Archive of ‘Expat Mama’ category
So 9th October 2017 marked my 12th anniversary of living in Malta.
Can someone please tell me how have I survived this long ha ha. I say that both in astonishment and with great affection!
Recently I shared some funny anecdotes of my life in this unique corner of the Mediterranean, over on my Facebook page captioning it ‘#YouKnowYouveBecomeABitMalteseWhen… Some of my followers based in/originally from Malta commented with hilarious anecdotes of their own (more on that in a sec). I kept these in mind and voilà the theme of this year’s Malta anniversary was born!
So as is now annual AbPrab tradition, I thought I’d take another lighthearted look at this mad dusty rock.
Please leave any Malta sensitivities at the door, get your laughter hat on and read on, without taking this too seriously!
Here are 12 scenarios that happen commonly in Malta and signs you know you’ve (well I know I have anyway!) become Maltese (a bit). Oh and remember what I said about my AbPrabbers commenting on the various Facebook posts? Well some of their comments have made it into this post. Look out for the quotes in large font.
1. You see an open-ended cable hanging from the ceiling right down to the floor in a supermarket/cafe/etc…
If you still lived in your home country, you’d be horrified and ask for the manager and…wait…you wouldn’t see this in your home country…
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): you don’t even notice it as you walk past the first time and automatically just step around the cable. I mean it’s just an open-ended cable in a public place and could merely electrocute someone right? MELA.
2. Talking of which…the Maltese language!
You think the terms Mela and Uwejja are the Best. Words. EVER
3. You see a bunch of tourists wearing a vest and shorts in October…
If you still lived in your home country: you’d be in a vest and shorts if it was 25 degrees too.
Hell, if it was 25 degrees in October in your country, you’d go to work in swimwear if you could.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You chuckle to yourself at how cute these tourists ‘who never see the sun’ are. You’re wearing jeans. Because it’s Autumn. Yes it’s 25 degrees outside but it’s Autumn.
4. You’ve waited patiently for your turn in a queue only for the cashier to serve the person behind you, without even consulting you.
When you first moved here, you literally Could. Not. Believe. This. Happens. Your blood just BOILED. You didn’t stand for it and would insist the other customer waits their turn.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You say nothing. You don’t even get annoyed by the other customer not thanking you. It all just feels quite logical. Or as one AbPrabber put it:
You know you’re Maltese when you begin to think that people who obsess about forming an orderly queue need to just chill out a bit.
5. You get stuck in traffic trying to reach the end of a road, only to find it’s closed and that the traffic was just caused by the 20 poor sods now trying to turn their car around to go back the way they came BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SIGN at the road’s entrance.
When you first moved here, you’d get angry about this for days. Seriously DAYS.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You forget about it 30 minutes later. On your next trip home, your brain nearly falls out in amazement when a friend shows you some SciFi-like actual APP that alerts drivers to road works and diversions!!
6. Talking of driving (okay I know the driving thing is a WHOLE separate book but…): you stop your car in the middle of the road to chat to a friend coming the other way.
If you still lived back home: well…people just don’t do this back home. It’s a crime as severe as high treason.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You’ve no idea why you even mentioned this in rage to people back home when they would ask how you were settling in, the first year.
7. You see the new larger security hall at Malta airport…
If you were still new to Malta: You’d think ‘About blooming time they joined this century’
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You are SO impressed you take a picture of one of the signs and actually congratulate one of the security hall agents on the improved facilities. Oh…just me?
8. You want to go out for a walk/run/other outdoor exercise mid August.
When you first moved to Malta: You thought this was irresponsible and googled the risks of exercising in a hot climate and slapped on a bottle of suncream (even though it was 8pm)
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You’re really happy it’s finally ‘cooled down only’ 30 degrees.
9. You see some fruit/veg fall out of a box at the farmers’ market/supermarket/vegetable truck and roll to the ground. The assistant picks it up and throws it back in the box.
If this happened in your home country, you’d be disgusted, start shopping somewhere else and the shop would close down within weeks after someone reports their hygiene standards.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): you say nothing, carry on with your shopping and just wash it when you get home. I mean it’s just rolled around on a germy surface; what’s the big deal? Mela.
10. You go to Gozo for a Summer break.
When you first moved to Malta: You thought this was utterly hilarious and couldn’t believe people considered this a holiday, when they hadn’t even left the Maltese islands.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You are SO ridiculously excited about getting off the rock and er…going to another rock – you actually Instagram about it (a lot).
11. A waiter/shop assistant/someone in the service industry says “Yes” instead of “Next please” or “How can I help?”
When you first moved to Malta: You flinched in absolute horror at such abruptness and mannerless customer service.
Sure sign you’ve become Maltese (a bit): You don’t bat an eyelid and wonder why your visiting guest is staring open-mouthed at the assistant.
12. Another shop-related one and probably my absolute favourite from a blog follower:
You stop the car outside your local grocer, shout in your shopping list from the comfort of the drivers seat and ask him to bag it up whilst you go and park!
Joking apart, we all know there are things that need to change about Malta. But then there are surely things about your home country that drive you totally nuts and make you glad to be on the mad rock. Nowhere is perfect.
So for now, let’s just put it all down to the charm of the Mediterranean.
You can read the previous Malta anniversary posts here:
ARE YOU A NON-MALTESE LIVING IN MALTA? WHAT’S ON YOUR LIST?
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Disclaimer: if you’re one of the people who took offence to ‘that post’ or you have a habit of skim reading, please note:
1) this post is written with affection for Malta and the term 20 crazy things about Malta should be taken with a pinch of salt as I had to pick a short snappy title
2) I choose my words respectfully and carefully when writing…so if you intend to comment I request that you do the same
3) if you think this post is meant to insult, it’s a good idea to come back hereand reread this bit.
So….it’s that time of year again. The time of year when I suddenly realise marks yet another anniversary of my arrival in Malta
(which I have written about previously from different angles in Should I Stay and Home is Where). A time of year when my disbelief at still living on ‘the rock’, is at its greatest. Yes, this 9th October was eleven years since I left loving family, interminable traffic, the vibrant culture and the relentlessly grey clouds of the UK (sorry but that’s usually the first thing that strikes me when I land at Heathrow) for the endlessly sunny blue skies, bumpy roads, simpler lifestyle and 1970’s supermarkets of a country I couldn’t even point out on a world map.
I actually forgot today was the exact date (despite spending the last two months telling people I’d lived here almost eleven years) until I bumped into a couple of friends on the beach (both of them expats).
One of them told me about a woman who has given up trying to make a happy life here as she has found the adjustment too hard for various reasons
which I won’t go into here as this post is not about bashing Malta as already explained at the start. I got to thinking about the number of people I’ve known who left the island for the same reasons as this woman and I couldn’t help wondering why we have stayed for nine years longer than we planned (!) and what we like about it. Inevitably, I also thought about some of the unusual stuff you see here. I think our longevity in Malta has been partly due to our capacity to endure the rough with the smooth, partly our ability to just have a good laugh at the daft bits and mainly our steadfast refusal to go back to the blooming rain and high prices we left!
Anyway, I can’t let a Malta anniversary go by without writing something. So after the hard-hitting but honest Dear Malta You’re Breaking my Heart and the pensive How Has it Come to This?
I think it’s time I take a light-hearted look at life on the rock based on my experience.
There is so much I’ve got used to (admittedly a lot of it reluctantly) over the last 11 years to the point where I often don’t realise, until guests come over and express total shock at this that, just how much of the Mediterranean madness has become second nature to me! If you had told me 11 years ago that I would find ANY of the following ‘normal’, I would have thought you were out of your mind. Here is my list of 20 Crazy Things About Malta that I never in a million years believed I’d actually do myself or get used to (and yes the original list was longer but I narrowed it down for everyone’s sake because sometimes Netflix is more important). Oh and er…remember the disclaimer.
I never thought I would:
‘1. Go to a new furniture store..not because I need furniture…but because it’s a day out. (I think I just blushed.)
2. Get stuck behind a lorry/rubbish truck/car driver who has not broken down but is merely chatting to someone they’ve seen on the pavement…and that I would just sit there…without getting out the car or hooting in good old 1990’s road rage style (must be going soft in my old age).
3. Get used to the sound of fireworks. Every day. For three months.
4. Ask at a grocery store if I can just leave the money for my one item instead of waiting behind that woman with the large trolley. I’d NEVER do that in the UK for fear of getting lynched.
5. Read a headline in the local paper about a sulky driver, think “Oh my God what a rude way to describe that poor driver” before realising they meant the driver of a vehicle known as a sulky…not that the driver of a car was in a bad mood.
This is a sulky (noun NOT adjective!) driver
6. Say ‘I’m ready” when I mean “I’ve finished”. This is quite possibly the biggest surprise of them all considering how I wanted to Rip. My. Own. Ears. Off. every time I heard someone say this the first few years here.
7. Go to Lidl! Never mind the blooming furniture store. Ruddy hell, I never thought I’d go to Lidl. (Gold star to those of you who follow my Facebook page and have just worked out this is what I refer to as ‘the shop that shall not be named’.)
