Originally published: August 2017
Note: I wrote another article about Malta in 2022, sharing my latest views and feelings about the situation there.
A few years ago I decided to leave my home country and try my luck abroad. This wasn’t a spontaneous decision at all, rather it was the result of many years during which my disillusion and frustration with Malta had been growing and growing until I felt I had to take action or I would fall into a very negative perpetual state of mind.
Of course, I have many friends and dear family back in Malta, but honestly, I don’t miss living there. I make it a point to visit at least once a year and I usually have a good time catching up with friends and spending time with my family, but I don’t feel like I would like to go back and live there.
As you can imagine, several friends and family members ask me why this is so. I’ve finally found some time to really list the reasons for my moving away from Malta and why I don’t feel as comfortable living there as I do in other places.
While this post will be very honest, I’m afraid that some readers will find it too negative or downright offensive. Please keep in mind that is an honest outpouring of my thoughts and feelings and is no way meant to attack anyone or show any lack of appreciation. I did grow up in Malta and received many good things, I was blessed with a great family and a good education and also had lots of great experiences. However, as I grew older I started to feel that this was not the place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life in, and this is an attempt to describe why.
Malta is described in propaganda as being an idyllic “paradise on earth” island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Surely life is incredibly good over there! Not to mention it’s a tax haven!
First of all, Malta is no tax haven if you’re Maltese. There are a few schemes designed to attract business and executives from abroad. These schemes have been widely used and abused, and that’s where the reputation for being a tax haven is coming from. The island is also famous for housing a great number of online gambling companies. These companies came to Malta due to the fiscal and regulatory incentives and they are by and large doing extremely well.
Online gambling is not something that interests me and in general, I don’t like the vibe that they have about them. I’m sure many Maltese will disagree with me on this, but this is my view on the topic. The gambling companies pay very well and usually provide attractive offices and perks to their employees. Due to them, property prices in the Sliema and St Julian’s area have risen to incredible levels (many would agree that it’s bubble stage already). A whole financial services industry has grown to support these companies.
The downside? Apart from the moral doubts of working at these companies or even incentivizing them to move to Malta, I see a lot of dependence on them. If another country were to offer better regulations and tax incentives, it is likely that many of these companies would leave, as they don’t have any significant ties with Malta. They are merely using the country. In the eventuality of them leaving, we will see serious repercussions on property prices and the financial services industry. Whether this situation ever plays out is anyone’s guess, but it’s definitely something that has always bothered me.
Now I don’t mean to turn this into an attack on gambling companies. They do well to seek out the best environment for them to operate so I don’t blame them for anything. I certainly didn’t leave Malta because of this, so let’s explore some other more important reasons for me leaving.
If I were to describe Malta in one word, it would be frustrating. There is no doubt that islands are (were?) blessed with natural beauty, great weather and beautiful sea. I think the small size of the islands is, however, a big problem for people like me. It is clear that you can find idiots in every country, but in bigger countries, you can mostly keep away from them. You can frequent different places, live in different areas, and generally live amongst people that you like. Not so in Malta, every time you step outside of your door you are bound to experience some kind of ignorance, be it illegal construction, irresponsible driving, and unprofessional behavior. There is no deeply ingrained culture of doing things the right way. Rather it’s more of a “whatever, if it barely works then it’s good enough”.
I acknowledge that I have trouble really describing what it is that frustrates me and pains me so much about living in Malta. I also know that most Maltese genuinely love living in Malta, and whenever I have tried to speak out against the way things are done, the usual reaction is to try and shut me up and tell me that things aren’t so bad.
I inevitably realized that there was no way I’m going to change the culture of a country. One of the best pieces of advice was given to me by a Bulgarian builder in Malta. In one of my moments of frustration, the builder, who was fixing some stuff in our office, overheard me complain about things in Malta. He calmly came up to me and told me “my friend, if you don’t like the menu, change the restaurant”. It was a seemingly joking and simple comment, but it rang so true for me that that was the moment that I decided to leave for good, and sure enough, two months later I left.
Living in Malta, at least as a local, involves sustaining yourself (whether you want it or not) on a constant stream of local news. You can’t escape the latest political mess, and the smallest incidence can make front-page news. It is really an environment that discourages you to think big and expand your mental horizons. For many years I found it very stifling and I harbored a lot of internal anxiety, frustration, and anger due to this situation over which I had little control.
Since moving abroad, all these effects instantly disappeared and I finally felt free to be what I really want to be and rapidly increase my knowledge in the areas that interest me, such as investing.
They say that a person is the sum of the other people that are closest to him. In Malta, I always struggled to surround myself with people who would constantly inspire me and drive me to become a better person. Due to the small island mentality, there seems to be a lot of jealousy and people try to keep you in line. You’re best just being an average Joe behaving like everyone else if you want to live a good life there. Do something significantly different than the rest and you’re going to have a very difficult time indeed.
But come on Jean, you might say, what about the lovely “best in the world” weather that Malta is blessed with? Well yes, Malta does indeed have very hot summers and mild wet winters. The problem is that the vast majority of houses have zero insulation and in the winter months you can feel really uncomfortable due to the insane levels of humidity and cold inside. Although I always felt bad during the winters, reality really struck during my first experience of winter in the UK, when I realized that I was much happier in winter there than I had ever been in Malta. Like many other countries, buildings there are well insulated and have good heating, so you can stay in your flip-flops and shorts inside in winter. In Malta, I would be wearing jackets, long johns and a beanie and I’d still be uncomfortably cold.
One other big pain point: the roads. Malta’s road surfaces are among the worst in Europe and are more befitting of a third-world country than a country that presents itself as being a hub of innovation and being on par with its European counterparts. I once tried taking my Brompton bike to Malta to cycle around during our holiday but ended up walking back home after 200 meters. There are way too many potholes, bumps, and uneven road surfaces to be able to ride a bike like that comfortably without damaging it. Not to mention the challenge of staying alive when riding a bike in Malta.
Some of my friends have been severely injured due to irresponsible driving or bad road surfaces, and one of them even died by the roadside after being run over by a youngster driving without a license. I won’t even get started on the Maltese judiciary, but I’ll just mention that after eight years this man has not been sentenced yet. See here and here for more great examples of Maltese incompetency where justice is concerned.
A related aspect is the lack of good pavements. Unfortunately, Malta is not a walkable place at all. We grow up getting accustomed to getting out of our houses and into the car to get whisked to wherever we need to be. This leads to people exercising less and the resulting obesity issues. Malta has the highest child obesity rate in Europe, and Maltese adults are the second most obese in Europe. This fact is evident to me whenever I land in Malta and have a look around. I believe the walkability issue is a significant contributor to the problem. Owning a car is almost a necessity and gives you the independence to go wherever you want, while public transport is of average quality and mostly consists of buses and taxes (an underground metro system would be a game changer). Of course, we can all see with our own eyes that traffic has increased exponentially during the past twenty years, to the point that you are now guaranteed to get stuck in a traffic jam every time you go for a drive, at any time except during the night. Given that in general people tend to keep their cars far longer than the European average, we have a lot of pollution from vehicles and that affects everyone’s health.
Moreover, Maltese people in general tend to overeat, with typically huge portions being served in families, while fast food has gained in popularity. The famous mediterranean diet is not really present in Malta, instead people tend to consume large quantities of bread, junk food and pasta. Kids are given sweets abundantly. This is coupled with a sedentary lifestyle and other bad habits like smoking and alcohol consumption, and you get the resulting obesity situation. A visit to the country’s main hospital will also give a clear indication to where all this is leading to, with crowded waiting rooms filled with people who could clearly used a better diet instead of being given more pills.
Back to the lack of paving. In other countries, I got used to walking a lot, but in Malta it’s impossible to run any errands on foot except if you’re going around the corner from your house. Pavements seem to be an afterthought and come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tiled, some have rough surfaces, some are super narrow etc. What this also means is that we have a big problem with accessibility. One of the main highlights of my trips to Malta is spending time with my 93-year-old grandma, and I would love to be able to take her out for a walk while we chat about our lives. Alas, it’s pretty much impossible given the state of the pavements and the very close proximity of cars and trucks belching out fumes.
Lastly, let’s come back to the idyllic island thing one more time. During the past thirty years, there has been way too much indiscriminate development. Many ugly buildings were built and a good part of them were built in areas that were meant to remain in their natural state. The result is an overexploited island where very few green areas remain. As a kid, I used to go out and play soccer with my friends in the fields nearby. This was commonplace wherever you lived in Malta. Nowadays there is no chance that kids would be able to do that.
Everything’s been built up, and as I said, it’s been one huge land rush with developers making big money while they exploited every inch of the island. Of course, this constant development has also brought with it a lot of air and noise pollution, apart from visual eyesores. We are now seeing an increasingly high rate of respiratory diseases, and frequent complaints about noise due to construction. Gozo, the other island, is currently at a very nice balance between nature and man-made buildings, but I’m afraid that the developers will turn their greedy eyes there next.
