This is, in many ways, a country of peculiarities. Like the fact that the elderly Maltese people, take their little, lonely, tropical bird in its prison of a cage with them when they go to the park to gossip with each other. The lonely bird gets to sing with other birds while the people gossip. It never gets to fly, it can never do what it was created to do – fly freely – it can only serve as a music box to its ignorant keeper. Most of those birds never even get to go on outings to the park. 99 per cent of them sit alone on the balcony wall and sing all day long, sing sing sing, because it´s the only thing they can do. There are also silent ones. The ones that have given up. Trust me, I have observed these things.
So, you already know that the island is in the middle of the Mediterranean, part of the EU and its currency is euro. Yes, it is really small and you can barely find it on the map unless you zoom in Europe. What practical information do you really need to know about the island,the country, Malta?
- The Maltese drive on the left side of the road, just like the British do. They inherited the system from the Brits. If you´re anything like me, you automatically run to the passenger side only to be told off by the driver that you´re on his side. I never notice anything until I sit down, so I need to be told off. The drivers circle around a lot. That´s because there are many round-abouts. They also hunk the horn often and eagerly. Some expats may think the locals are lazy drivers because they neglect using the indicators. I would say it´s downright dangerous not to show other drivers where you are heading.
- Electrical sockets are also like in Britain. There are three little holes in the sockets, meaning you most probably will need some sort of an adapter. The local version costs about 2.50 euros and let´s you use electric devices whose plugs need two little holes in the socket.
There is a way around this, though. If you push or press into the security hole in the socket with something sharp like scissors or a key, keep pressing for a few seconds and then plug your device into the socket – it works without an adapter.
- You cannot get lost thanks to the fact that everybody speaks English. The official languages are English and Maltese, of which the latter is a Semitic language that sounds like Arabic. People are assertive, polite and they are really helpful. All you need to do is ask!
- Shops have fringe working hours. Buy your groceries on time! There are practically no shops open on Sundays (only in touristic places). Many shops close in the afternoon due to the resting time, the nap, the siesta and are closed from around noon till 4 pm.
- The mentality on Malta is, what could be called, typical Mediterranean. People are relaxed, stress doesn´t seem to exist, they seem easy-going and hardly ever rush. Seeing them in the traffic jams hunking the horn or getting out of the car to shout their lungs out makes you question this hypothesis in a fundamental way, however.The Maltese could be considered proud of their nation and very protective. Some even call themselves nationalists. Looking back at their history may grow your understanding for that. Colonisation leads to a sense of self and how to protect it, it´s simple psychology in nations.
Saying they´re proud of their country also means they do think it is a modern country. In some nations, the people would never say that, but state that the country is backwards and its due to a selfish, corrupted government. That is not the case here, in other words. Institutions are slow in every aspect – so don’t expect a fast response when dealing with offices and authorities.
Keep that in mind!
- As stated above, it is a gay friendly country. Gay marriages were recently allowed with the “new government” which is more western in many ways this island seems to be much more than gay-friendly.
You could almost go so far as to say that gay people travel here and live here to a large extent. If the Maltese call themselves a modern nation for being open-minded towards gays, then they are right.
- The island is struggling with traffic! Being one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, the traffic issue makes things even worse. Commuting usually involves many traffic jams and a short distance will take up to double the normal time to drive during the long periods of rush hour and congested traffic on the narrow streets.
Everyone uses his own car so you barely see 2-3 people in a car, and since the Maltese don´t respect other drivers and act like the roads are owned by their own parents, the result is a mess where everybody either waits or struggles. Smooth driving is seldom heard of here. One of the worst things is that at night, the Maltese use the long lights. Unless you use them the right way, they are bound to cause other people in traffic trouble, as we know.
- Unfortunately, as stated above, Malta isn´t a bike friendly country. Due to the lack of o bicycle paths and cyclist friendly driving culture, cycling can be a challenge and is considered a viable medium of transportation by very few individuals.
Drink and Drive, Smoke and Fly?
Yes, you read correctly – alcotests are almost non-existent on the island… I asked a police officer once, why they don´t stop cars in order to check documents and do alcotests. His response was fabulous.
“It doesn’t matter how much you’ve drunk, it matters how you drive!” …
Anybody who gets caught with marijuana for personal use, might get charged and but not imprisoned. Being caught with marijuana, with the above mentioned intention, could soon be de-criminalised.