8. Complain about the traffic…when there are in fact only twelve cars in front of me. Talking of which:
I also never expected to hear a radio DJ guess the state of play on the roads because his particular radio station does not have an official traffic update service (in the form of helicopters with reporters hired to provide actual real time info). This happened about two weeks ago and I almost had to park up, I was laughing so much. He just hypothesised about how many cars may or may not be on the roads and which areas may or may not have traffic. Funniest thing I’ve heard in ages.
9. Feel perfectly comfortable walking down the street in a sarong and flip flops behind three barely-dressed children (my kids, not some randoms).
10. Accept it when a cafe only offers ham and cheese sandwiches or cheese and ham sandwiches or cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches.
11. Park on double yellow lines (sssssshhhhhhh).
12. Get charged 2.50 euros for a cappuccino and think ‘ooh that’s expensive’. I mean it’s twice that in my home town!
13. Avoid enrolling my children in a particular sport because the location is a whopping 15 minute drive. You really do have to live here to get that one!!
14. Sing high praise for the excellent customer service and wonderfully friendly staff at such and such a place…when actually all they did was say please and thank you and serve me within ten minutes of walking in, you know, their job.
15. Leave my car key with a total stranger instead of waiting for a space in a car park and taking my key with me.
16. Go into raptures over an ‘amazing new’ cafe/hotel/shop, baffling a guest visiting from abroad who looks at me as if every brain cell has fallen out of my skull because in actual fact said cafe/hotel/shop is nothing special and I’ve simply lowered my expectations.
17. Have the following exchange (more than once)
Me: “Please can I have still water?”
Waiter: “Yes, still or sparkling?”
and not want to scream.
18. Pay 4 euros for a tiny broccoli head. I mean actually pay it. Without asking if it was grown in gold soil. And leave with my broccoli. Without whispering a breath of complaint. Or sarcasm. Never thought I’d see the day…miracle.
20. Not be in the slightest bit surprised at returning to a local beach restaurant, months after a visiting friend fell off the back verandah due to inadequate safety standards (breaking her leg and requiring surgery) only to see that NOTHING has been done to erect a protective railing since then. Shame on you Las Palmas. [Clearly this is one not-at-all-funny point in this list.]
As I finish writing this at 11pm, someone is sitting in a car hooting their horn instead of getting out and ringing the doorbell of the person they’re visiting…and all my lights have gone out.
Well it is in the Mediterranean Darling!
BEFORE YOU LEAVE…DO YOU KNOW MALTA WELL? WHAT WOULD BE ON YOUR LIST OF CRAZY THINGS ABOUT ISLAND?
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So this is the first time I’m posting a photo for the #MySundayPhoto series hosted by Photalife! Can’t believe it really, considering how much I snap away on that most advanced complex skill-demanding photographic instrument, the iPhone. Anyway, despite having a mountain of DIY projects and ever-neglected chores to do around the house, we headed out for a quick walk to the stunning Ghan Tueffieha Bay, known locally as Riviera. I say quick because we slept in til super late o’clock, had to rush Cheeky K to a birthday party and by the time we’d had a late breakfast, didn’t have much time left til we had to be back home again for a super important event: Manchester v Tottenham….snoooooooore.
Anyway, I really struggled to pick one photo for My Sunday Photo 10th April because I have to say of all the pictures I’ve taken over the time we’ve lived here, today was quite possibly the day where I took THE most stunning ones. We walked up the top of Ghan Tuffieha, above the beach, along the beautiful open rocky terrain, to a stunning rock that looked like something out of a breathtaking film scene (hardly surprising when you consider that Malta has been used in the making of numerous films such as Count of Monte Cristo, Troy and most recently, By the Sea (with Brangelina). I got some incredible shots of the kids, paddle boarders, surfers and landscape in general. This picture was taken whilst downing a quick cappuccino before racing back home, you know, for that match that was much more important than spending quality time with one’s kids (ugh). If you look closely, you can see a surfer in the waters.
[She let out a happy sigh.]
I’ve been tagged by Laura of Life With Baby Kicks in the What Home Means to Me an expat life series. It certainly is a timely question as October 9th was exactly 10 years since the day I arrived in Malta. Yes, let’s think about that for a second!
TEN YEARS since we moved to this teeny tiny island to take up what is known as expat life. We only came for two!
If you want to know how come we ended up staying so long, this should help. I can remember so much of that initial time like it was yesterday. Hubster came first to start his new venture, source accommodation and begin setting up our life here. I stayed back a few more weeks in the UK to pack up our apartment and organise our removal shipment. It had been a hard slog organising and getting everything done, handling the aftermath of cleaning etc, closing down our UK life, saying goodbye to the home that we had lived in as first time parents with our baby.