How about the famous Smart City? Rather than attracting all the big IT companies and making Malta another silicon valley, as was originally promised, it’s been sitting there mostly empty. Moreover, it seems likely that it will soon be turned into another luxury apartment complex. This land had been given to the Smart City developers on the condition that it will be used for ICT purposes, but it seems that the new fashion is to completely disregard such contracts. Real estate agents are already selling apartments on plan even though it is still technically an IT office center and there are absolutely no building plans in place to turn it into an apartment complex. Something similar happened just last year with the former ITS complex in Pembroke. Such free-for-all practices are very common when it comes to building and development.
It’s not only big developers who are the problem though. Many individuals have also constructed illegally while the authorities have turned a blind eye. There is a whole village of illegal properties in Armier bay, and no political party has done anything to remove them over many years.
To make matters worse, much of the remaining countryside is taken up by hunters who occupy whole swaths of land. Yes, in Malta bird hunting is a very popular pastime, and incredibly just a few years ago a referendum to ban this barbaric practice in spring failed to get a majority backing. Any walk in the countryside is sure to be accompanied by the sounds of guns as the hunters try their best to blast every bird out of the sky.
No wonder you will hardly see any birds in Malta. Illegal hunting is a widespread and serious problem, with poachers specifically targeting raptors (birds of prey) and Herons as well as rare migratory birds such as the Greater Flamingo, Black Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill, among others. Moreover, as I mentioned, hunters occupy a lot of public lands and block off access to hikers, mountain bikers and the regular folk who are out to enjoy a bit of countryside.
In line with the selfish nature so prevalent in Malta (a so-called Catholic country), we find the issue of smoking. Smoking was banned in enclosed public places and workplaces in Malta on July 1, 2004, with the implementation of the “Protection of Non-Smokers Health Regulations.” This ban was extended to include bars and restaurants in 2005, and in 2018, Malta introduced a comprehensive smoking ban that prohibited smoking in all public places, including outdoor areas like beaches and parks. The ban also prohibited smoking in private vehicles when children under the age of 18 are present. The implementation of the smoking ban in Malta has been enforced in restaurants and offices, which arguably already had arrangements for smokers before the ban, but it is a miserable failure when it comes to clubs and many bars. If you don’t believe me, go have a look for yourself, pick any club and you will most likely see the bouncers, DJ and other people in management smoking, so it is little wonder that patrons also feel at liberty to smoke. The ban in outdoor areas is another complete joke, again just visit any park and beach and see for yourself. As a health-conscious non-smoker, I find this to be another prime example of the selfishness and short-term thinking of the Maltese.
Sometimes people will challenge me by posing the question: “If Malta is so bad, why do so many foreigners fall in love with Malta and want to live here?”. I think that’s a very interesting question that merits delving into.
First of all, Malta is a very very unique place, for many reasons. It has a rich and varied history having been under the rule of several nations and cultures. Its size and geography is also unique, as is the fact that Maltese people have their own language. I can definitely see how these exotic qualities can be such a strong attraction for foreigners.
They would have never have experienced such an environment before, especially if they come from a big city/country where things are much more impersonal. Landing in Malta you tend to feel very welcome as people are very friendly and ready to help out, it feels like everybody treats you like family. This leads to foreigners saying hey, this is an awesome place to live in. Back home I’m just a number and nobody cares about anyone, but here everybody is so involved in each other’s lives, this is something special! I totally see why a foreigner would feel like this. I myself sometimes wish I were a foreigner so I could feel that way. If you don’t speak Maltese there is a better chance of insulating yourself from the daily gossip and mannerisms that end up getting on one’s nerves.
Here’s the thing though. While I acknowledge that some foreigners do move to Malta, love it and enjoy living there for many years, many others try the experience and leave after 3-4 years because they just can’t take the way things are done there. It’s one thing living a life of work-beach-party (Malta is the best place for that) and quite another when you decide to settle down, start dealing with the authorities, buy a house and try to get contractors to deliver quality work, etc etc.
People who are used to not having to struggle to get simple things done will start to get pissed off at how much time they’re spending dealing with seemingly innocuous tasks, and eventually end up leaving the island. Of course, the passage of time also amplifies the feeling of living in a very small place that acts like an echo chamber and innovation is stifled by the local way of life and culture, and that can also lead to one deciding to leave and live in a more open environment.
I guess I’ve written more than I meant to, the reality is that I really struggle to put my feelings into words, and that is why I don’t frequently share my thoughts on the subject. I prefer to focus on the positive things I have in my life rather than acting all pessimistic. My feelings about Malta at the end of the day are genuine sadness for what was once really an idyllic place that has been destroyed over the years. I would love to say that I hope to one day return, but I really can’t see how the culture can change and the harm due to construction undone.
P.S. While in this post I focused on the negative things about Malta that led me to leave, there is, of course, the flip side. There are many great things about Malta, and I do still think that it is a very good place for digital nomads to spend some time in.
It’s been more than two years since I wrote this post, and I’ve interacted with many people about the subject both in the comments section as well as over email exchanges. Unfortunately, not only has the situation in Malta not become any better since I wrote this, but things took a nasty turn for the worse.
The obvious big news item was the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2018, followed by several scandals in the political scene. During the last few months of 2019 we’ve seen Malta in the worldwide news for all the wrong reasons, with several top members of the governing party being forced to resign due to their misdeeds and connections to the murder.
As we close off the year, prime minister Joseph Muscat has been named ‘Person of the Year’ for organised crime and corruption by a consortium of investigative journalists.
It was a busy 12 months in the world of organized crime and corruption. But without further ado, here is our 2019 Person of the Year: https://t.co/oDVXs9EZYI#occrpaward #CorruptActor2019
— Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (@OCCRP) December 27, 2019
Dr Muscat joins a list of previous winners of the OCCPR’s yearly prize that includes strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijan’s Ilhan Aliyev, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.
“Under Muscat’s leadership, criminality and corruption have flourished — and in many cases gone unpunished,” the OCCPR said.
The organisation highlighted the way Dr Muscat had acted throughout the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
I had intentionally avoided politicising things with my original post, as I don’t consider myself a supporter of a particular party in Malta, but things have really gone to new extremes with the Labour party in government led by Dr Muscat in recent years.
Not only have things become worse in Malta, but the country’s reputation overseas is at an all-time low due to this government’s shenanigans.
What is quite impressive to me is that the Maltese population by and large has been quite passive during this whole debacle. Not to mention that probably around half of the population still doesn’t think that anything irregular has taken place in the past few years, as you can witness if you open any article on local newspapers reporting cases of corruption. The kind of brainwashing on display is at least on par with what you would expect from people in communist countries with no access to outside information. To see people defending the prime minister and his cronies while hurling abuse at any detractors, Maltese or foreign, is just sad.
One would hope that the Maltese will choose better people in leadership, independently of which party they’re from, and avoid further damage to the country. It’s worth keeping in mind that right now, the Maltese economy seems to be doing very well, however I am of the opinion that this boom has not been very organic nor is it built on solid ground.
If we take an honest look at the last 15 years of growth in the Maltese economy, we would find that the big driver has been an artificially favorable tax system designed to attract foreign companies to relocate their business in Malta and thus gain huge tax benefits. That drove an influx of foreigners needed to staff the relocated companies (most of them online gaming companies), which in turn drove up property prices and helped build an impressive financial industry to service these aforementioned companies. If one of these pillars were to be affected by the scandals rocking the political scene, all the pieces will fall like dominoes causing a serious crisis in Malta.
Taking the Decision
Over the years since I’ve written this post, I’ve received many emails from (mostly young) people who identify with my feelings and are struggling with taking the decision.
I want to make it clear that while we live in an era where travel is very easy and affordable, uprooting yourself and moving to another country is still a significant psychological and logistical challenge for most people.
Here’s a copy of an email reply I sent to a person who reached out to ask for advice on how to approach the decision. I hope it can be of help to others in the same stage of their lives.
Every person who decides to leave their home country will have the fears and worries that you mention, that is perfectly normal.I had the same concerns myself when I was in the same situation. What I did was to sit down in a quiet place for an hour or so, take a pen and two sheets of paper. On one list the pros and the other the cons about moving. Take your time and let your heart and mind both outpour onto those two pages. When you’re done, you should have a clearer picture of what you should do. If it’s still not clear, assign a rating of 1-5 or 1-10 next to each point that you list, with 1 being of least importance and 10 being essential for you. Then add the scores up and hopefully one should be significantly higher than the other.Know that you can’t control what you’ll find on the other side, but you owe it to yourself to at least seek a betterment of your situation if that’s what you need to do.I have yet to come across anyone who regretted leaving a negative environment that bothered them (job, country, etc) but I have met plenty of older people who have significant regrets about not taking a chance on a better future when they were younger.
- Bloomberg – Why the EU is furious with Malta – covers problems that I mentioned in the post and other big issues that surfaced in the past year since I’ve written this post.
