David & Danya moved to Malta from Ireland in 2011 and spent almost 5 years here, during which time David created the ‘How To Malta’ blog. Now they live in Andalusia, and David’s latest blog about expat life in Spain and travel is HowToTraveller. I used to read David’s Malta blog back in the day and was curious when he stopped writing. It’s great to see he is back online again and I’d recommend anyone who loves to travel, or is considering Spain as their next stop (be it for vacation or for
It is just over three years since Danya and I packed our enormous collection of bags and left Malta for the final time. The final time until the next time, that is. We travelled from Malta to the Czech Republic for a six-month stay, and then on to the South of Spain where we currently reside. Time lends perspective, or so they say, and it has given me a chance to reflect on the five years or so that we spent on that sunny island in the centre of the Med. Of course, not everything was sunshine and roses all the time, and so I feel qualified to give a balanced overview of our time in Malta; the good and the bad.
Speaking of which, let’s get the negatives of living in Malta out of the way. My overall impression of Malta was a positive one so we will finish the post with those. But if there is a true paradise on Earth I’ve not found it yet, and so some gripes are only to be expected…
Cons of Living in Malta
For at least half of our time in Malta we were living on the Northern part of the island in picturesque St Paul’s Bay. It’s a lovely spot, but it did mean that I had to endure a bus commute down to my offices in Msida. Here we come to not one, but two of my pet-peeves: traffic and public transport. Given there are no trains on the island, public transport means ‘buses’ and these are of course impacted by the narrow and overcrowded roads which service the country. Pot-holes all over the place, buses too large for the streets, way too many cars on the roads and people stopping in the middle of the traffic to pop out and go to the shops. That daily commute used to drive me nuts, especially as those times when I would see my precious evening slipping away as I stood on a sweltering and stationary bus!
Another negative factor was that we struggled to make many Maltese friends during our stay. I guess the language and cultural differences were too much of an impediment, in our case at least, but of course everyone’s experience is different. Speaking of culture, there is a sort of ‘mañana, mañana’ attitude at play in Malta which can be a pain at times. (Of course, I’ve moved to Southern Spain, so hardly a big change there!) That attitude can be infuriating though, especially when trying to deal with government officials as we had to when trying to get Danya’s visa sorted out. You need the patience of a Saint sometimes… And those chilling Maltese winters which the houses just are not designed for! But okay, that’s enough of the griping, because the good certainly outweighs the bad.
Best Bits About Life in Malta
Now, let’s talk about the best parts of living in Malta. For a country the size of Malta, the amount of history packed into this tiny island is difficult to believe. From pre-historic times to Malta gaining its independence saw periods when the country was controlled by civilisations such as the Romans, Phoenicians, Arabs, French and British to name but a few. You can visit the fabulous cathedral of the Knights of St John in Valletta, where priceless works by Caravaggio are on display. Or venture underground to the Neolithic Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni in Paola for an atmospheric glimpse back through the millennia. It seems like if you dug a hole in a random field in Malta it wouldn’t take long before the blade of your spade was coming in contact with a random archaeological treasure.
Of course, the climate is a major plus point if you are a sun-lover. You won’t have to wait too long for the sun to appear, as you can expect sunshine at least 300 days out of every year. Some of the beaches in the North of the island are particularly beautiful, although no matter where you are, I’ve never swum in nicer water in Europe than the seas around Malta. Crystal clear and warm enough to swim comfortably for around half the year, with colourful fish darting around even when you are close to the shore. Just watch out for those sea urchins, as I had a couple of painful run-ins with those guys!
Considering Malta is a tiny island which has been subject to a bewildering number of invasions over the centuries, it is remarkable just how much of a national identity it has managed to retain. Even the current economic invasion by (mostly) Northern Europeans attracted by opportunities in the online gaming and financial fields has not dented the unique local charms of Malta. From the pastizzi and ftira sold at the ubiquitous pastizzerias to the chaotic local festas and the verbal ticks of Maltese English (‘Mela!’) you couldn’t imagine you were anywhere else in the world. And on the good days, there’s nowhere else you would rather be!