A new week and a new adventure from the blog series Expat Story: World Through My Eyes. This time a new story comes from Malta! My own visit to this wonderful island was really brief – so I can’t stress enough how much I´ve actually enjoyed reading about Malta in details! Check all the pros and cons of being an expat in Malta told by Aiste!
An expat in Malta
I’m Aiste, or Ais for short, a Lithuanian living on a yellow rock called Malta. I’m also an avid traveler and in my spare time, I write my own stories on a personal blog www.no146.com. I’m a professional who has been enjoying expat life in this small, Mediterranean island since mid-2013. Initially, I came to Malta for my L.L.M. studies and as you can see, I never really left the island.
It was not my first time living abroad, in fact, I had a chance to enjoy some true Dutch life whilst on an Erasmus exchange program in the Netherlands. Afterwards, I spent a beautiful year living in Italy and enjoying the best of Italian culture.
I’ve never been a person who settles down easily: I was always in search of that perfect place. As I like to say, me coming to Malta was the most accidental thing that could have happened to me. Back in 2013, while considering the perfect place for my next adventure, being all young and dreamy, the only two things I really considered were English language and good weather [coming from a country which suffers from extremely cold winters and very short and mild summers – weather was a really influential factor!] Once I found out about Malta – the decision was made… And I have to say – one of the best decisions in my life!
Malta Through Lithuanian Eyes
I have to admit that when I landed in Malta for the very first time, I had a slight cultural shock. Nothing about being an expat in Malta has met my initial expectations. First of all, it was smaller, much smaller than what I was used to [and I thought I came from a small country!]. From the rooftop of my first apartment, I could see all of the island!
Secondly, the architecture was very different from what I imagined it would be. I saw Arabic style houses all around me, mostly limestone in color; the streets all looked the same and were confusing. My very first day in Malta I got lost for the first time in my life! At the same time, when I went to Valletta, I saw beautiful Baroque architecture cathedrals and Victorian-style houses. I believe architecture and urban planning in Malta shocked me the most. In both the good and the bad way.
On the one hand, I enjoy the cultural pot Malta is and how the cultures here beautifully mash all together. On the other hand, I come from a country where the urban planning of city spaces is extremely important, but here in Malta it barely exists.
Since Malta is a bilingual country, the language was never much of an issue, as the majority of the population here speaks English. However, there are times where you still find locals who cannot speak English. In situations like these, my knowledge of Italian [as around 50% of the locals can speak/understand Italian pretty well] and hand gestures have saved me! And even if this wouldn`t be helpful, you can always find a solution: the Maltese are friendly and helpful people!
I was also surprised that Malta is not a bicycle-friendly country, considering its size and extremely good weather conditions all year around. Since living in Malta for three years now, I feel like the attitude towards cyclists has slightly improved for the better, however, a lot of development needs to be made in order for a cyclist to feel safe on the road.
I see Malta as a cultural pot where everything has melted together, found synthesis and coexistence throughout centuries of colonial history.
Reality vs Expectations
Is Malta too small?
I did not have any fears when I was moving to Malta three years ago. I believe that such fears came later, once I´ve already become an expat in Malta. One of these was asking myself whether Malta is too small for me. And to be honest, I still do not have an answer to this question till this day.
The Mediterranean laid-back lifestyle
Malta, like any other place, has both met my expectations and disappointed in some ways. It met my expectations of the Mediterranean lifestyle I was looking for and the ever-growing expat community where you can meet people from all over the world.
On the other hand, it disappointed me in terms of services: bureaucracy can be overwhelming sometimes. Getting things done here can be quite frustrating. Also, such things as for ex. finding a decent apartment could become extremely problematic.
If I could give you only one piece of advice on being an expat in Malta, it would be “be patient and determined”. Patience and determination were the only two things that helped me sort out my Maltese ID card application, opening my bank account and many other local matters.
All these fears, expectations and disappointments taught me one thing: there is no “perfect” place, rather it is only what you make out of it.
Coming from an EU country, immigrating in Malta was not much of a trouble at all. However, I would say it took some time for me to integrate into society here.
Making friends is never easy, especially when you live on an island were people tend to come, stay for a year or so and then move on. Therefore having a long-lasting friendship is something that I´ve always found difficult. However, once you start working, studying or going out you also meet locals, which helps a lot to understand the mentality of the Maltese and make lasting connections. Maltese are quite outgoing people: you will learn a lot about the culture, country, and locals!
Only in Malta
I live in a central area of Malta, 10 minutes from the seaside. Probably the thing I enjoy the most here is the ability to have a lovely stroll to my work by the seaside, enjoying the beautiful views of Valletta and the nearby towns. I don’t think I can get ever tired of that. It also allows me to escape traffic, which can be a nightmare here! [luckily my boyfriend is my cab driver]
Only in Malta, you can take a twenty-minute ferry ride to its smaller, but even more beautiful sister, island Gozo and have the most relaxing, peaceful time with unbelievably good food and gorgeous beaches. Visiting Gozo is one thing that everyone must do at least once in their lifetime!
Buses in Malta are unreliable. I could tell you hundreds of stories, like that time I was on a bus and it broke down in the middle of nowhere. I had to wait another few hours for another one coming. Or when the bus I was waiting for simply never passed by… In this sense, being an expat in Malta could be a challenge! Get yourself ready for some crazy bus drivers, late buses, and mad traffic! Just have patience!
Before and After
I’m still living in Malta and enjoying all the amazing things this island has to offer. My “before” and “during” you have already heard. And for the “after”… You’ll have to stick around to find out! You can follow my adventures in Malta or abroad via my blog www.no146.com or Instagram: aisteg.
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