A home we’d been so happy in…
I recall before I took Hubster to the airport, I suggested he briefly pause (amidst the anxious checking of travel documents and eagerness to leave on time) and walk around the apartment a few minutes to ‘take in the place’, storing away memories before he left it forever.
It’s funny the things that get imprinted in your memory and stuck in your heart…
I’ll never forget watching the container, carrying our worldly goods, making its way towards the gates of the leafy surroundings of our Harrow on the Hill residence, the chilly October evening darkening around me as I fought back tears and swallowed the lump in my throat. [It’s October as I write this now …sitting in a Summer dress and flipflops. Expat life in a hot country…very different!] I can still see the tail lights blinking at me one last time before the back of the huge vehicle finally disappeared round the corner, carrying our life on it. I say ‘finally’ but in truth I remember how quickly it seemed to vanish…
I will always be a nomad at heart til they finally put me in my own container and ship me out one last time.
Yet I still wanted to run after that lorry and say
Hang on, there’s been a mistake…please unload it all and put it back again…we’ve been SO happy here you see…
I think the only thing stopping me was the fact that I was trying to hang onto a 14 month-old not-yet-walking Musical M as she wrestled in my arms, miserable from yet another teething cold. I stood there a good long while thinking Well that’s it. We’re really doing this. Even though this was not the first time I was moving countries (I had left my job, Hampstead lodgings and said goodbye to family, friends and London life to go and live solo in Paris thirteen years before), this felt more daunting and emotional. Parenthood does that I think. Age does that. You’re less gung ho about things (or maybe even braver because of the experiences you’ve already had?) At least this time, I had the reassurance of doing it with my life partner.
But of course this time, I was ‘taking a child away from her grandparents’…
It was definitely different from being the young, free, I-just-wanna-have-fun singleton who headed off to work at the launch of Eurodisney (as it was then called) with nothing more than a large rucksack. Way different!
Anyway, before I empty this Kleenex box reminiscing over old pictures and memories, I had better describe what home has come to mean to me (I’ve changed the title a bit to make it fit more what I was trying to say):
- Home is where I can let my kids run off to play at the end of our road or venture over rocks out of sight to go crab hunting by the sea, without me worrying they won’t ever come back home because of another human being’s wickedness #CarefreeChildhood
- Home is where I don’t drive around the supermarket carpark for fifteen minutes because 8 drivers have managed to take up 16 spaces.
- Home is where we are not surrounded by identikit high streets and built up areas but have nature on our doorstep, can swim in blue waters during the summer and go hiking during the winter.
- Home is where I don’t jump out of my skin in my own home because of cockroaches suddenly scampering out of somewhere unexpected #UnwantedGuests
- Home is where ‘weather permitting’ means “if it’s not too insanely hot” rather than “if it’s not pouring down’. #NeedTheSun
- Home is where I don’t have to say my prayers just to get a drinkable cappuccino or even get served at all #StillLooking
- Home is where an evening out can be a simple meal or an ice cream without the fear of bankruptcy.
- Home is a place that exposes my kids to a cosmopolitan life and teaches them that there is more to life than this tiny island, no matter how nice it may be.
- Home is where there is a vibrant city offering hustle and bustle but quiet residential areas by the sea.
- Home is where you can go on an actual road trip lasting more than an hour…where putting your foot on the accelerator and letting the engine rip doesn’t mean you end up in the sea.
- Home is where there are TREES….oh how I miss trees and huge luscious fields but:
- Home is where there is a beach just minutes from our house for us to stop off at after school and where I have amazing scenery where I go out exercising:
- and where this is my backdrop as I go out walking/running:
- Home is where I don’t have to wait forty minutes for the menu before just getting one myself and then waiting another thirty before anyone takes my order and the same before the order arrives etc
- Home is where my kids are happy in a nurturing school with a relaxed environment and a low/no pressure homework policy. (And where I’m happy that there is no class system, bitchy atmosphere or fashion war between mums trying to trump each other at the school gates.)
- Home is where I don’t have to find slugs and slime trails all over my kitchen in the morning and tiny bugs in food packets. #Eeewww
- Home is where we live in swimwear and flipflops half the year and it’s being able to just get in the car in a sarong and bikini in the summer because nobody bats an eye and everyone understands it just gets Too. Hot. For. Clothes. (Now you get why I used that swimsuit pic right?)
- Home is where we finally have a garden, you know, with real grass…and a pool, oh and no damp inside the house…ooh and air conditioning pretty please. #IDontAskForMuch
- Home is where I don’t risk my life every time I get in my car because of the shocking behaviour of other drivers. No point doing a hashtag for this as I would just swear.