- Only in Malta – Facebook group showcasing daily unbelievable occurrences in Malta
- Malta New Reality – More shenanigans in Malta
- The Shift – Daily updates on scandals and corruption in Malta
- 70% of Malta’s young people wish to leave.
Agree with you on a lot of points you made. I am Maltese too, and left Malta two and a half years ago with the intention of never returning. A lot of the things you mentioned bothered me there. The corruption, the unprofessionality in some situations, the way of life, how Maltese tend to deal with problems (namely by doing nothing) etc etc. I moved to a country being the exact opposite of Malta one could say; (North of) Germany.
So now visiting Malta once every 5 years should be enough..to keep up the balance.
Very interesting article. Am very glad not to be the only one with these thoughts 👍
Jean Galea says
Thanks for your comment Caroline, which city did you choose?
Wow..such eye watering negativity towards Malta!! Exactly why u felt the need to so very publicly put Malta, ùr birth place, in such a terrible light making it out to be practically hell on earth i dont really know Jean. There are ugly & beautiful bits about every country but u really did focus on the bad stuff!!. For a start if you like big open spaces with fields & tree’s & lots of the green stuff forget Malta! We are just roughly 3 miles wide & roughly 27 miles long… People who love the likes of Switzerland & Germany for instance are definitely NOT going to enjoy living here BUT might well enjoy a hoilday here (although not perhaps after reading u’r opinion on It which encouraged other like minded people to put their pennies worth in!!) Yes there is a layed back attitude of dont worry be happy! (as my father used to say!) Malta would suit an artist who is ok with the imperfections of the Island & people who don’t need everything to be JUST So. In our tiny space we’ve had to cram a LOT of stuff in….for instance a modern bit with hotels for all our tourists (our bread & butter) but there are a LOT of people who live here who actually perfer a modern environment anyway so will perfer the north.. In the south we have the more old fashioned & traditional environment…we live in small pretty kalkara which has a beautiful creek; Kalkara unfortunately got bombed quite badly during the war so apart from Renella street & the sea front which survived, the back streets are quite modern with attractive flats & villa’s but still quant & in no way over done. Everyone is friendly & helpful. For more culture we have the small town of Burgu & a lovely ferry ride into valletta which has been cleaned up in recent years & is now the Bee’s knees! As a hoilday island we have our tourists to liven things up a bit of which the majority are well behaved & respectful & are in a happy frame of mind because they are on hoiday which gives malta a nice vibe. If one gets off their bum there are a host of places (whether its tradisonal or modern u enjoy) that u can while away the hours in, both in the spring & ‘winter’…smile at any Maltese person walking along the street & 99 per cent of the time u will get a nod & a smile back & English is our second language which is HUGE for anyone moving here that is crap at learning a new language!!. I just thought I would point out the more postive aspects of Malta Jean. Unfortunately since joining the EU Malta has become a free for all & it’s sunny climate & English speaking people have attracted many to come here (mostly to the modern north) & only being tiny I suppose she has felt a bit overwhelmed, especially with a certain forginer who the maltese think are quite cold & rude & who have been the cause of some serious crime in malta that we have never hardly ever seen before. Since this particular nationality have left the Island due to the pandemic the crime rate has significantly gone down. My mother was English & my father maltese so I’ve spent half my life in the uk & half my life here & it’s in malta (compared to the uk) that I’m at my best. The weather in the UK is mind numbingly depressing (yes climate IS important for ones mental health) freezing temperatures…long dark winters..too much rain all year round & a low blanket of Gray cloud for weeks on end with just a couple of days of fine weather as a tease is not fun & keeps u inside for hours on end. U can actually forget that the sky is blue! We are saving an absolute fortune on heating bills!! Every room in the house in the UK needed heating & 2 sauces of heat in the living room as well as the cost for a tumble dryer!! The TWO months of ‘winter’ in malta is completely doable, with a few couldly days to cosy up to but knowing that up to 2 weeks of fine weather is just around the corner!😎 in the uk unless u live right in the city centre deserted streets are the norm after 5 o’clock (& 4 o’clock in the winter months) laddism, sexist banter.. chauvinism…boorishness..taking copious amounts of drugs..fathering children by different mother’s…knowtow to the wealthy elite ; letting corporate corruption go unpunished …traffic jams…unsmiling strangers..rude shop girls…teenage pregnancy…promiscuity…binge drinking & racism (my children with their olive skin would come home in tears from school) & eating out costs a bomb & there’s quite a frightening thug culture. (I have no worries walking striaght through the middle of a bunch of lower working class Maltese men here than I would in the UK which would see me cross the road long before I got to them!!) & paedophilia is soo rampant over there that you dare not take u’r eyes off u’r little ones for even an instant!! Mothers get into a state of sheer panic if they lose sight of their child in a shop as happened to me on a couple of occasions!! So you see peeps, even with Malta’s government of eye watering corruption & mishandling of the pandemic in recent weeks (We had that in the bag with our incredibly low numbers not so long ago!!) whether I’m in the UK or here there’s definitely stuff to get cross about!! yes..the majority of Maltese people did vote for Muscat again even though the stink of corruption was there but than the British people did re – elect that idiot Tony Blair even after it came to light that he went to war & thousands were killed on NO EVIDENCE what so ever!! (Sensible British people were absolutely beside them selfs when he got elected again as sensible people here were when Muscat got in again) & America voted for the likes of Trump!! (& would do so again if it hadn’t of been for this pandemic) so no matter how big or small a country is its the least educated that rule the day making it difficult for the rest of us! Maybe it’s because they have bigger family’s. The uk has spent 350,000 of Tax payers money so far on legal aid for the Manchester bomber…they still hav’nt taken all that flammable cladding off every building in the country (where was health & safety when they built Glanville towers??) & they STILL hav’nt got to the bottom of David Kelly’s death which was highly suspicious to say the least. & WHY were elderly people moved into old folks homes without being tested for this virus leaving just my Auntie & a couple of others standing in her care home in London?? So these are just some of the things that make my blood boil about the UK. Every country has their potholes at the end of the day when all’s said & done!!
Charlotte Baker says
So Jackie Purchase has criticized you Jean for daring to give your very personal opinions and reasons why you made the decision to leave Malta and you make a lots of valid points that no intelligent person could refute. Yet in her lengthy comment, she decides to slag off the UK for the most part. Wow – hypocrisy at it’s best!
Like all countries Jackie, there are good and bad places to live, the UK is no exception. But sadly you have just painted a very negative and unfair picture of the whole of the UK. Please stay in Malta if that is where you are happiest. It sounds like the “mentality” where you are incapable of taking any constructive criticism and just retaliate by slagging off another country – suits you down to the ground!
Jean Galea says
I also had to smile when I read that comment due to the reason you mention 🙂
Jessica Greene says
This blog article is absolutely spot on.
I am an EU national and have been living in Malta for 5 years. Around the 3 year mark I’d had enough and knew I wanted to leave. Personal circumstances are preventing me from leaving until next year, but I am counting down the days.
I had moved to Malta from London, looking for a better quality of life and of course better weather. I enjoyed Malta for the first 3 years but the novelty has unfortunately worn off.
Like others have said in the comments, please think twice before moving here. Malta might be fine for young singles looking to party, but I wouldn’t recommend it for families with young children as quality of education is sub par. There are hardly any green spaces – oh how I miss trees! And yes, it’s sunny here. But it’s also humid as hell. Meaning there is mold everywhere indoors. Winters are unbearable due to the humidity and the fact that buildings simply aren’t insulated. The lack of rain means everything is brown, everywhere is polluted and dusty. It’s difficult to breathe. No, I’m sorry to say this, but the quality of life here is not good.
Lastly, I need to add that as an EU national and as a woman I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life. Even being here legally, paying my taxes and contributing to society, I do not feel welcome and am constantly seeing comments to other ‘foreigners’ saying “go back to your country”. If you don’t have a Maltese name, and if your complexion and hair colour is lighter than the average Maltese’s, you will be stared at and charged more at local shops. It’s an unfortunate truth and happens to me every time I go to the iron monger, pastizzeria or fruit and veg truck. I always preferred supporting local but now I feel more comfortable buying from grocery stores where possible.
When I arrive at work I feel like I’ve stepped into the 1950s. The women all get spoken over, our suggestions are completely ignored, at meetings no one interacts with us, and we constantly hear sexist ‘jokes’. This is coming from someone who never thought of herself as a feminist.
Please don’t take this blog article or the article’s comments lightly. It’s easy to find articles and videos about why Malta is amazing. But please, pay attention to what’s being said in this article. You will eventually experience all of this if you move to Malta, even if it takes a couple of years.
In general, there appears to be hardly a chance to read a more balanced opinion based on impression and experiences from those who comment on this blog.
Sure, the many posts I have read are that of individual experiences and it is either black for the negative or white for the positive. But the truth is Always in between both of that which means that the reality is rather grey when considering the pros and cons regarding Malta and more so when comparing it with other countries.
