What’s It Really Like to Live in Malta?

expat life Malta

This is the third post in the new series called “What’s It Like to Live in .. ?” about expat life in countries around the world. I’m excited to share the story of one of my favorite travel bloggers, Tricia Mitchell. Today she shares what it’s like to live in the small Mediterranean nation of Malta: its cultural riches, navigating the bureaucracy (a common theme among expats!), and much more. Find her at Travels with Tricia and on Instagram and Facebook.

Equal parts nomadic and nesting in nature, I’ve divided my life’s chapters between the Midwestern United States and Europe. After several years of semi-nomadic adventures that took us from Albania to Vietnam, my husband, Shawn, and I have temporarily settled in the island nation of Malta, a tiny European country located in the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, and north of Libya. Before setting off on our travels, I called Heidelberg, Germany home for 10 years.

expat life Malta

On the decision to move to Malta:

We moved to Malta in September 2015. Ten years ago, when I was single and working in Germany, I flew to Malta for a long-weekend visit. During that 4-day trip, a Maltese family spontaneously befriended me, and treated me with much kindness. They invited me into their home for a traditional meal, and accompanied me as I explored the countryside and visited two of the island’s famous prehistoric temples.

A decade after that first visit, my husband, Shawn, discovered an interesting graduate program at the University of Malta that piqued his curiosity. We thought, ‘why not experience life there for a year – perhaps longer?’ I had not forgotten my lovely experience a decade earlier, and we thought it’d be fun to try out life in the Mediterranean.

Shawn is now studying Knowledge-Based Entrepreneurship. It’s a one-year Master’s degree program taught by visiting professors from Oxford. While the language of instruction is English, most of Shawn’s classmates are Maltese.

expat life Malta

What do you do there?

In Germany, I worked as a training consultant and education director. Ever since earning a Master’s degree in international relations, I’ve switched professional gears a bit though. I’m now doing freelance writing virtually (for clients outside of Malta), as Shawn and I explore the possibility of building a digital-marketing business for international tourism entrepreneurs. I’m also a freelance intercultural trainer and travel blogger. On my website, I enjoy sharing stories of the special people that we meet along the way. In the process, I hope I may encourage others to pursue their dreams – wherever that may take them in the world.

What's it like to live in Malta?

On first impressions and what it’s really like:

Since I had visited Malta before actually moving here, I didn’t have ‘first impressions’ this time around. However, I found myself reflecting upon how visiting a place vs. living there can offer quite different experiences! As a carefree visitor to most countries, one does not need to interact with government bureaucracy much or at all, but as an expat, it’s necessary to jump through more hurdles. Securing a residence visa and finding a place to live were some of the most challenging issues. ‘Red tape’ exists throughout the world, and Malta has its share of it too.

Not surprisingly, I also noticed that Malta had changed in the decade since I first visited. Some developments, such as the rejuvenation of the capital city, Valletta, were positive, whereas extreme traffic congestion and overdevelopment were not.

On cultural differences:

Life here moves at a slower pace. Sometimes that can be wonderful (lots of community celebrations and colorful festivals) whereas at other times, it can be frustrating (repairmen standing you up for a designated appointment several different times).

On the pros of living in Malta:

Despite being a small country, Malta has much to offer culturally and historically! Some of the world’s oldest prehistoric temples are here, and the country’s culture reflects the diverse peoples who have settled the island throughout the millennia – everyone from the Phoenicians and the Romans, to the Arabs and the British. Malta’s plentiful sunshine (around 315 days a year) and mild climate are fantastic characteristics too.

expat life Malta

On being a married couple abroad:

When we moved here, Shawn and I started a ‘Cultural Sundays’ tradition, which finds us doing something new almost every weekend. That might be hiking a Roman-era heritage trail, swimming in the Mediterranean, visiting a 5,500-year-old prehistoric temple, or attending a citrus harvest festival.

With rental properties hard to come across in Malta’s capital city, Valletta, we feel fortunate to have found an apartment there and to be able to walk to the city’s outdoor concerts, parades, and museums. We also try to stroll around the old Baroque city every night and soak up all the details. Sometimes we’ll enjoy our coffee down by the seaside, or from atop the city’s fortifications.

expat life Malta

What tips can you offer us for when we visit?

Malta heavily markets itself as a sun & sea destination, but there’s much more to do here than just lounge on the beach! Stroll Valletta’s Old World streets and parks, take in a prehistoric temple, visit the Archaeology Museum, immerse yourself in a summer saint’s day festival! A well-connected, albeit sometimes slow, bus network makes exploration on the island easy. If you’re headed this way, I’ve written a few Malta guides on my blog that should help in your planning.

On what’s next:

With Shawn’s program wrapping up this fall, we’ll be leaving Malta later this year. I’ll undoubtedly miss the island’s sunshine, history, and the kind people we’ve met along the way, but I’m looking forward to our next adventure too. I feel fortunate to have had this experience.

Thank you, Tricia, for this look at expat life in Malta! I can’t wait to see where you choose to go next!

6 Comments

  • Patrick says:

    Malta seems nice. I’m curious, what was it like in the winter? It seems like it’s one of the few options in the European winter for those who don’t like the cold.

    • Jenna says:

      Good question! We have a Mediterranean climate here in the valley of north/central California, but I wonder the winter climate would be like on an island. I agree that Malta might be a good choice for those who don’t like cold weather.

    • Tricia says:

      Hi Patrick, having lived in places with cold winters most of my life (the Midwestern US and Germany), Malta’s ‘winter’ is fantastic. We’ve only spent one winter in Malta, and it’s good to point out that it was considered an abnormal one because there was virtually no rain. We certainly felt spoiled by all the sunshine though.

      The only winter challenge I can think of is that Maltese homes and apartments don’t seem to be properly insulated. Most of the homes are made of limestone, and the lack of insulation, coupled with the porous nature of the stone, means that you can experience high humidity and mold challenges. We used a dehumidifier to combat that, and we used our apartment’s air conditioner/heater to warm the apartment. The lack of insulation meant that the heat didn’t stay around for long though. 🙂
      Tricia recently posted..Harvesting Sea Salt on the Maltese Island of GozoMy Profile

  • I’ve always had Malta, Sardinia and Corsica on my “list”. It’s frustrating to be so close so many times that I’ve been in Italy, yet not make the trek to any of the islands yet. Now I’m even more interested in seeing Malta. Thanks for the insight!

    • Jenna says:

      I haven’t been to any of those 3, but I’d love to see them. I can imagine the Mediterranean islands must be so beautiful.

    • Tricia says:

      Hi Christina! I’m glad this piece piqued your interest in seeing Malta. Like you, I have a great desire to visit Corsica. I spent a long weekend in Sardinia a little over a decade ago, and remember its glorious coastlines. I do wonder how much some of the other Mediterranean islands are developed; alas, it feels like every inch of little Malta has been built upon.

      You mentioned that you frequently visit Italy, so here’s hoping you’ll have some spare days to visit Malta the next time. 🙂 Malta is pretty well-connected with the mainland with several major discount airlines. There is also a ferry connecting Malta to Sicily, but no ferries to the mainland at the moment.
      Tricia recently posted..Harvesting Sea Salt on the Maltese Island of GozoMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *