Culture shock is an extricable part of the expat experience. Moving to a new country means expats may have to form new routines and habits in unfamiliar places.
Many people are attracted to Malta because of the mild yet sunny climate, the proliferation of English among locals, and the island's affordability compared to other European destinations. Malta offers a broadly Mediterranean lifestyle but has a large expat population and hosts countless tourists, which may ease the transition. Despite some things being unfamiliar, expats will have to get used to some details about life in Malta.
Language barrier in Malta
How expats approach the language barrier in Malta depends on their expectations. Since most people in Malta speak English, most expats do not learn Maltese and get through their daily business without much trouble. However, this often means they don't make local friends and spend most of their time with other expats.
Expats who value integrating into their new community should learn some Maltese. The language stems from Arabic, uses a Latin alphabet and borrows words from European languages, particularly Sicilian Italian, reflecting the island country's interesting history. A few basic phrases can go a long way towards bridging cultural differences.
Religion in Malta
Roman Catholicism is the state religion in Malta and is the foundation for many of its customs. The most important and celebrated dates on the Maltese social calendar are the Catholic festivals and saints’ feast days.
An emphasis on the traditional family structure affects every interaction in Malta, and the island's small size further reinforces this. Gender roles in Malta are more traditional and the social groups are tight-knit. Making local friends can be challenging, but is ultimately worthwhile for a fuller experience.
Time in Malta
Many of the expats living in Malta are retirees attracted to the idea of living a slow-paced life. While this sounds easy enough, it might take a while to adjust to time in Malta.
People do not mind taking their time perusing the stores of specialised traders to get their groceries, so there aren't many supermarkets. Siestas are common among smaller businesses, with many staying open later. The general service can seem slow-moving, which may be frustrating for some expats.
Understanding and accepting that things take a bit longer are vital to adjusting to life in Malta – and stopping to appreciate the little things can improve an expat’s stay in the island country.
►For more on living in the country, see Accommodation in Malta.
"The environment is very international and everyone uses mixed languages (even the locals speak Maltese and English as a mash-up). I had to get used to a totally different approach to life. Here everything is 'mela', which roughly means 'whatever'. Nothing has fixed frames and regimes. Things happen as they're 'meant' to be and, as in every small town, through connections."
Learn more about Marianna's expat experiences in Malta in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Malta?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Malta. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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