there is nearly always wind/breeze which isn't nice in winter, but does stop it from being unbearably hot in summer.
How are you finding the language, have you and the children picked it up easily ?
I have spent a great deal of time in Tunisia in the 15 years that we have been married. I lived here for a year and half and got married here when I was 18 years old, lived in Kerkennah for a year when my daughter was born and apart from that, we have visited at least twice a year for holidays. The last 5 years we have come by car from the UK and spent 6 weeks of the school summer holiday here. My Arabic is quite good, I can understand most of a conversation and have 1-1 conversations but tend to sit quietly and listen in a group. The kids have progressed too really well, although are too embarrassed to speak to adults in Arabic. Within other children they always speak in Arabic.
How many times have you managed to go back to the UK, since you have been there...would you like to go back more often ?
I went back last October for my grandfather's funeral and we went back over the Christmas period for 7 weeks. We stayed in one of our rented properties which the tenants had left, and spent time renovating/shopping and spending time with my family. If the airline prices were cheaper, we would probably go back more often, but a flight for the 4 of us from Tunisia return is about 2400 dinars!
What do you miss about Britain ?
Obviously my family. Also miss all the shops, magazines and Cadbury's chocolate! My parents are now retired so have the option to come here whenever they want, my brother comes every summer and always has done with us and we can go back to England anytime we feel.
What don't you miss about Britain ?
Definitely the good old English weather!
Do you see the move as permanent, or do you see yourselves back in the UK at some time in the future ?
For the time being we are happy as a family to be here but who knows what the future holds. We may in the future move to Tunis where there is an international school for the kids or return back to England. We just take each day as it comes and we know that the option to return to the UK is always there the day anyone is fed up.