It has never been my idea to settle in Malta and live there, as I was always content with spending some one week holiday there and afterwards go home. I would think more than just twice before really migrating to another country. The simply reason for that is what I call ‘the human factor’. That means that one finds really (more or less) the same or similar characters abroad as they are to find back home. That means that one can encounter good and bad people and this is always some matter of circumstances and in some cases of luck as well.
What I was trying to find out and learn about was what is beneath the shiny picture of Malta as a holiday destination with plenty of various styles of architecture (the old buildings) and history. I was interested in learning about the mentality of the Maltese and not just being impressed by the usual business based formalities and friendlyness. For that reason I started to read books about Malta’s history, written in English but by Maltese authors to get their point of view or the angle from which they look at their country’s past. I also read some biographies about some Maltese people who have been active leaders in politics back to the old times when Malta was still a colony of the BE / UK. I have learned a lot from that literature.
But I also made my personal experiences when interacting with Maltese people personally in locations and shops and also online. It is not that much different from what I can find in my own country or for example in England. When it comes to business, one encounters more people behind the desk or counter who are ‘business friendly’. That means that they have to be that way in order to sell their goods or services.
When I have been to Malta last year, there was only one person which I remember as being outstanding in her efforts to help me to get some book which I liked to purchase and she took the time to phone various numbers within the company she was working for in some shop in Mdina to arrange to get this for me so that I can collect it from another shop of that branch in Valletta. The staff in that other shop was rather average in their ‘business friendlyship’. Quite normal for me and I didn’t bother about it. That’s how it is, some are more and some are less dedicated to their daily work and one senses and expriences that when one encounters them.
Malta has been a place and still is that attracted and attracts people from all other foreign places. Some have left their mark on it and – what I call – the ‘collective sub-conscious’ and this is always reflected by the Maltese themselves when they encounter foreigners. It is beneath the superficial and business friendly behaviour cos based on their own experiences, there is also a more reserved attitude towards non-Maltese. All that is depending on their own experiences and that is the point of view on their side.
I would just like to put some questions to be considered by other readers when it comes to Malta and the problems they face with the local people in their daily interaction with them, more so when they have decided to live there and settled.
– What is it that one expects from the Maltes themselves and what is one prepared to do in Exchange for it? That means how far is one inclined to even consider to try to understand the mentality of the locals and where necessary adapt to it.
– What does one think have other foreign nationals done wrong in their way of looking down on the Maltese for all what they are being criticized for?
– Wouldn’t it be worth to just hold on a second and try to put oneself into their shoes and circumstances the Maltese themselves have to live with? The greed that has been imposed on Maltese people by foreign investors, lured into the place by also greedy Maltese business people?
– What other choice does Malta and her people have, as they always had to play their part in circumstances which were less of their own doing but the result of external influences which they couldn’t avoid to have an Impact on themselves and thus the whole country?
Some of the problems Malta has are of the own doing of the government and the way it handled matters, but some other things are brought onto this country by foreign people who were more than just ready to exploit everything and every advantage they could get, whether provided for in the first place or by asking for, even by demanding it.
It is very easy to write some rants about Malta and its people in general, complaining about the weather, or climate conditions it has, also complaining about the still macho-style performance of some Maltese which isn’t that much different from what one can find among likemindes males in Italy. On the other hand, there are certainly some female Maltese who appear to be rather lethargic but in the light of this, who knows what they had to go through when one reads about domestic violence from time to time?
Some say, it’s either one loves Malta or one hates it. Whan I visited this place the first time 22 years ago, it left me ambivalent but with some further visits in the years afterwards, it changed more to a point where I grew to tend to the more positive side. Malta is like some kind of a country which I grew to like more and became dear to me, but always accompanied by a underneath sense of ambivalence which rather holds me back from following an illusion.
Comparing Malta with the UK, as not less people have done on this blog, if I were to choose between the UK and Malta, it is certain that it wouldn’t cost me a second to decide in favour of Malta. The politicians in the UK have done all they could and still are at it to really ruin the country by this insane Brexit folly. Malta might and certainly has its faults, which country hasn’t any at all, but at least it has no government that is about to commit economical suicide by exiting the EU.
The Maltese are no stupid people, but they don’t impose their whole life story on others and less so seek to dominate other nations. What can be said about that when one looks back on the history of the UK and the former BE in particular?
If one cannot take up with the mentality of the Maltese, one will never be glad to live there, less to say to even be accepted by the locals themselves. It seems that they themselves are rather expecting foreigners to integrate by their own efforts and thus maybe prove that they mean it serious. One essential aspect in such efforts is to learn the language and respect the culture of Malta, as various and as difficult is appears to be and sometimes is.
I could go on with all the negative aspects that come to my mind when it comes about the UK and England in particular as I have made my own experiences there too, even based on family matters regarding some relatives there. But what would be the point in doing that anyway? Things are as they are and although it is sad to watch the Brits doing what they are at, I can’t help it cos it’d be up to them to change the route they are following.
It isn’t quite the same when one compares a country as a place to live in with a partner to live with, but it always comes down to one point which is that one either accepts it or not and there is hardly a middle way cos one cannot only pick the parts one likes cos one also has to deal with the parts one doesn’t like.
I think that this applies for many things in life.
Daniel PL says
I think a main problem between the Maltese and foreigners is the use of English rather than Maltese, we’re not a British colony anymore so treat our language with respect
Julian Boffa says
Long time! As a fellow Maltese I feel your pain and frustrations, most of which are well placed. I do wish to comment though that part of the island mentality we grow up with also means that we think only in terms of what surrounds us. A foreigner outside his country will never feel the same about the country, simply because the attachment amplifies the frustrations. Life is what you make it and the same applies in Malta. The country offers many great things and opportunities, notwithstanding all the problems (most of which are also present in most other countries if you look really well). I will not go as far as saying that Malta is heaven on earth. Far from it. It is like many other countries with many things to offer and yes, many annoto aspects as well. Ultimately though everybody has to find the shoe that fits them and it does not necessarily need to be Malta. I actually do encourage experiences abroad and regret I did not manage to have that myself. Still many times I do still feel blessed to be living in Malta, notwithstanding all the issues. I also still see many people trying to make a difference in positive. This still gives me hope! Other than that I do hope you find your favourite shoe, wherever that may be 🙂
Jean Galea says
Hey Julian, good to hear from you! Thanks for your comment. I do agree that every person has to find a place that fits them the most and it’s a totally personal and individual choice. All the best Julian!
Molly M says
I am just a Canadian lady living in Canada, thank you for your article.
I actually knew nothing about Malta until this morning.
I was super curious about it when I discovered (today) my friend went there for a summer holiday back in 2016.
I was only curious to learn more about Malta.
So Thank you again. 🌈 nice read it was.
Ileila tajjeb. Wow, I didn’t know I will read so many negative comments about life on Malta. In fact I every single day listening about how Malta is great country for living, sunny beaches, weather and thinks like that… I think it depends on how much money you have, more money better thoughts about, less money worse life experience respectively.
I live on Malta since three years ago and I start to hate my self every day more and more. It becoming really frustrating at moments. I was much happier before I move here to Malta… To be shorter, I am planning to move from Malta as soon as possible but as someone here said it’s easy to say but not so easy to do, all the time leak of money because here you can’t earn nothing. Everything is overpriced.
But anyway I meet few my now I can say very good friends here. Malta gave me opportunity to stay and live here for what I am very grateful, in deep of my soul I really like Malta. Hope I will bring my kid’s here one day to show them this beautiful pace 🙂
Very eloquently written and on point.
I grew up in Malta, my parents immigrated when I was 5, so I’ve been here for 25 years, I have a Maltese passport, I understand the language. And I still at least once a week hear “go bekk to your cawntry”. It is infuriating, I lived, studied, had a child here, paid more tax than most since I have a higher wage, participated in charity and cultural events heavily and praised Malta all this time… And the last straw was last week, when the President of water sports association spit in my face with hate and told me I am only a foreigner and I am trash, just because I calmly and politely disagreed with the association rules. My partner is Slovenian and we are about to have a second child. I can’t raise my children here. This island is nothing how I remember it from my youth. They killed all the trees, they became greedy and the famous Maltese friendliness is now xenophobia and racism. I do know some lovely Maltese people who are very helpful and kind… But there is less and less if them, the new generation is just not it. As a young family here why should we stay when schools are overcrowded and education is bad, the food they feed kids is horrible, the medical care is lacking, there is no variety or choice in a small place like this, so they get too cocky. I can’t walk a pram on these uneven streets.
So we are now taking measures to move to Slovenia, a beautiful green place. To compare, a house in Slovenia with 3 acres of land and forest, 15 min away from the capital costs 150,000 euro. My kids can have a pony, a cow, whatever they want. No initial payment of 10% to the bank, no fuss. In Malta for that price you get a badly built two bedroom somewhere in Zujtun at best, or a garage in Sliema. You pay for it for 30 years and then it falls apart in time for your load to be done and for them to build more of the same, so your kids can get the se loan.