- Home is where ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, eye contact and a smile…and just being nice are common behaviour. #SomewhereOverTheRainbow
- Home is where if you haven’t got money on you, you can just come back and pay later and not be regarded as a criminal. #ReasonToNeverLeaveMalta
- Home is where food, clothes, books, toy etc shopping doesn’t cost the earth because of import costs. #PainInMyPocket
- Home is the warm feeling I get in my tummy seeing Hubster and MDK chill on the sofa on a weekend evening – after a long week of school runs, homework etc – watching TV or reading while relaxing music plays and V&T o’clock gets close.
- Home is where it doesn’t cost a fortune just to leave the house because you can actually park for free a lot of the time and don’t have crazy travel costs. #ThankYouMalta
- Home is where my eyes and heart don’t hurt over the lack of regard for the environment on pretty much a daily basis. #HowIsThisHappeningIn2015
They say home is where the heart is. I left a part of my heart in Paris, a part in that first apartment we lived in as parents in London… There’s a piece left at the villa we lived in when we first moved to Malta (Dreamy D’s first home) and I’m sure, much as I complain about our present home, there’s a part here as this is Cheeky K’s first home.
Ultimately, clichéd as it may be, home is where my family is. I’m not sure I can find a place that meets all of the above anyway. But I’ll keep on looking…because like I said, I’m a nomad at heart…
I now tag:
UK bloggers Doctomum and Bewildered Dad
Aussie blogger Agent Spitback
US blogger Dads Going Home
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The weekly blog series #effitfriday by Modern Dad Pages and Life With Baby Kicks showcases posts by bloggers who want to have a bit of a rant – funny or serious – about anything they want. Up til now, I’ve dug up something from my archives but this time I wrote something specifically for #effitfriday. Will it bring on some haters? Maybe. Do some things need to be said instead of always being politely suppressed out of fear of offending? Definitely. So if this loses me a few readers, so be it.
Here’s the thing. Many people know how positive I am about Malta. I’ve sung her praises in 30 Things That Make Me Happy, Should I Stay or Should I Go, my instagram pics and Facebook posts. Overall, I am grateful for the life I am able to live in Malta. An average of 300 days of sunshine, a safe environment, a house 100 metres from the sea…we left London behind and have never regretted it. I am blessed. I know this. And frankly, I think, when you choose to live in a country that you did not grow up in, you try to show respect towards and appreciation of that country. After all, I guess if you don’t like it…
I know no country is perfect. Every country has its negative aspects. But the negative aspects are starting to get me down a bit. You can’t tar an entire country’s people with the same brush of course. There are wonderful reasonable open-minded level-headed people here. So I’m sorry if I put anyone’s few noses out of joint, but it’s time for an #effitfriday rant about my adoptive country, this mad dusty little rock I’ve called home for almost ten years:
Dear Malta, when you leave a pushchair/washing machine/rusty bike/plastic bottles etc on the side of a road or on a picturesque path or you get up from a beach/picnic area leaving coffee cups, beer bottles, plates and napkins strewn across the area where you were sitting, you depress me with your utter disrespect for the environment when your own houses are spotlessly clean.
Dear Malta, when the fishmonger at that supermarket shouts at me, brings the whole shop to a standstill, reduces me to tears in front of my girls, causes the manager to get involved begging the fishmonger to serve me and begging me not to make a formal complaint (!), you make me question how some people are just so damned pigheaded and horrible.
Dear Malta, when your drivers, knowingly come the wrong way down a one-way road towards me, refusing to reverse even though they are stopping me from driving the correct way up the road and become aggressive when I point out their ‘error’ – day after day after effing day – you test my ability to understand humans who cannot/will not acknowledge their wrong doing.
Dear Malta, when I go to a wedding and a friend makes no secret of her distaste at ‘the immigrant’ situation and complains loudly – from her privileged vantage point over champagne and canapés – about how she has stopped going to her favourite vegetable shop as it is full of “****ing Arabs”, you make me question how humankind is so unable to empathise with others who endure unimaginable hardship and tragedy that causes them to flee their own country.
Dear Malta, when I finally get to go out for a much needed night out, drive around for ages and grab what seems to be the only parking spot only to get verbally abused by a Neanderthal shouting “Move your car” – and then once I’ve moved on to another spot get abused again by the same driver slowing down to yell “This is MY country, not YOUR country”…you kill me with your racist narrow mindedness.
