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Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Malta

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Malta can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Malta?

What are the most common clichés about life in Malta in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,

Priscilla

I think the biggest misconception could be the language. I expected people to speak English a lot more than they actually do. Its hard to integrate with the locals especially if you work. They speak Maltese with each other all the time.

Hi Prescila,
I used to work at sea for part of life and have been to many countries.

All I can tell you is that good and bad are everywhere.  People are the same, they work for a living, etc. and only the faces are different. It all depends on the people you meet and hang around with .

Best regards,

Stephen.

Definitely the language, people often think that because English is an official language in Malta everyone speaks it, it isn't true, besides even the ones that do speak it prefer not to and just like in any country if you don't know the main language you'll be at a disadvantage.

Sledge

My misconception was that it was hot all the time.  I sold all my cold weather clothes before moving here.  What a mistake that was.  The first winter I was here, I really missed my old duffel coat.

As for the language, I've not experienced the same issues as Sledge and Charmender.  All the companies I have worked with - and consequently, all the people I have known - have been international companies and had an English only policy.  Principally because with a lot of different nationalities working in the same office, it is counter productive to effective communication if different languages are spoken so English is the norm. 

Maybe it depends what industry you work in.

Definitely the language has been the most annoying misconception. The majority do not or choose not to speak in English, so if you really want to permanently live here (i am leaving), then Maltese language courses would come in handy! The other misconception is the friendliness...Whilst yes you would be welcome as a tourist, but when you live here and rely on the people and government services, you will notice that quite a bit of EU laws are essentially thrown out the window in place of "MALTIN BISS" when it comes to the rights of EU nationals. Yes you can complain but there is so much hassle and in the end, there are no results. My wife is a non-EU national with spouse residency which technically makes her a European national and the ignorant bigoted treatment she gets has personally put me off making Malta a permanent place of residence, and business.

But again, there is always good and bad everywhere.

It depends where you live and (like someone else said) the industry you are in. In Sliema you absolutely do not need to speak Maltese. Most professionals speak English well and speak in English to one another but of course it's an advantage to know a bit of the language.

alxdavis :

Definitely the language has been the most annoying misconception. The majority do not or choose not to speak in English, so if you really want to permanently live here (i am leaving), then Maltese language courses would come in handy! The other misconception is the friendliness...Whilst yes you would be welcome as a tourist, but when you live here and rely on the people and government services, you will notice that quite a bit of EU laws are essentially thrown out the window in place of "MALTIN BISS" when it comes to the rights of EU nationals. Yes you can complain but there is so much hassle and in the end, there are no results. My wife is a non-EU national with spouse residency which technically makes her a European national and the ignorant bigoted treatment she gets has personally put me off making Malta a permanent place of residence, and business.

But again, there is always good and bad everywhere.

Why should they speak in English when Maltese is their first language, living in Gozo you can manage perfectly  well without speaking Maltese.  Too many people move here and expect it to be the same as where they come from which makes nonsense of moving to another country.

GozoMo- for some Maltese English is their first language (or at the very least, both are used equally). The British influence gave them that and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Whether the Maltese appreciate that or resent it is a personal perspective I think.

AlxDavis: I'm sorry to hear about your experiences.  I haven't had the same issue with the language as you have as every Maltese I know is very proficient in English and speaks it regularly.

As for the friendliness of the people, I think it depends where you live.  I've lived in Marsascala, Gzira, Sta Venera and Zabbar.  In Gzira and Sta Venera, my neighbours and the people working in the local shops were all lovely and friendly.  Same in M'scala.  In Zabbar, I lived on the side closest to Fgura for the first 3 years living at my brother's whilst I was saving for a deposit and had the same experience of lovely friendly people, nice helpful neighbours and friendly shop keepers.

In June, I moved to the other side of Zabbar (closer to Xghajra) and boy is there a difference!  The people around me are utterly vile.  One neighbour called the police on me for making noise when I was doing my flat up because he couldn't sleep!!  It was literally 11am on a weekday this happened!!! 

The guy in the local shop is so rude to me I refuse to go in there anymore, barely notices me when I come in to buy something (if there are other people in the shop, I am stuffed because I will 100% of the time be served last regardless of whether I was first or not), slams my change on the counter like I am bothering him by being a customer.  My neighbours (all except one) stare at me with a look of utter contempt when I say good morning to them and at least once a week I am screamed at by a total stranger to not let my dogs p*ss on their house when I take them for a walk, in a very aggressive manner.  They never do.  Never have done. They are very well trained dogs.  I even had a women threaten me to never walk down her street again with them.  I was seriously, walking along minding my own business with my dogs calmly and quietly walking by my side not bothering anyone and certainly not going to the toilet on houses/cars.