Getting a new great car in Slovenia is super easy, they cost three times less. The roads are fantastic, the air is fresh. And things are done well, no “mela” attitude. And no one can talk to a person as rude as they do in Malta, you always have a system to report/ complain and do something. No cousins, fathers, mom-in-laws practicing nepetism. Schools are in English, there are free and private ones. They feed kids proper healthy breakfast and lunch. As a mom, it is pain free.
So after 25 years I finally reached a point where my mentality of “Malta is my home, it gave me a lot” is finally not worth. We are packing up and are already in the process of purchasing a huge lovely green piece of land right next to Ljubljana, where no one will tell me to go back to my own country.
Jean Galea says
Slovenia is a fantastic place. Good luck with the move!
I totally agree with every word you wrote!! I also wish I will find a way to leave this so called beautiful island one day!!
Lived here 3 1/2 yrs . I find it frusrating , chaotic , non sensical , noisy , dirty , backward the list goes on . Would leave tomorrow, happily leaving all my belongings etc , not in a position to do so though , Any one thinking of moving here , especially as a woman I certainly would not recommend it .
Josephine Dilley says
I am Maltese lived abroad 30 years abroad 10 years in South Africa and 20 years UK. I always wanted to come and live back home I used to come every year when i lived in UK. It is true Malta have lost that magic that once had too many concrete buildings which is ruining the country but saying that you can still find somewhere where you can enjoyed the beauty of island in peace. Also it is a country where you live outdoor and the Maltese knows how to enjoys live. Is a place where you feel secure and not scared to go out it is quite safe. Maltese families are very family oriented and children usually grows up in a good environment. Health services is very good, Malta is not perfect far from it things are changing not in a good way but quality of life is still good.
Hazel Blumberg-McKee says
My husband and I are planning to leave the US. We’ve been researching a number of countries, one of which is Malta. Frankly, I am very grateful to you for your utterly honest, blunt assessment of life on Malta. Thank you so much for your thoughts and feelings about the country! They are greatly appreciated.
I just finished reading and thought I’d add a few extra things.
First off, you have almost word for word, described my concerns with this country. I’ve been here 5 years as a well traveled foreigner who has lived in multiple big cities and will be leaving ASAP.
I find comforting to know someone felt the exact same way and I wasn’t going crazy.
The foreigner who falls in love with the island but can’t take it any longer, that’s me. I used to come every month for work related reasons, and it was amazing. Especially near the end of year. Going from the northern rains of Europe to Malta was exotic like you said and much welcomed.
I eventually moved there full time and things have just gotten worse and worse.
I will try not to repeat everything you’ve said, as mentioned above, I feel exactly the same way so I just want to build on that a little and add a couple things from perhaps a foreigner’s perspective.
To me this country is too prideful. Which is ironic considering it’s one of the 7 deadly sins.
You cannot criticise this island in any way, especially if you’re a foreigner. It’s as if you’ve insulted their mother. Which to me is incredibly odd. You should be able to separate things that are the government’s responsibility from historically and culturally-charged aspects of Malta.
Why the hell am I being told to “go back to your country” for criticising a road safety issue or noise pollution issue. It’s ludicrous. Neither of those are in any way connected to Malta’s roots and culture.
Yet, the Maltese love to moan and complain. Usually and exclusively on Facebook.
Now that’s a strange concept for me. Especially having lived in the UK and France, where criticism is ones favourite past time. How can your country ever improve and how can anything ever get done without a complaint triggering the change? It’s insanity.
The Maltese are incapable of differentiating between constructive criticism and insult.
I even noticed this on a smaller level. Try complain about bad service given to you in a restaurant and posting it on Facebook. No matter how “in the right” you are, there will always be a group defending the restaurant.
I’m not sure where that stems from frankly. It could be because everything and everyone seems connected here. So you’ll likely encounter someone defending the accused because their distant cousin’s best friend’s neighbour used to work there.
Please note that I am simplifying things by stereotyping a large group of individuals as “the Maltese”. I am fully aware NOT ALL Maltese are like this, thankfully! There are many great people here and this is merely one aspect of the Maltese culture. But I feel there’s enough of a majority to justify the stereotyping for the purpose of this reply.
So the Maltese, hate to receive criticism but love to complain.
The issue is… these are empty complaints. They are meaningless while they remain printed digitally on some Facebook group, which leads me to my next point.
The Maltese are lazy.
This was touched upon in your comments about the lack of walking caused by the lack of proper pavements.
However I don’t just mean physically lazy. Somehow, this country, which has withstood a fair amount of historical challenges, seems to now be build on a complete lack of attention to detail.
Every aspect of Maltese life is done with a “that will do” attitude.
And this is often misinterpreted by newly-arrived foreigners as “Mediterranean lifestyle” and a more “relaxed” attitude. In fact, many will come here, just as I did, and initially think that perhaps the rest of Europe’s attitude is in the wrong… too stressful and too uptight… perhaps this is the way to live, care-free like the Maltese.
How wrong was I!
“That will do” is totally fine when you’re having to wait a little longer for a cocktail to arrive while lying poolside.
It is however NOT ok, when you need urgent medical attention, a pipe leak fixed or you’re putting up scaffolding.
Where is your pride then?
Everything the Maltese do feels (pardon my French) “half arsed”.
Everything and I mean everything, is done with average effort at their own pace and you have to fight so hard to get things done to YOUR standards and not THEIR convenience.
And when I say “YOUR standards”, I’m actually referring to the standards set by 1st world countries. So standard expectations met by even developing countries nowadays.
I think there’s one main culprit to blame for this care-free attitude; simply put, there’s a severe lack of rules or rule enforcement..
And this sadly starts from the top and goes through every class of people right to the bottom.
The corruption is ingrained into this society. Sure, corruption is everywhere and some are just more hidden than others but Malta feels borderline like a 3rd world country when it comes to this. The only thing separating Malta from those countries is a very lax application of standard E.U rules and human-rights.
As a foreigner you’re quickly accustomed to understanding this. I was lucky enough to be warned about things such as the “tourist price” when I arrived but that didn’t stop it from happening a few times.
People love to talk about the corruption at the top, which I don’t deny being rife and a serious problem… but that corruption doesn’t particularly affect average Joe’s daily life, not directly at least.
The hypocrisy of the Maltese is that those same people that point the finger at government corruption, are the same people who will gladly receive rent in cash to avoid taxes, will own a shop with items not labeled with prices so they can thumb-suck a number at the till, who will take a detour in their car to increase the fare or the same people who will come fix your air-conditioning unit and will charge you based on how wealthy you look.
And this happens over and over because there’s simply no consequences to those actions. Malta is the physical embodiment of “rules are meant to be broken”
And where are the police? or the rule enforcers? In 5 years, I think I’ve seen police intervention maybe twice? Everything is ignored, everything is “live and let live”, everything is “I don’t really care about your problem”. You can literally get away with murder in Malta, just ask Daphne Caruana Galizia’s children.
It’s actually a miracle things aren’t worse. I mean you could easily do whatever you want in broad daylight in Malta and get away with it. Whether it’d be traffic violations which are a dime a dozen or more serious incidents, there are never any repercussions.
In fact that’s why you see people take justice in their own hands.
And this attitude starts at a very young age. Parents allowing their children to do whatever they please without any punishment, the children are raised as kings that can do no wrong and this does not change once they become adults (which happens quite late here, most of them are cocooned by their parents until they’re 30)
What’s really sad is that there’s also a general lack of empathy and awareness. People will do as they please if it’s convenient for them without really taking time to consider others. And sure that happens elsewhere also but here it is so blatantly in your face.
When most of my family comes to visit, they find the locals really warm and welcoming. Which to some extent they are and as Jean mentioned above, Malta feels cosier than many big cities, where you feel like a mere number out of millions.
But I feel this is just a temporary feeling whilst on holiday. You can probably go anywhere on holiday and feel amazing for a few days but it stops being amazing once the novelty wears off.
You soon realise very few Maltese actually “love thy neighbour” and they simply “love thy self”.
This is is especially true when it comes to locals vs foreigners.
I could go on and on about the xenophobia on this island but will try and keep it short. I’ve lived in a variety of countries and places in Europe and I’ve never felt so offended about being a foreigner than I have in Malta.
I do forgive their island mentality to some extent because they can’t help it, many of them are poorly educated and have never left their island. So to break the mould and be open minded about foreigners is naturally and historically extremely difficult for them.
But it is still nevertheless shocking. So much of Malta’s culture has come from abroad but it’s only tolerated when it’s convenient.
Simply put, the Maltese love to have the cake and eat it.
They love their European Union money to build new roads and refurbish old monuments, but they don’t want foreigners to come here. They’ll happily take the tax money of those that do, but don’t want them to have the same rights as locals and any say in decisions that impact day to day living. Many criticise the online gambling companies set up here but most of their kids will apply for jobs there and live comfortably.
