Sebastijan in Gzira: "With so many different nationalities living here, our life can only be richer"

Expat interviews
  • Sebastijan in Gzira
Published on 2015-08-20 at 00:00 by team
Sebastijian comes from Croatia. He settled in Gzira nearly two years ago following a job transfer. He enjoys going to the beach and visit places with his wife and children.

Where are you from, Sebastijan, and what are you doing nowadays?

I'm from Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. I was actually working for the same company back in Croatia, but in the IT department. When I came to Malta, I switched profession. I'm now a sports trader/odds compiler.

Why did you choose to expatriate to Malta?

Coming to Malta was firstly influenced by my work, but some other factors like the way of life and the climate had a big part in our decision to move.

What has attracted you to Gzira?

To be perfectly honest, originally I tried to find flat in Swieqi as most of my colleagues lived there. When I couldn't find anything that satisfied me there, I started looking other towns and the best place I found was in Gzira. Since then, we have moved once, two streets away and we hope to stay in our current apartment while we are in Malta.
From today's perspective, Gzira was the best move I could have taken. Everything is close by (as we don't own a car), yet it is not so noisy. The school is good, nursery for our younger son is great. It truly is a home and whenever I'm asked about recommendations I always say Gzira.

What were the procedures to follow for a Croatian national to move there?

Unfortunately, Malta just triggers another 3 years on limited employment to Croatian nationals. This means that if a Croat wants to work in Malta, he needs a work visa. To get one, the employer needs to prove that he couldn't find labor locally. All this makes it hard for Croats to come and work in Malta. Actually, as far as I know there are, in total, less then 20 Croats on the island.

How long have you been in the country?

On August 30, it will be exactly 2 years for me and a bit less for the rest of my family.

What are the local labor market's features?

It seems to me that if you speak Swedish or Norwegian you can very easy find job in the gaming industry. As for the rest, I'm not so much familiar with the labor market. But I can say that if you want good response regarding your application, it is best to be on the island. I don't know many people who got response to their job applications without being on the island.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available?

I would say yes, it was difficult. I had an agent who was showing me various places and also giving me his personal opinions about them when I told him that my wife and 2 kids will be joining me. He was a very big help. We probably saw 30 or 40 flats and houses. Some were terrible and other were nice, but nice ones didn't want to rent out for more than 6 months.
Although prices are much higher than in Croatia, that wasn't my biggest problem. I wanted something modern and with natural light. For me, incredibly, most of the places had very outdated furniture or were so badly positioned that it seems like it's sundown all the time. So when I saw one apartment in Gzira, I knew after 2 minutes that it would be our new home.
A list of things to be aware of and what to ask and check was of great help. I got the list on Expat Blog and I gave to a couple of my friends who were moving. For our second apartment, we didn't want to move from Gzira. So we contacted 15 agencies to see what they offer. Sadly, I can give positive reference for just two of them. Others didn't even try to contact us after our initial meeting or they showed us something totally opposite of what we were looking for. In the end, we found our current apartment on Maltapark directly from owner. And I must say this - always rent first, don't buy! It's a rental market and there are plenty of vacant properties.

How do you find the Maltese lifestyle?

All of my friends asked me that, and my answer is - very relaxed and easy going. Actually, it's the same lifestyle as on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Even the architecture is very similar, which all made it even easier for us go get used to Malta. Even the people share some similarities with inhabitants of that Croatia region.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

With so many different nationalities living here, our life can only be richer. I see that especially with my oldest son. His best friends are Hungarians and Venezuelans and his girlfriend is Maltese.

What does your every day life look like in Gzira?

A day like in every other city. I can't point out anything special.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

The driver that was sent by the company to pick me at airport and take me to hotel didn't show up. That wasn't a good start for me. Other than that, there is rubbish and dog litter on pavements. I really think the government should invest more in cleaning of the streets.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Malta? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

It all depends on one's income and how he wants to live. Low-paid jobs are not so hard to find, but that will be pure survival. Most of the stuff is more expensive than on mainland, but that's where Internet kicks - we order a bunch of stuff online. As for food, it's easy to combine a few stores and get good deals so that your food expenses are not too high.
Some people find it difficult to live here as Malta is a small island, so they feel inhibited. But with great airline connections, that's not a problem at all.

How do you spend your leisure time?

Since it's summer time, we go to the beach most of the time. Other than that, we try to visit places which are interesting to kids, like the Playmobil factory, the national aquarium, various kid parks, etc. As we don't have a car, sometimes even just going somewhere a bit further by a bus is an adventure for itself.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

I miss very few things besides family and close friends. The thing I miss the most is to sit in a bar where I'm like home, get my drink and take Sportske novosti (Croatian sports newspaper) and just enjoy life. And I would like to take my sons on Saturday/Sunday to our club's football game. That is something I dreamed of when I was younger, but hey - you can't have everything.

Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

Do a proper planning before moving. Do your research about the island, school for kids, how the health system works, etc. Visit the island for a couple of weeks before moving, just to see if it really suits you. A short holiday won't be enough.
Rent the property first. Maybe you won't like the area or the property, so you can move easily. Use Expat Blog to find many useful information. And in the end - good luck and welcome!

What are your plans for the future?

Our next destination should be China or USA. But that will be something not so soon. So who knows what life will bring us.

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