Malta. We are sitting with Ania on the balcony of her apartment. It is March and Bugibba, where we are right now, is still a sleepy town. In a few months this will change. Crowds of tourists will besiege local beaches and streets. Together with Ania we try to think how many years we haven’t seen each other. I guess around 7. During that time so much happened and changed. With a view of the rocky beach and the beautifully turquoise water, we try to make up for this time and talk about her adventure with Malta.
I invite you to the interview with Ania, who turned the forests of Niepołomice (Poland) into the stony beaches of Malta. You will find out what kind of problems she had at the beginning and whether Malta is for everyone.
How did you end up in Malta?
It has always been my dream to live somewhere by the sea. Together with my husband, we began to wonder what to do in this direction and how we can fulfill this dream. We were in the moment of our lives that we could change something. Tomek was changing his job and I was on parental leave. We agreed that this is the perfect time. The only question was where we could move. It supposes to be warm, sunny and with access to the sea. We have been considering Greece for a long time, but at the end it didn’t work out. There was a job offer in Malta and actually this work brought us here. All the criteria were met, and there was also one more that one speaks English here.
If you were to choose between Malta and Greece, what would you choose?
I would stay at Malta. Generally, I don’t regret this decision and I wouldn’t change much when it comes to this relocation. We wanted to get a little crazy, because we missed such an adventure. If not now then when. We didn’t want to wait for the children to grow up, go to school or move out completely. We wanted to do it now and don’t put dreams off until later, because why should we?
At the beginning it was only for a year?
Yes, and this is the most important thing in this entire adventure. Tomek packed himself in his backpack and went on a motorcycle, and I packed everything into the car. We left the rest of the stuff at home. We didn’t sell our stuff, we didn’t get rid of everything, we didn’t say goodbye, thinking that we wouldn’t come back. It wasn’t a big move, only a change for 12 months. This attitude made this trip very easy. We didn’t think then that we would stay here longer.
In total, how long have you been here?
The fifth year has begun and we aren’t planning to come back yet. Sure, we can’t say what will be in 5 or 10 years. We don’t regret our decision, I miss some things, but I think that the advantages of this move are much bigger than the downsides.
What was the most difficult for you at the beginning?
At the beginning, left-hand traffic was a challenge for me. Somehow I couldn’t force myself to get in the car and drive. It took many weeks before I decided to use the car. It was too difficult for me to travel with three small children with Maltese buses. I got in the car, pulled out and it wasn’t as bad as it seemed to be. Fear has big eyes and that’s how it was in my case.
Another thing is how street traffic looks like in Malta. It is much more dynamic and less accordance with the rules. A lot of people go as they want and you have to be very careful on the road. You need to adapt to it a bit, although it is sometimes tiring, for example when drivers park just round the corner or decide to have a chat in the middle of the intersection, blocking the traffic in both directions. You have to have a healthy distance to it and don’t try to change them.
Beside the left-hand traffic, there was something else that was difficult at the beginning?
I think that was the main thing. Generally, due to the fact that it was supposed to be an adventure for only a year, we didn’t have any big expectations towards Malta. Tomek was working and I was looking after three kids in quite pleasant surroundings. As I dreamed it, by the sea. After a while, I’ve started to miss contact with other people. I’ve started to look for a job and entered such a rhythm of everyday life. After all, I didn’t change my attitude that I treated this trip as a long vacation. All because of these views, the fact that we live in a tourist town, that we go with children every day to the beach, it’s warm and sunny.
This first year was unique. My friends were laughing at me that I want to go to the beach every day. And I really wanted it, because it was something special for me. From the perspective of these few years I already understand what they meant. Man gets used to everything and the things that at the beginning were an attraction became everyday life. Of course when I stop and look around for a moment, then these impressions from the beginning come back and you can feel like you are on holidays. Beautiful views, sea, palm trees and sun.
Then you appreciate what you have?
Yes. For people from outside of Malta, who came here by choice, is much easier to appreciate all of that. Some Maltese didn’t live anywhere else and they don’t have comparison. As I now compare the weather in Poland to this here in Malta, I see that Poland is a cold country with unpredictable weather, and here in Malta is simply warm. Almost 90% of the year is sunny and it gives me a large dose of positive energy.
You said that at the beginning you feel like you are like on an endless vacation, but at some point you wanted more contact with people?
That’s exactly what it was like. I missed people and started looking for a job. At the end I was able to find a job in my field, i.e. in the nursery. Now I’m working at school.
The process of looking for a job was something different from that in Poland?
I think not. Of course, I had to have a CV in English and a Maltese telephone number. This is especially important because no employer will contact a person who has a foreign telephone number. The process itself was quite simple and from the perspective of years I noticed that for which interview I went, I got every job. I don’t know if it is luck or it depends on the job.