The reality is without ‘ foreign money’, the country would go back to the 80s.
Now some might want that, fair enough and it’s true not ALL foreign influence has been beneficial (see comments about wild constructions made by Jean) but the reality is those pointing the finger at foreign influence, are also the same ones reaping the benefits of that very same influence.
So yeh, I can’t wait to leave. And I’m sure many locals are delighted to hear one more foreigner is leaving.
But the real irony and sadness here. You may want foreigners to disappear but none of the things mentioned above will disappear with them. Those are very much Maltese traits. Foreigners could all disappear overnight, you’ll still have your corrupt government ruining your country. Who will you try and blame then?
So I feel sorry for the younger generation. They are raised spoilt and cocooned, they receive poor education and end up ill-prepared to tackle the outside world.
Their only real option is to either get the hell out early or ‘shut up’ and don’t rock the boat.
This country needs a mini revolution if it wants to become a country people can genuinely be proud of. You can’t live on Sunshine and sea forever.
And I’m afraid to say that many foreigners and I will be long gone before that happens. Systemic change is needed, fighting for higher quality of education and life is vital.
You can’t build a strong nation on a “that will do” mantra and all of this can only happen by welcoming constructive criticism regardless of its origin.
Until then Malta will remain no different than any country that brainwashes and stifles its people, just a sunnier version of them.
I will miss a couple things from Malta, obviously there are some nice things here but I honestly worry about the path this country is taking. The changes I’ve seen in the space of 5 years is actually crazy. It’s too much.
Malta needs to get its shit together, fast.
Jean Galea says
Thanks for your well-written piece Graham, and I agree with all the additional points you raised. The truth is that my post was just a sample of irritating things that came to mind when I was penning the article, if one had to really sit down and think about all the things that can and should be improved the article would be much longer. Indeed, people like yourself have written very eloquently in the comments section about other topics that are just as important.
The pride and constant complaints I used to find especially maddening. It seemed that 9 times out of 10 when you are in a group of Maltese the topic is some kind of complaint, but nothing ever comes out of it. It’s just a kind of social therapy it seems. It is very depressing and limiting to be in such an environment, as it eventually tends to dumb down or outright kill any growth mindset you might have in place.
The pride I have never understood. Much of it is rooted in semi-historical stories we are told when we are young, such as “Malta saved Europe from a Muslim conquest in 1565” in the Great Siege or that “Malta is one of the only countries mentioned in the Bible“, or “Malta was awarded the George Cross for incredibly bravery in the World War” and other such non-relevant tidbits. Another one was the boasting that Malta is the most Catholic nation on earth, although I guess that is no longer true.
It is more of a “we are unique and special” kind of pride than pride in what the Maltese actually do and produce and how they behave today, and that is a major problem. Any nation that resorts to bathing in the presumed glory of the past is destined for a downfall.
Hypocrisy ties into these points as well. You will find many of the most corrupt people sitting in the local churches on Sundays, along with other genuinely good people, but there seems to be no sense of contradiction in that.
In recent years, the dissonance between what the Maltese people think of their country and how the country is viewed abroad has just grown bigger. Malta is now regarded as a “tax haven”, a “place to get cheap passports to the EU” and a “cheap holiday destination” among other hardly glorious other titles.
I hope that everything is well for you in the light of this pandemic and the approaching final ending of the Transition period for the UK after exiting the EU formally and with still no deal with the EU in sight.
I have picked just one line out of your thoughtful Reply and it is this:
‘Any nation that resorts to bathing in the presumed glory of the past is destined for a downfall.’
Like it or not, not being a ‘doom seller’ but you are witnessing the very downfall you mentioned in a general saying in regards of the UK in particular. It reflects on the very attitude of the many Brexiteers right up to No 10 with the still deluded PM Boris Johnson who still thinks that he can fool the EU to the very last minute of the transition period and in the end gets what he wants (‘having his cake and eat it’).
As for what is often said about the Maltese on this blog, I really don’t have to go that far to experience nearly the same things right here in my own town, own country, the same ‘sh*te’ sort of (anti-)social media. The same phrases, the same Insults to foreign nationals, the same never ending complain attitude by those participating in all sorts of conversation from the talking to others straight away to taking to social media and commenting facilities on news outlets.
Malta is in the above mentioned regards nothing special, not more good or bad like any other place among the *’1st World Countries’ it is just a mirror Image and reflection on what rules the whole world, except in places where there is no internet available and the people have think about how to survive the next day which means not knowing what they might have to eat the next day.
I once told you about my late grandmother who lived in England and got there as a foreigner to work in the textile Industry there. The phrase ‘bloody foreigners’ has accompanied her every day and that for many decades’. Even after she became a naturalised British citizen, because of her accent people who didn’t know her always asked her ‘where do you come from?’.
Again, I often wonder what people expect from a country they are going to migrate to and from the local population of the country they chose to go to. I have no illusions about Malta and I also have no illusions about any other country on this planet. When one decides to migrate to another country one has to consider that the way things are done are different to what one is used to in the home country. That is where many mistakes and disappointements start to enfold later.
I am wondering whether some people who always point out the negatives of the Maltes have really either ignored the same sort of people they certainly have met back home in one way or another, or do they simply use different standards to judge those idiots from back home and the new idiots they meet in their new country.
In another Reply of yesterday on this thread to another post I stated that if I were to choose between the UK and Malta I would decide in favour of Malta because I can’t stand this Brexit idiocy on which the Brits are doomed to go down no longer and Malta would be the lesser idiotic place to go. But in fact, I wouldn’t consider to settle in Malta either because I am convinced that it’s better to having to deal with the idiots one knows already than to meet new ones somewhere else who are no better than the old ones.
My late Father used to say that one meets more idiots in one’s life than intelligent (or good) people and he’s been proved right all along.
Self-reflection helps to understand one self but it also can help to understand others. It’s just a problem when the opposite people don’t do that and worse when neither is doing it so the misunderstanding won’t stop.
The phrase ‘go back to your country’ has various meanings but I think that it translates into something like ‘go away, I am not interested in your complaints and leave me be’.
Others mean it quite and blantantly the racist way and believe it or not, some ten years ago I was reading on the comments threads on the Times of Malta online Edition complaints of Maltese expats living in the UK who had to endure exact the same insults on them. Some of them even got more direct by stating that they have been insulted because of the colour of their skin, as that was expressed the way it has been perceived by them. This was clearly meant with a racist undertone by the ‘white’ Brits to the ‘brown’ Maltese.
When I read such comments, I rather felt pity of those Maltese affected by such Insults, but I was in no way surprised to notice that cos I have seen such incidents myself while on visits to my grandmother. Whether it was about a person of Indian or Pakistani origin, worse of African, the English I met there were as different like any other people in other places, but some were more ‘proud whites’ than others.
What always surprised me was this ‘pro-British’ attitude among the Maltese in Malta as if they were simply ignoring the negative stories brought to them by their own relatives who suffered from such insults while in the UK. There is some ‘propaganda’ to please the British tourists and there is the other face which I believe is that of the real ‘face’, it means that some Maltese still suffer from the colonial past of their country under British rule and never forgot how the Brits while their colonial masters really looked down on them and treated them like ‘second class’ people, that means ‘British subjects’ not ‘British citizens’ and I think that I don’t have to explain what the difference is between these two terms.
I like to state it quite plain and cristal clear that for me, a person is per so no good or bad because of his nationality, colour of skin or cultural background. The difference between good and bad is made by the character the person shows and how genuine that person really is and that is what really counts.
Jean Galea says
Thanks for your thoughts Thomas, these are all valid points and I can’t disagree with anything you said.
Unfortunately Malta has become a nightmare. Totally agree with all your points.
I would love to move to another country, but is easier said than done.
Adam Randon says
I completely agree with all your points and have lately been harbouring the same thoughts. Now, what is different is that I’m 19, turning 20 in November, and the thoughts started when I realised the disparity in the course curriculum of my course at UM compared to Universities abroad with courses far better equipped to deal current and future demands from employers in the job market, along with other disruptions.
I ask you, how did you finance your education abroad because right now, as most Maltese would think, the thing holding me back is simply the comfort. The comfort of being home, of a loving family, of friends I’ve known since the beginning of my life. However slowly I am starting to think that remaining in Malta and continuing a lfe on this island will only hinder my life experience in general, whether it be studies, job and social.
So my questions to you are, how did you finance your education abroad, and what helped you get over the hypothetical mental hump of being alone in a much larger place, and how long did it take to settle down?
The island mentality is a blessing and a curse, on one hand, we have free tertiary education, close-knit families, large friends groups where everyone knows each other and has known each other for a long time. But then one wonders, what lies on the other side of the wall when you get over these advantages and realise the opportunities that lie behind the “wall” in places such as mainland Europe, the Uk and North America.
Excuse me for rambling on, however this seemed like the appropriate place to vent out my thoughts and frustrations.