Dear Malta, when I stand in a queue at the supermarket, shortly before I need to collect my kids, and a women in front of me who had only one basket in her hand then calls her husband over who rocks up with an entire trolley (and I start to ask “Ah which queue were you in?” only to get as far as “Ah” before said woman jumps down my throat in the ugliest most aggressive mannerless way, you make me wonder how the younger generation will learn how to conduct themselves.
Dear Malta, when your customer service is so lacking that the customer feels like they are a burden and you are doing them an enormous favour by eventually giving them a menu/stopping your conversation with your colleague to bark “Yes!” instead of “Hello how can I help?”/slamming their change down on the checkout ignoring the customer’s outstretched hand, you puzzle me as to how you still have soooo much to learn, years after you got into the EU and years after you might have learned something from us foreigners’ reaction to such customer service.
Dear Malta, when you constantly use the word ‘foreigner’, not realising how offensive it is to every expat living (and spending money) on your island (and when you try to get away with charging me “foreigners’ prices for my fruit and veg etc) you dishearten me and make me wonder why you insist on encouraging this divide.
Dear Malta, when you ignore sense, humanity and the conservation issue and let a referendum through that allows the barbaric shooting of birds during a two week period in their critical breeding season, where the poor dears are merely passing through your country as they migrate to other places, you leave me speechless at your cold-heartedness.
Dear Malta, out of respect, I’ve written nothing like this in 19 months of blogging. But respect is a two way thing…and it needs to be earned… So please, Malta, stop breaking my heart.
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So October 9th this year, it was exactly nine years since I arrived in Malta
with a 15 month-old Musical M to join my hubby and embark on a life in the sun (well…actually we thought it was going to be two or three years in the sun). Nine years, two more kids, many near misses on the roads and a few sun-induced wrinkles later, we’re STILL here. We’ve hummed and hawed over the years about leaving and flirted with various possiblities including more than a mere flirtation with the idea of moving to the States which didn’t materialise after being turned down twice for the visa (their loss I say). Yet, here we still very much are. A friend of ours said during our trip back to London this Summer “So nine years in Malta…wow really guys, what’s the appeal?!” For me, Hubster’s reply really hit the nail on the head and I couldn’t have put it better myself; but more on that in a minute.
This year is Musical M’s last year of elementary school.
She started age three…and next year she’ll move to Middle School. I can hardly believe it. It’s the only school she and Dreamy D have ever known and Cheeky K just started too. I’ve had some of the teachers twice because of three kids at the same school so we’re part of the furniture by now. We’re in no rush to leave Malta as it really has become home but I can’t help wondering sometimes if it’s time to move on. I’ve never seen myself settling in one place forever as I’m a bit of nomad at heart but when you have kids in the mix, it changes things a bit. So what does one do when trying to answer the question of ‘should I stay or should I go’? Draw up a list of reasons to stay in Malta versus reasons to leave course!
REASONS TO STAY IN MALTA vs REASONS TO LEAVE
They Are in No Hurry to Take My Money…
I can turn up at the hairdressers/restaurant/doctors without my wallet (I do this rather a lot) and I can still get a haircut/meal/appointmet and just pay next time I go. What’s more, I can borrow items from certain stores to try out/show Hubster and then just return them at a later date without even leaving so much as my phone number or a deposit.
…But They Seem To Be In A Big Hurry to Take My Life
They routinely drive through red lights as I”m coming through my green, overtake on double lines on a tight bend with zero visibility and ignore no entry signs driving straight at me. (FYI apparently their misdemeanours are not their fault; they’re mine.)
It’s So Easy to Get to Know People…
I know the guy who runs the car park at Golden Bay, the staff at our local beach restaurant, the owner of our local convenience store, the chap who comes round with his fruit and veg truck, the fishmonger at the supermarket – all by name. This is a big deal when you come from London where you can live next to the same person for ten years and never know their name.
…But Not If They Are in The Medical Profession
We’ve had the same doctor for a few years and he still looks at me like he’s never seen me or any of my kids before. Meanwhile the staff of the state hospital look at us like we built a boat and rowed all the way from India to seek refuge in Malta and one of the nurses I had at the birth of Cheeky K clearly thought I’d had one too many children and simply couldn’t find it in herself to be civil at any point during my five day stay in hospital.
If You Need to Look Good You’re Probably in the Right Place…
I have never seen so many hair salons, nail bars or beauty salons before.
…If You Need Decent Shopping, You’re In The Wrong Place
So you’ve got perfect hair, neat nails and you’ve been thoroughly ‘defluffed’ (oh come on…you didn’t really think I’d let this post go by without a tiny bit of Prabulous humour did you?). Now try finding great shoes and amazing clothes to go with it. Good luck with that. This ain’t New York, Paris or London baby…
Clear blue skies, infrequent rain and an average of 300 annual days of sunshine. What’s not to like?