It’s not so easy with every job. There is also a big difference in earnings. People who work as a waiter or salesperson earn relatively little in relation to the prices that are in Malta. On the other hand, people who know languages or have experience in the IT industry earn quite well in Malta. A lot of people especially from Scandinavia are moving here and work mainly in customer service and igaming.
Have you tried to learn Maltese?
Yes, yes, I’ve tried. It took me two years and I think it is doable. Maltese isn’t needed everywhere. In my husband’s work, this language isn’t used at all. However, there are fields where it is required and this is clearly stated in the job advertisements. In this way, Maltese defend themselves against the influx of immigrants who flood their job markets. The language itself isn’t the simplest, it is similar to Arabic with a bit of Italian and English. It is a bit difficult for a Pole, but not so much that you can’t learn it.
In general, Maltese are very happy if they see that someone is interested in learning the language. I myself met with very positive reactions, as I tried to understand what they were saying. This is a kind of step towards them. In my work, language skills allow me to have better contact with children. Generally, both Maltese and English are equivalent in Malta, and most visitors decide to speak English. You can get along with everyone and it is also a big advantage of Malta.
When it comes to Maltese themselves, how would you describe them?
At first glance, they are very friendly and curious about new people. They are happy that someone is coming to them. After a few years in Malta, I can say that sometimes it is only such an exterior. It’s really hard to make friends with them and make them recognize you as theirs. I talked to other people about it and have a similar feeling. It doesn’t bother me, because I have a lot of Polish friends here.
Are things that you miss?
Of course I miss my family and friends and places, which I know and I associate with something and have some memories with them. In the course of time, some places here also become more mine. When it comes to food, I miss the Polish patisseries, especially sweet rolls. Here you can also get sweet things, but they are completely different than in Poland.
When it comes to Maltese cuisine, what’s so typical here?
Rabbit is a typical dish. Ftira is also popular. It is a Maltese bread served with tuna, tomatoes and olive. I really like their local fast food – Pastizzi. It is fried phyllo-like dough with various fillings. They also have a local version of Coca Coli-Kinnie. It has a bitter – sweet taste. In addition, there is a lot of Italian cuisine here – numerous pizzerias and ice cream parlors.
When is the best time to come to Malta?
For me the best time is the end of April and the beginning of May, It’s not too warm yet and it’s green all around. At the end of May, it’s beginning to be very warm and dry. September is still ok, but from October you have to be lucky. The winter (January, February) is the most uncertain weather.
Do you have any favorite places in Malta?
From my first stay in Malta I remember gardens in Attard – Presidential Gardens. This place is located in the middle of the island and it is amazing that crossing the walls of these gardens, we are in a completely different world. In a beautiful green garden full of flowers, birds – like a secret garden. I really like going back there. I also love the local beaches, I was probably at all of them. My favorite is Tuffieha. A very picturesque place.
I also like to come back to Gozo, because every time we are there, we discover something new. My favorite place on Gozo is Ramla Bay beach with the nearby Tal-Mixta cave. A very nice place at Gozo is also Xlendi, in the south-western part of the island. You can go there for a wonderful walk along the cliffs. I also like going to Valetta, especially to the Upper Barrakka Gardens, from where there is a beautiful view of Grand Harbor. On May 1 in Valletta is a great fireworks show and it is also worth seeing.
Generally, they love fireworks in Malta. In the summer, each parish, 365 of them, organizes its own festival, similar to our parish festivals. The cities are beautifully decorated, there is a parade, orchestra and fireworks. At the end of the summer, these fireworks are a bit tiring, especially as they are often fired them during the day.
All attractions can be reached by bus?
Yes, but you have to be patient. Buses don’t always run with schedule or it may happen that they will not come at all.
Would you recommend exploring Malta on a bike?
Probably not. There are not too many bicycle paths, and the drivers don’t get used to cyclists. It is simply dangerous here.
Except for that, Malta is safe?
Yes, and this is another advantage of Malta. I feel very safe here. Of course, you can hear about some stories, but not so often.
To sum up, do you recommend Malta?
I definitely recommend it. If someone wants to experience an adventure, then there’s nothing to think about. Sometimes, some people would like to move, but they start to analyze every detail, which is not entirely good. It is sometimes worth following your dreams and see if living in such a place is something for us. It’s worth a try and don’t be limited. I never thought that I would live outside of Poland, I felt strongly connected to Krakow. The decision about a long vacation made me realize that my home could also be in Malta. You can create your own world everywhere, the only important thing is to be happy and do what you like 🙂