I look forward to your reply,
Jean Galea says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Adam. All valid concerns that many people have when taking such a decision.
1. I took two loans, one from my family and the other from the bank. It was around €25,000 at the time and given that I had close to no money to my name, it felt like a huge amount. On the other hand, it focused my attention on making my education a success, and I was able to repay my debts within three years of graduating.
2. University abroad was such an awesome experience for me that by the first week I was completely at ease, and I’m just saying this to compensate for any historical bias, because I would have told you from day one. The freedom and excitement that accompanied the move plus the incredible experience of living on campus and being at a big University just gave me a ton of adrenaline that helped me settle down easily. I quickly learned how to cook, clean my apartment, wash clothes etc. All things that had been taken care of back home (and I would have hated to do if my parents asked me), but they turned out not to be a big deal in the end. I might even add that I enjoyed these errands and chores. Cooking with a friend, cleaning while listening to a podcast, exploring the various foods at supermarkets, etc. was good fun.
The other big thing for me was that by living in a new country where nobody knew me I could act in a more authentic way. This is somewhat hard to explain, but when you grow up around the same group of people, it becomes very difficult to change your image and behavior later on in life, as there will be a subtle but powerful social pressure to avoid this change.
Hope that helps.
Thank you for writing this blog, it explains a lot of the questions I had on my first two days as a tourist in Malta.
Before visiting Malta, I knew only a bit about it. I knew a bit of its history, being a melting pot of different cultures and that’s it. The Instagram pictures also looked very nice, and I thought would be a nice place to visit and spend some days there. Well… very quickly I discovered I had very false expectations.
It was quite sad to see the horrible new constructions devouring the island like a cancer. I don’t understand why from one side Valleta is left to rumble (and other parts as well) with lots of empty/abandoned buildings and from the other hand new buildings are being build instead of restoring of the old ones first. The historical heretige is very impressive but unfortunately the government negligence to maintain it is quite depressing.
As for the “jewel of the Mediterran” I am not sure about that. Sure it has the potential to be one of the top spots of the Europe, but at the current stage doesn’t seems like even in the top half. The pollution, public transport, lack of urban planning, shady business practices and level of service leaves a lot to be desired.
I really wish to see things change for better in Malta as it looks like a place with a lot of potential. Like this, I am quite sure that as some point tourist will cease to come.
Jean Galea says
Agreed, unless there is a serious change in the course of things, it is inevitable that the current economic success will turn sour.
Enjoyed reading your synopsis. My partner’s name is Albert Galea. Are you related? He is from San Francisco.
Jean Galea says
I don’t believe so Keith. My surname is very common in Malta.
John O. says
Very interesting article. I am an ex-pat north american exploring life abroad (I also have UK and ECOWAS nationality). I am currently in Alexandria, Egypt having ruled out Cyprus (both north and south) last year. There are comparisons and contrasts between Alexandria and Malta, the obvious one being cultural which I must admit has been an adjustment. I haven’t ruled out Malta altogether, but Cape Verde is high on my list but meanwhile, Alexandria is home and very well may be for the rest of my life. A 100% idyllic nation is the Kingdom, and that has not come yet…soon though and it’s not far from here, lol.
Jean Galea says
Interesting perspective, thanks. I’ve yet to visit Alexandria and Cape Verde. I’d be interested to know your reasons for having these places on your list as I hadn’t come across many people mentioning them.
I wholly agree with your comments. I just want to add that I recently had to employ a lawyer to deal with the sale of a property in Malta. The whole matter was dealt with so unprofessionally and I am certain the Lawyer paid himself very well before he paid us. I also employed a lawyer in Gozo to obtain some documents on behalf of my father. She wanted money up front which I paid and never heard from her again despite numerous phone calls and emails. As far as I am concerned most Lawyers in Malta are corrupt and look after themselves and not the client.. I find the people in Malta can be so ignorant and just as long as they are ok stuff everyone else.
Jean Galea says
I think it’s a reflection of how the country is run. Greed rules and long-term thinking does not exist.
Maria peterson says
I was born in Malta many moons ago, my Mother took us back to the UK after the war having lost our father who was Maltese. 22 years ago having lost my husband I decided to return to Malta to live. I have had a good life there but over the years have seen many changes not for the best. Unfortunately now Malta is beyond repair, it is not the quaint little island we used to love but a island of concrete, dirty pavements, bad roads, noise, pollution etc etc. Sure the sea is beautiful but one does not live in the sea, and even that is now polluted with fish farms and sewage outflows.
Quite a few of my friends who were resident in Malta have left and relocated elsewhere. I am also spending more time in the UK now with full intention of remaining. I feel sorry for my island Malta.
I bought a property in Malta 15 years ago .
Malta was a nicer place then .
It changed big time since joining the EU .
Money poured into malta and first the Buses went , a tradition that is lost !!
This was the start !!
Next the roads , the developers , the prices in the shops went up , Ryanair came in and this overwhelmed the country with tourists !!
The buses provide a very bad service and for a few years I sent emails to them but nothing changes !! They want you to have a car !!
The Maltese business people along with the government began the process of building and a boom started , greed has set in !!
The planing does not protect the islands !!
The government has had no leadership to protect malta 🇲🇹.
I am now selling up and leaving , and will either go to Spain or Portugal .
I never taught I would do this !!
Sorry but it’s true .
Jean Galea says
All true. The funny thing is that most Maltese people actually believe that the boom will never end, and are happy to “invest” in real estate properties at the current inflated prices in anticipation of further growth in the years ahead. I think it is much more likely that more people will follow your footsteps and move to countries like Spain or Portugal where you can get much more value for your money.
Well said it’s about time a Maltese person spoke there mind very true words if I had written this you know what I would have endured GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY
Quote from 2019 update:
Some links to the articles concerning the PL and their attitude to foreign nationals from recent times.
Quote from the above link:
‘The government on Thursday afternoon issued what it described as a ‘clarification’ after a government spokesman told Times of Malta that the vouchers would only be issued to the people listed on the General Elections Electoral Register.
The story caused uproar among foreigners who work and pay taxes in Malta, with many complaining of blatant discrimination. Some said they would limit their spending in Malta to the bare minimum as retaliation or transfer their taxes elsewhere.
When the vouchers were originally announced on Monday week, Prime Minister Robert Abela had said they would be distributed to all residents of Malta aged over 16. Five €20 vouchers will be issued to every resident, four to be spent in hotels, restaurants and bars, and the remaining to be spent at shops which were also closed during the COVID-19 emergency.
Concerns were sparked after an EU national posted on the Facebook group Expats Malta how she had been told by two budget helpline operators that only Maltese citizens are eligible.
It is certainly one Thing to read the usual xenophobic trash of the ‘Narzist’ idiots on comment facilities of the English language Maltese media and one can do with ignoring them, but when the government of a state and this from a Party like the PL who should by their own political leaning not be xenophobic at all, takes such actions like in the quoted article which is just one example from recent times and not from last year with Dr Muscat still PM, then it gets a real different meaning and taste.
Many of the above quoted expressions are resembling strongly what I have had to read in the UK media for the past four years since this Brexit idiocy has ‘influenced’ some British minds.
It’s really O.K. for me when you keep similiar experiences which you might have made since you’re living in the UK to yourself. Maybe these just two articles can show you how things are back in Malta.
‘Merhaba fil’Malta (?)’.
I think that in future I will think three times again before I am going to book another holiday in Malta. It is really like some other foreign national commentators on your blog who have lived and worked there for year are telling, the new attitude of the Maltese appears to be like in that phrase of the most by me despised former UK PM Mrs May like ‘come in do your Business and then leave’. In other words translated it also means (to me) ‘get in spend your money and then ‘F.O.”. Well, the UK will soon see how far one gets in this world by continuing with this attitude.
Just one quoted passage from your update:
‘One would hope that the Maltese will choose better people in leadership, independently of which party they’re from, and avoid further damage to the country. It’s worth keeping in mind that right now, the Maltese economy seems to be doing very well, however I am of the opinion that this boom has not been very organic nor is it built on solid ground.’
The ‘better people’ or say just one of these, Mr Simon Busuttil, who could make a change is now in Brussels working for the EPP Group and this because the PN hangs on to a man who has apparently no qualities in leadership and is also despised by those who seek ‘Justice for Daphne’.
The economy in Malta is about to face a ‘speedy road downwards’ with tourism rather slowly getting started for this year and headlines like the above quoted are no ‘invitation’ for a holiday in Malta rather the reverse.
Greed leads to ruin and arrogance comes before the fall but this is of no concern to some politicians and less so to those xenophobes which one can really find in every country, not ‘only in Malta’ or like some other Maltese commentator in the Times always uses to abbreviate ‘O.I.M.’.
Sorry for having to comment to your blog with all these negative passages as they reflect on the current reality in Malta.
Best wishes to you anyway.
