The Maltese are (sometimes) known for being friendly and hospitable towards guests. But when you’re no longer a mere guest, you want more than superficial hospitality. If you want to be one of us the good news is, you can… the bad news is that it takes a little work.
But don’t be disheartened, we’ve got everything you need to help you get there faster.
1. Buy a car
Do it. Whatever reasons you have that might be stopping you from buying a car ignore them, and trust us. If you want to function normally within Maltese society, you must be mobile.
Forget getting a job if you don’t drive and forget socialising with friends if you’re bus-dependent. You simply won’t be able to catch up with everyone else. Let us be very clear about this: Maltese people do not walk to their destinations, even if the destination is literally round the corner. We’re not kidding, a family of four can easily have up to six cars. If you want to be Maltese you need a car…or two.
2. Find a group of friends and stick to them
Once you have a car, you can start making Maltese friends which is absolutely critical to your survival. A good group of friends can introduce you to the people who can help you get a job, they can take you to the hidden gems on the island that aren’t full of tourists (remember you’re not a tourist anymore) and can act as personal translators. Not to mention that the Maltese love to party and will always help where they can.
The trick to making friends in Malta, is to be a bit more outgoing than everyone else without making anyone feel uncomfortable. Remember, the things that are new and exciting for you, your new friends have had all of their lives. Our advice, go with the flow. You’ll be part of the group in no time.
3. Learn the basic Maltese swear words
Now that you have a group of Maltese friends it’s time to get to grips with the language. Language is essential but don’t worry you don’t have to know Maltese to thrive in Malta. In fact, many Maltese people go their entire lives without being able to string a Maltese sentence together.
But, we do have a tendency to switch between Maltese and English within the same conversation so if you can learn some of the basics it will make it easier for you to keep up. And as Maltese speakers always sound like they are arguing with each other it’s a good idea to know the difference between when two people are swearing at each other or just catching up.
Pro tip: if you can quote an obscure one like Ewros Fuckers, you’ll fit right in.
4. Learn the basic Maltese useful words
Beyond the swear words, there are some other essential words that sound strange but pretty soon you’ll wonder how you ever spoke English without them. Aw, mela, uejja, insomma, xeba, ejja, miskin/a. The trick here isn’t to look for meaning but context. The Maltese are an expressive bunch so translations aren’t necessary, you’ll know what they’re communicating just from the tone of voice and hand gestures they use. Try to spot these words in conversation and you’ll soon be using them yourself.
5. Learn the English words we say badly
Like all former colonies, we’ve done our fair share of language twisting. It’s important to learn these obscurities too so as not to feel confused when a seemingly familiar utterance makes no sense to you. For example, that’s not Sarah’s bag. It is the bag of Sarah. It’s not peach juice; it’s juice of the peach.
6. Remember, we don’t like the heat
Moving to a holiday destination is great, we get it, we live here. But the sun is not something we like in Malta, really it’s seen as more of a curse. When you’re on holiday the sun makes everything better, you’re tanned, you’re better looking, you’re happier, you’re warmer and everywhere looks nicer. But when you live here the most simple tasks become ten times harder because of that unforgiving bitch the sun.
You can’t walk to do your shopping, because if you do you will be walking home and the milk goes off, the ice cream melts, the cheese melts, any chocolate melts, the meat melts… err goes bad. It’s a nightmare.
So take the heat as a given and express no great satisfaction towards it because it is a problem for us. If anything, complain about the heat. Complain about the humidity. Complain about the visible sweat that you left on your seat after a meeting. This might sound miserable now but after a few months of dealing with the sun you will hate it too. Complaining about the heat is a common ground that we all share, so join us and that’s how you fit in when in Malta.
8. Hate the things Maltese people hate: traffic, wardens, parking
Along with the heat, traffic is also the pet hate of everyone Maltese. Feel free to indulge this hatred. If you are stuck for conversation be sure to tell people exactly how long it took you to get from point A to point B. Talk about how impossible it was to find parking only to notice a free spot exactly at your destination after you’ve walked a mile to get there. And feel free to hate on the wardens. We all do. Even the wardens hate other wardens.
9. Facebook groups you need to be aware of
Malta has a few handy Facebook groups that you should definitely join once you move here, but use them for the right reasons. If you want to complain about customer service use Are You Being Served, also known as RUBS. It’s like a massive support group to help us get through the trauma of a shitty call to Melita. Here’s a link to a whole bunch of others you should join.
Just make sure you read the rules before you become a keyboard warrior because ‘thread closed’ means ‘thread closed’. If you want to be a successful Maltese citizen, do not piss off Moira Palmier.
10. Be prepared for casual racism
It’s not okay… but it happens. Political correctness is a new concept to the Maltese. To put it bluntly, we never saw black people on the island until roughly 2002. So don’t be shocked when your new friend’s perfectly decent father passes the most unnecessarily racist joke you’ve ever heard. It takes generations to stamp this out and we’re not quite there yet. So forgive us for now, and be patient… we’ll get there.
11. Learn the important facts about Malta’s history that we actually care about
AKA learn the names of Malta’s Eurovision contestants for the past 10 years.
We’re not even joking. Study that shit. You also want to know the names of the only two politicians that count: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil. You’ll hear a lot about them. Politics and Eurovision are topics that we love to get passionate about.
12. Know your Maltese snacks and drinks
If you dislike Maltese bread, you’re basically disowned. If you drink any beer other than Cisk, you’re bordering on the offensive. Don’t overdo it with Twistees, but don’t hate on them either. Ġbejna (cheeselets) is only ok not to like if you don’t like cheese. Pastizzi: You’ll find them every 100 metres but very few people actually eat them regularly.
Kinnie is even stranger. Most people only drink it when we’ve been away from the island for a while but many of us are prepared to defend it to the death. If you don’t like it, brace yourself to receive the standard response: “It’s an acquired taste. You’ll learn to love it.” Other snacks worth being aware of are the Maltese sausage (often served raw) and any form of pasta (usually baked for extra pleasure).
Also, come to terms with the fact that we eat rabbit. Depending on where you’re coming from that’s either somewhat normal or totally fucking ludicrous. Here it’s totally acceptable and we often eat it alongside horse and snails too. The food is strange but don’t be put off. There is a reason we have the highest obesity rate within the EU – the food is good, really good.
13. Be nice to everyone you meet
This might seem like an obvious one but it’s not. In bigger cities and countries you can get away with having an all-out fist fight with a stranger who pissed you off and never see them again. In Malta, the chances are you’re going to meet that same person at your next job interview or your date’s house.
Everyone knows everyone. Word gets around really fast, so don’t do anything you might come to regret. Instead, build bridges with the right people. If you play your cards right, you can soon be a big fish in a very small pond.