It may not be Dubai or India but the four months of intense heat and two months of slightly less intense heat but awful humidity can be unbearable…not to mention all that sun on the skin… And when it does rain, they are shockingly ill prepared for it.
And the Water!
Apparently we have the most turquoise waters in the Mediterranean! I mean just look at these scenes! These were all genuinely taken with my phone during various days out around Malta and not from a tourism site. And the one bottom left really is down the road from where we live and I can stop off and fit in a cheeky half hour of snorkelling there.
By the way, if these photos make you want to come here, then these guides might inspire you:
Safety and The Simpler Life…
They may moan about how the island is changing and blame most of the ‘negative’ change on their favourite ‘f’ word…(’foreigners’) but it is still one of the safest places to live…a major consideration when you have kids. It’s a simpler life here. There is a beauty in that.
…Safe and Simple Isn’t Always Fun
Much safer and fewer things to do also means way less buzz. Nope, this sure ain’t New York, London or Paris.
It’s Lovely How Everyone knows Everyone…
There’s no need to be nervous if you’re going to a social event on your own because there is a 90% chance that you’ll walk in and know at least five people there, it’s such a small island.
…It’s A Nightmare How Everyone Knows Everyone
You have to seriously watch what you say. It will ALWAYS come back to bite you if you don’t, it’s such a small island.
You Don’t Have to Book Way Ahead For Events…
None of this months in advance nonsense…partly because they only advertise concerts or events about a month before the date. Well it is the Mediterranean Darling.
…Unless The Event is a Beauty Treatment
Women would rather go hungry here than not have tidy nails or fancy hair. Luckily I can call my magician lady at 4elements and she’ll squeeze me in for an emergency appointment even if she’s fully booked (I’m Indian. We have hair. I’m not being superficial. Believe me, it’s an emergency.)
A Night Out Doesn’t Cost a Fortune…
Crazy transport prices, exhorbitant parking costs, insane drinks prices…nope…don’t have that.
…But You’ll Always End up Going to the Same Places
A Tiny Island Means Short Distances…
Nothing is more than a 15 minute drive away. The kids’ school is a five minute drive away and my daily/weekly life pretty much takes place within a two mile radius. It’s liberating.
…But It Also Means Cabin Fever
When everything is reachable so quickly, you start craving the chance to let rip on long smooth open roads and actually drive. Problem is if you let rip on the roads of Malta and drive, you’d just end up in the sea. Not so liberating.
Life’s a Beach…
Whether it’s a full day relaxing at Golden Bay on the weekends or just delaying the reality of homework/dinner/evening routine by stopping off after school at our local beach for a cooling midweek swim, the beach is never far away. Heaven.
…But Sometimes The Beach Is The Only Thing To Do
…especially during those four blisteringly hot months of the year when It is just too hot to do anything not involving a cooling swim.
Still, you can’t do that in New York, Paris or London.
Or as Hubster said to our friends, “When you start the conversation about where to move to ‘next’ and you sit down and try to make a list of countries that have what Malta has, you end up with a very short list.” About a year after we moved here – once I’d got over my ‘rock shock’ – I realised it’s not about what Malta doesn’t have; it’s about what it does have.
Think we’ll stay a little bit longer then.
Phew. I’m glad that’s decided.
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Thank you my lovelies!
Now, if you have read 30 Things That Make Me Happy or When the Laughter Has to Stop or you’re one of my friends, you will (I hope) know that I’m a fan of Malta. For all its downsides (and what country doesn’t have its downsides right?) I usually have plenty of good to say about Malta and am in no rush to move back to the UK. So before anyone gets their tidy whities or luxurious lacies in a twist about any apparent Malta-bashing in this post, FYI I’m NOT Malta bashing. Well alright, maybe just a little bit in my cheeky Prabulous way but you’re a grown up. You can handle it. Right?
[Insert heavy pause in which I leave the doubters pondering or maybe even lose a few readers.]
The rest of you, step this way…
So as you may have noticed, I’ve been off the blog for a good few weeks. This is because we were en vacances and heaven knows it was much needed. If you check out my FB page, you’ll know we went to gorgeous warm green Sweden and then gorgeous not so warm but still green England. And no joke, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow it really has been a while since I left the UK for life on a little rock and I’ve actually got more acclimatised to Maltese life than even I realised’.
“Why did you think that, Prabs?” I hear you ask. Didn’t you ask it? Go on. Ask it.
Well, it’s like this my friend:
YOU KNOW YOU DON’T GO BACK TO THE UK OFTEN ENOUGH (AND YOU’VE BECOME SEMI MALTESE) WHEN:
1) A trip to the local supermarket is like going to Disney World.