Quote from above link:
‘Go back to your country’: How coronavirus xenophobia is driving foreigners away
Some foreign nationals living in Malta say they are leaving the country – or have already left – because of feelings of increased xenophobia during the pandemic.
Dozens of people came forward on social media when asked by Times of Malta about the reasons, excluding job loss, for choosing to move on from the country they had called home.
Common answers included the growing cost of living, corruption, over-development and pollution. However, most cited an increasing feeling of xenophobia since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and described it as “the last straw” when making their final decision.
“Originally we had planned to stay in Malta until we passed away, but not with a situation where you get so much hatred,” says Karin Perez Deldgado. She and her husband returned to Germany in recent weeks after almost five years in Malta.
The couple enjoyed their first three-and-a-half years on the island, but said things started to decline and they felt harassed and threatened in their neighbourhood of Balzan.
“We heard ‘go back to your country’ one too many times,” says Karin who believes intolerance worsened with the pandemic.
“Everyone was blaming foreigners for COVID. So I stayed at home for two months. I can’t even count how many times I cried.”
Another woman preparing to leave the islands on the first available flight next month is Justyna Majcher. She and her son will move to Poland after living here for 12 years.
Two particular government missteps during the pandemic were defining moments. The first took place just weeks after coronavirus hit Malta when Economy Minister Silvio Schembri told parliament: “When foreign workers lose their jobs, they will have to go back to their country.” The minister later apologised.
One Irish businesswoman, who has lived in Malta for 12 years, says the couple plan to leave next year. “I cried for hours after the economy minister made his statements. He should have been forced to resign. We have tirelessly tried to integrate because we thought the Maltese people shared our values of respect, humanity and sense of justice. Foreigners are not the enemy.”
The second incident was when the government announced it will give €100 vouchers to everyone aged over 16 to spend in local businesses in an attempt to boost the economy. However, when some EU citizens tried to access the vouchers, they were told only people on the general elections voter registry were eligible. The news caused mass outrage on social media and forced a government U-turn. Many described feeling ‘discriminated’ against, including one British couple who have changed their minds about spending the rest of their days here.
“We felt we were being treated unfairly, especially as we contribute financially and also do all we can to look after our area. We have found that locals seem a lot less tolerant of foreigners since the start of coronavirus. We have been told we should not be out walking our dogs because we are British and should ‘go back to where we came from’.”
End of quote.
We agree with every word. Me and my partner recently relocated to spain for these exact reasons. And sometimes it feels like malta is a nutcase as so many dont see these things.
Christine Duffield says
I used to live in Naxxar and later in Mellieha.
Every word you say is unfortunately, true. A beautiful island – completely ruined. The pollution was getting so bad, my husband ended up in Meter Dei with heart failure! We are now living in the UK and what you say about the Maltese winters is so, so true! Bone achingly cold inside -then getting gassed with the gas-heater. Dressing gown on in bed, anyone?
I can’t recount how many times I’ve nearly been driven off the road by a pick-up determined to hog the centre-line, especially down those hair-raising bends across the valley (and by-pass), Mellieha!
We were beginning to feel like prisoners in our own home. Valletta for lunch? If you get in a car-park about 7.30am! ditto my favourite place, Mdina. If you do venture out, no chance of parking outside your own home on your return – no way!
I have just completed 3 years of research for my book, set in Malta. It is called Saints & Cynics and is a ‘Dan Brown – style, conspiracy novel; all about the Elongated skulls of Malta. Lots of atmosphere about real life in Malta and a fantastic, well researched story. It is with my publisher, as I write. If you would like a copy, please do get in touch via e-mail.
It has been a pleasure reading your article and brought a smile to my face. Would I go back and live there? No chance!
My wife and I visited Malta for a month in 2019 and stayed on Gozo also. We travel around the world full-time, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Something like a Greek island like Crete perhaps?
Wow, unfortunately I was unpleasantly surprised. Gridlocked roads, choking pollution from exhaust fumes, impossible to walk anywhere, trash lining the streets. Gozo was slightly better in these respects, but still seemed very anti-pedestrian.
I was wondering if I was being unfair in this regard, and had a look on the Numbeo pollution index https://www.numbeo.com/pollution/rankings_by_country.jsp?title=2020®ion=150
Malta apparently has the 4th highest pollution in Europe (behind far less developed countries like North Macedonia and Albania), and it really shows.
As I say, Gozo was slightly better, but not great. We were surprised to find that we had to regularly check a jellyfish map due to the frequency with which they crop up at local beaches, probably due to global warming/pollution as per here:
Overall, I’m really not clear why it seems to remain so popular as a holiday destination.
Jean Galea says
Yes, the jellyfish problem is quite big in summer. It’s due to global warming and the fact that there are less predators like turtles that used to be quite common in previous decades.
Brilliant! Thank you for writing this! Was considering moving to Malta, or at least maybe take a trip there, but was a bit cautious about the propagandistic glossed over version which is presented to people which every location can have. So this piece of writing is something that I needed, to open my eyes, to get some REAL TRUTH into what it is like to be in Malta. Thank u very much ^^ It was most helpful! And you sound like you are loving it more after Malta which is great! To me it means that you’re loving your life more, and this is important. Hope u are doing well, And again Thank you for writing this! I am from Bulgaria looking for where to go and this was great and helpful ^^ You are great <3
Jean Galea says
Welcome Erik. I’ve been to Sofia and really enjoyed my time there.
Marko Leetberg says
This was a nice reading. I visited Malta lately and one thing i noticed was plastic 2-liter bottles filled with liquids on the pavement in front of houses. I was wondering what is the purpose of them. First i thought it’s part of maltese garbage system as there were garbage bags lying on the street. Can you tell the reason of placing those bottles outside of houses?
Jean Galea says
Hehe that’s a good one. I believe it dissuades dogs or cats from peeing on their facades. I’d have to check the science behind that one…
Much is true of what you said about the phase changes Malta is gone through and sadly still going through with much more to come. I have been living abroad for the past eleven years and I visit Malta to see my family which I miss obviously and throughout them years I’ve witnessed changes out and about such as building development and increased traffic etc.
These greedy land developers see only euro signs on their eyeballs! And have no thought for the islands heritage and the government must step in big time as for the traffic situation it is a nightmare from day time to nightime! And again the government must bring a halt to the increasing vehicles on the roads because the roads are choked with cars everywhere everytime. And if he thinks that flyovers are the remedy for the constant traffic congestion well he has another thing coming cause it doesn’t! And this drilling the island’s rock foundation for flyovers and demolishing buildings to rebuild new ones only disturbs the dormant foundation of the the island and recently a tragedy occurred with a woman being buried alive whom sadly passed away from these unthinkable projects!
And i see her sister island Gozo becoming the next victim in these unthinkable projects!
Malta has changed with the new breed of mentality and this breed don’t ever see Malta as the previous generations before them did.
Despite beingbthe jewel of the Mediterranean and the wars it went throughout from centuries of war from the great siege to world war two it persevered as we use the phrase ‘miskina Malta’ but regretfully the present generation of big shots cannot see that as they are blind to their greed for power and profit!
Hope to hear from you soon as sometimes life abroad can get lonesome!
david alamango says
i do not agree one bit at ll in what she is saying, my wife and and a couple of inlaws , we loved malta and hope to go and visit one day,i do not know
what she expected to find.. look it is very hard to fined a better place than
but to us malta is a very close second
I’ve finally left Malta for good and this article is the only thing which gives me comfort. All I get is, “Malta is so nice. Sunny beaches. Why would you leave it?” And with the collapsing building killing people it’s confirmed that it’s too dangerous to live in. Unfortunately we’re so insignificant, that no one bothers to check whether we’re a third world shithole or not. My only dream is that one thay the UN/EU realises how horrific we are and demotes us to turd in the middle of the Mediterranean
Victoria Martínez says
I am a Spaniard living in Malta for the past 13 years (some factors led me to that, but that is besides the point here) and I cannot agree more with your article.
Malta could have been a great country and my criticism is more based on the pain I feel of seeing negative aspects that could easily be corrected/changed (and I am afraid they never will) and with the eyes of someone that wants this country to thrive and get better as, after all, it has been my home for many years than the eyes of a foreigner that is comparing everything to his/her beloved and perfect country without trying to shift the perspective to look at things in a different way and without understanding that the contexts are just different (I am long pass that).
Sometimes I have the feeling that I want this country to improve much more than most Maltese…
In any case, and just to finish off, just wanted to say that I totally subscribe your points and if I have to write an article why I cannot stand this country any longer, I suspect it would look similar to yours.
In normal conditions a foreigner wouldn’t last more than three years in Malta out of frustration, stiffliness, lack of enforcement, as well as green areas, education, manners civism, openness and cultural scene.
Jean Galea says
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, unfortunately, I have to agree with everything you say.
Arvind Keerthi says
Very nice and heartfelt article. I live in Bangalore, India, and I know exactly what you mean by non-existent and non-standard roads, callous authorities, illegal construction, poor governance overall.