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Rhi, St Julians

Who are you?

I’m Rhi and I am a 27 year old British woman living in Malta. I have been blogging about my move and my life here since April 2010. I love sunsets, sunrises (when I can get up early enough!), seeing new parts of the island and photographing everything!Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Malta in June 2010 from the UK. My boyfriend and I had just met and we weren’t really happy in our jobs or the town we lived in and wanted a change, an adventure and most of all, some sun! We’d just had two of the coldest winters of our lifetimes in Malta and the constant greyness in the UK had just got too much.

We picked Malta as it’s somewhat of an iGaming hub and that’s the industry we were working in already, and the official language here is English (joint with the national language of Maltese) so we figured it was as good a place as we’d find for an easy move to the sun.

What challenges did you face during the move?

We were pretty lucky with the move. We came with no jobs, not a lot of money and one suitcase each. We knew someone who was already here so we were able to crash with him for 2 weeks to get started. It took us about a month to secure a job each, but after the first two weeks we knew we wanted to stay so bit the bullet and signed a rental lease on a flat.

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Really the hardest thing was leaving our families. My Mum had just become the sole carer for my Grandpop who had alzheimers and my boyfriend and I were both very close to his Nan, so it was really hard to say goodbye to these people and know we couldn’t see them every day.

How did you find somewhere to live?

We rent here in Malta and the process is easy in theory, but can end up being pretty stressful. The island is full of people looking for a new place and especially in the more popular areas, places get snapped up within minutes of becoming available.

All you have to do is get in touch with a few estate agents (there are hundreds on the island) with your requirements (budget, location and preferences) and they’ll arrange viewings for you. You find one you like and typically secure it with a deposit (one months rent) and move in.

The problem is that many agents will try and push you over your budget (never be swayed!) and often completely ignore your requirements, showing you apartments in completely different areas, with the wrong number of bedrooms etc. My advice is once you find an agent who listens, stick with them!

Landlords are also notoriously difficult here in Malta. Most take the rent in cash (as they don’t declare the income), they often have the apartments hooked up to a ‘non habited’ electricity contract meaning the prices are up to 30% more and there is no protection for the tenant on their deposit; it goes straight to the landlord in cash and you’ll rarely get this back when it comes to moving out, however spotless you leave the place.

Are there many other expats in your area?

Malta has a huge expat community, from all over the globe! iGaming is big business over here so you’ll find a lot of Scandinavians around, but there are people from all over. From my experience most expats live in Sliema and St Julians or else up north in Bugibba.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

This is a tough one to answer. Malta relies on expats; the money and the business we bring helps keep the economy running and in general we’re very welcome. There is no pressure to learn the language (many Maltese people don’t even speak it) as everyone can speak English. In general, there is no sense of us vs them, however beneath the surface there is an underlying tension, especially from the older generation of Maltese. This isn’t the majority I’m talking about, but it is a large group who feel that we should either ‘go back to where we came from’ or else be ‘kicked out’ of the country.

On more than one occasion I’ve been told to ‘go back to my country!’ one time having it screamed in my face. This isn’t a day to day occurrence and usually happens if an expat dares to complain about Malta in some capacity. There is a sense of Maltese pride and if we don’t like things exactly the way they are then we should leave. But as I say, it’s not uncommon but neither is this a day to day thing.

What do you like about life where you are?

Malta is a beautiful island, with places of outstanding natural beauty. The weather is amazing (although perhaps sometimes a little too hot in summer!) with over 300 sunny days a year and very mild winters. Life is very laid back and relaxed, everything moves at a slow pace, which can be a good and a bad thing, but if you learn to embrace it, your life will become much easier.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The only thing I dislike about ‘expat life’ is missing friends and family. Missing important events like birthdays, weddings, things you can’t always get off work for.

Things I dislike about Malta is the underlying tension with some regarding us expats. There are also niggles like the garbage system, where we leave trash out on the street that I cannot get used to. The beaches get so busy that it’s almost impossible to enjoy them in summer and the busses here are a nightmare; always over packed, never running to any kind of timetable and with drivers who often don’t seem to care for your life or theirs!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Malta is a very Catholic country and a lot of laws in place really show that. Divorce was only legalised very recently and things like the morning after pill and abortion are still illegal, something that baffles me (even in the case of rape or danger to the mothers and/or baby’s life). Everything here is slow and laid back; if you need something fixed it wont happen quickly, companies rarely call back when they say they will, or don’t turn up when they should. Everything here is very unorganised and these things can be hard to get used to.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Take risks, be brave, go to expat meet ups, try to embrace the small things that frustrate you, but don’t be scared to talk up about the big things that need to change. Get into iGaming if you can, it’s a huge industry here and much better paid than any other jobs.

What are your plans for the future?

I don’t know really. I don’t know if Malta is my ‘forever home’ but I also can’t think of anywhere else I’d be able to live the same kind of life as I do here. For now, Malta is my home and I don’t have any plans to change that!

Rhi shares more information about life in Malta through her blog Moving On, Up & Away and Facebook.

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