Lying firmly in the midst of the Mediterranean, the white and honey coloured island of Malta set against the dazzling backdrop of the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean, is famed for its relaxed and friendly approach to life. The much loved island even gets a favourable reference in the Bible as the place where St. Paul was shipwrecked and where he was shown ‘no little kindness’ by the natives. And the good news is that this hospitality with its long tradition continues firmly into the present. That said, there are perhaps a few things expats in Malta should keep in mind about living here that will assist in adjusting to the culture and life on this historical Mediterranean sanctuary.
Getting to know the Maltese traditions
Bear in mind the island has a long history of visitors coming from one place and another to visit the island so the Maltese are more than a little used to seeing people from foreign climes. Being a foreigner here isn’t particularly a novelty, and perhaps because of this long exposure, you may sometimes find that a little perseverance is necessary to break the ice and make friendships. But when they are made, they are far from the superficial variety and are the kind that run deep. It’s worth the initial effort.
On the matter of getting to know the Maltese, don’t be put off by what may on the surface appear to be formality. It’s a part of Maltese traditions to use titles and surnames initially and move onto first names when invited to do so which shouldn’t take long.
Invited to dinner
Expats in Malta will often find that it won’t be long until being invited to a Maltese home for dinner. Customarily guests take something along such as flowers, chocolates or a bottle of wine. The host will usually assign you a seat. If your tummy is beginning to bulge due to all the Mediterranean hospitality, you needn’t feel obligated to leave the plate completely bereft of leftovers. It isn’t taken badly if you leave a little.
Religious and family values
As a predominantly Catholic country traditional family values are held in high regard and so marriage is a serious and sacred commitment here, certainly more so than in many Western European nations. In fact, divorce was only legalised in 2011. On the matter of marriage, it’s not perceived in a bad light for women to better their social standing through marriage.
Religion still plays a major role in island life which is seen by the celebration of numerous festivals spread throughout the year. Expats are more than welcome to join in and enjoy the delicacies in offer.
Pace of life
Remember you are in a hot Mediterranean island that gets very hot in the summer, and the pace of life is somewhat slower than in the UK for example. That’s part of the reason you’re here in the first place. People may tend to move at a much slower pace when shopping for groceries for example. Trades people may seem to be rather unhurried too. Just learn to accept this cultural variation and appreciate that most things aren’t as urgent as you’ve been accustomed to thinking in Western Europe anyway and enjoy the laid back pace of this Mediterranean island. Don’t forget, too, that a lot of shops shut in the afternoon as people take a siesta, but then they compensate by staying open later. Be prepared to adjust, and you’ll fit in in no time.
Learn some phrases
Expats who are serious about acclimatising and settling ought to make some effort to learn the language. It is an interesting mix of Arabic and European languages and making things a little easier is the fact they use the Roman alphabet. Just showing that you’re prepared to learn a few simple phrases will go a long way in making friends. Don’t worry about making mistakes in your bungling attempts to communicate either, they will appreciate the effort.
So don’t be overwhelmed by the cultural challenges of becoming an expat in Malta. With the right attitude it won’t take long to learn the Maltese traditions and adjust to life on this beautiful Mediterranean island.