I've been here 8 years and if this had been my first experience of Malta, I would not have lasted long and gotten a idea of the Maltese of being horrible people.  Thankfully, I have lived other places and this is first time I have ever received the treatment I am getting now so I am thinking that maybe it is just something about people on that side of Zabbar that are like that.

I'm giving it a few years, then I will be selling my flat and getting away from there.

GozoMo: True BUT English is an official language here.

alxdavis :

The other misconception is the friendliness...Whilst yes you would be welcome as a tourist, but when you live here and rely on the people and government services, you will notice that quite a bit of EU laws are essentially thrown out the window in place of "MALTIN BISS" when it comes to the rights of EU nationals. Yes you can complain but there is so much hassle and in the end, there are no results.

Couldn't agree more. Also, a lot of the time when I'm in a restaurant, cafe, shop, etc. I feel like I'm a nuisance with the way I'm being served (or ignored). Definitely different living here than being a tourist.

I didn't expect Malta to be so crowded with cars and full of litter. It's something we completely failed to see as tourists because we just enjoyed the sun and sea. Those two sadly are a reason for us to leave the island in the future, but at the moment the good still beats the bad :)

I think one of worst descriptions, and totally unwarranted, comes from David Niven's book 'The Moons a Balloon'.
"Smells, Bells and Pregnant Women", if it isn't from that book I know he certainly said that 'Malta is a sod of a place'.

I think this is unwarranted because when you spend any time in any place it becomes what you make of it - If you don't enjoy it then you are missing something.
I was stationed at Luqa Sep 1972 to January 1974 and loved every minute of it. Most of this time was spent in a flat (St Lawrences) in Marsaskala, wonderful.
I revisited in September 2012 and loved it all over again, met up with old friends after a 38 year absence and it was like I'd never left the place.

We are talking about one of the most historically packed places on the planet, it compares to places like Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Greece in it's history, and even more so in terms of age than some of them.

It is now changing, uncontrolled building is rampant, immigrants from African countries are everywhere (especially Marsa of course), but I still find the Maltese people very friendly and welcoming.
You can't blame the people for the policies and rules of the government and the EU parliament.

MintyMagic :

AlxDavis:

In June, I moved to the other side of Zabbar (closer to Xghajra) and boy is there a difference!  The people around me are utterly vile.  One neighbour called the police on me for making noise when I was doing my flat up because he couldn't sleep!!  It was literally 11am on a weekday this happened!!! 

The guy in the local shop is so rude to me I refuse to go in there anymore, barely notices me when I come in to buy something (if there are other people in the shop, I am stuffed because I will 100% of the time be served last regardless of whether I was first or not), slams my change on the counter like I am bothering him by being a customer.  My neighbours (all except one) stare at me with a look of utter contempt when I say good morning to them and at least once a week I am screamed at by a total stranger to not let my dogs p*ss on their house when I take them for a walk, in a very aggressive manner.  They never do.  Never have done. They are very well trained dogs.  I even had a women threaten me to never walk down her street again with them.  I was seriously, walking along minding my own business with my dogs calmly and quietly walking by my side not bothering anyone and certainly not going to the toilet on houses/cars.

I've been here 8 years and if this had been my first experience of Malta, I would not have lasted long and gotten a idea of the Maltese of being horrible people.  Thankfully, I have lived other places and this is first time I have ever received the treatment I am getting now so I am thinking that maybe it is just something about people on that side of Zabbar that are like that.

I'm giving it a few years, then I will be selling my flat and getting away from there.

OMG im so sorry you are going through that after buying!
i have been here 4.5 years total, have lived in ibrag, gzira and msida, have found them all lovely and have now just bought a place on the border of hamrun and marsa. our neighbours are all lovely, its the most multicultural place ive lived in thus here far as we have a variety of maltese, arabs, africans and europeans, everyone sits outside, says good morning and has been lovely. although to be fair a lot of the maltese are old and dont speak english, which is normal to me. we dont have any issues at all with the refugees as the rowdy ones are mostly over the other side of marsa.
in regards to the language i come from maltese family so i was fully aware that maltese people can speak english but like to speak maltese, just like my latvian friend can speak russian but much prefers speaking latvian. i have actually found this to be a good thing as now 4+ years on i am really starting to understand whats going on and if this is going to be your permanant home that should be your goal and thats how integration works, not others making concessions for you...

1 major misconception was that the cost of living would be low, its definitely risen since 2010 when i did my first stint here, but even back then i wouldnt have considered it a cheap place to live and work.

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