Actually, it’s better than Disney World. The choice, good grief the choice! And the prices…Mama Mia the prices! Seriously, even my husband who visits the UK way more regularly than I do was throwing things we didn’t even need into the trolley like it was the last time he’d ever go shopping: “Get it! Look, it’s only a pound!” You’ve heard of the Last Supper. This was the Last Shopper (sorry, I had to go there).
And the aisles! Proper wide aisles you can actually push your trolley down without having to wait until a staff member has finished their ‘work’ so that you can just manoeuvre the bloody trolley around them.
And the concept of personal space! Ah…personal space…how I’ve missed you my friend. I’m so used to being bumped and jostled out the way at the checkout by the customer waiting behind me because it is totally beyond their ability to wait til I’ve finished my transaction, that it took me a few days of being back in the UK to realise I could relax and take an extra 4.5 seconds to put my receipt and money in my wallet and I didn’t need to feel anxious about the cashier already throwing the next customer’s items down the belt on top of my own.
2) You get cabin fever from car journeys lasting more than twenty minutes because you and your kids have become too used to short Malta distances. Seriously, after we got over the novelty of being reunited with decent long multi-lane roads, every time we went anywhere requiring at least a twenty minute drive (so that was pretty much anywhere) we’d turn round to find at least one child fast sleep…and no I’m not going to make a connection between that and the smooth non-potholed British roads nor make outlandish comments about how they never fall asleep in the car in Malta because of the bumpety bump roads…hell no, I wouldn’t dream of it [insert heavy silence here].
3) You go out for one drink and accidentally end up doing a pub crawl, obsessively going to as many pubs as you possibly can in one evening (actually who am I kidding with the ‘accidentally?) to soak up that typical English drinking atmosphere you’ve missed when in actual fact, you hardly ever stepped foot inside a pub after your uni days were over and pretty much favoured wine bars and cocktail lounges.
4) You think the customer service in the shops is the bomb and you want to add every checkout person to your Christmas card list because they’re sooooo polite…when all they actually did was say “Next customer please”.
Wait. What? They have Customer Service?
5) You can no longer order a coffee in Starbucks/Costa/Caffe Nero without turning into a gibbering wreck because you can’t remember the right lingo. Why do they all have different ways of describing the same product anyway? Tall, regular, grande, skinny, wet…no I’m not describing the Italian tourists who flood Golden Bay every summer. A medium latte in one cafe chain is a tall one in another, a large in the next cafe chain is a tall one in yet another; it’s confusing after all these years of not having to use those terms in Malta! Seriously, I’m all about good manners but sometimes they just get in the way. I mean, why can’t I just scream “Give me caffeine NOW!” at the barrista? Honestly, in this age of social media, how could they not know I was coming to town and simply change all the menu boards for the fortnight I was over just to save me the embarrassment?
6) You are filled with equal amounts of dread and excitement at the thought of doing some London shopping because there are so very many more shops than on your wee Mediterranean island that frankly it’s overwhelming going back to the big smoke (not that anyone calls it the big smoke in the UK).
7) You actually apologise at the Customer Service counter and get butterflies in your stomach for even daring to ask for a refund for that totally unnecessary handbag you bought because you’ve forgotten it is not a crime to expect a shop to have a full refund policy instead of that pissy ‘we only do exchanges so we’ve got your money anyway sucker’ policy.
Wait. What? Not only do they get customer service; they have actual Customer Service counters?!
8) You want to individually kiss every blade of grass and wrap your arms around every tree you see (and give them names…ahem again) because you are THAT starved of greenery on your little rock in the Med.
9) You shriek with excitement at the sight of a red bus.
No, you didn’t?! Oh yes I did.
10) The red bus is the one you’re going on for your sight-seeing tour (ahem).
Yep, I grew up, lived and worked in London, yet we went on a bus tour and I honestly could have fallen off the roof with delight at the sight of Big Ben, The London Eye and Buckingham Palace etc. I become such a tourist each time I return to London (ahem again).
11) You eat THE largest Sunday roast any woman has ever eaten in the history of Sunday roasts or pubs or human beings eating (exaggerating? me?) because you honestly can’t beat a good British pub roast and let’s be practical: you may as well store up because even though you and your husband can both make a mean Sunday roast, the amount of pots to wash up afterwards is a pain in the backside (especially when he makes it) so who knows when you’ll have the next one right?
12) You would rather open up your grandma’s sewing kit and get out all the pins and needles and stick them in your eyes than travel on a London underground train. Do I really need to add to that?
Wait. What? They have trains?
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