Valletta, Malta Report of what it's like to live there - 02/15/10

Personal Experiences from Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta 02/15/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Third expat tour

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

20 Hours. No direct flights to U.S. Connections via most major European capitals.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Ample private homes with pools and sea-front condos available.15 minute average from anywhere to anywhere on the island.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Local produce (vegetables/meat) are quite affordable. The quality of produce is excellent, meat is so-so. Anything packaged is extremely expensive. Most household supplies widely available.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Space heaters for the surprisingly cold and dank winters. Scuba, snorkeling and diving gear.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

KFC, McD, Pizza Hut, BK, Wagamama are available for fast food at elevated Euro prices. Fine dining is hard, if not impossible to come by, a limited selection of upscales joints will suffice - albeit at relatively high prices. Lots of awful tourist traps that are deceptively housed in beautiful old stone venues..

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Massive roaches, ants, millipedes and serious fly infestations periodically plague the island's homes which do not have screens or adequate environmental seals.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Govt mail service. Very, very slow. Three weeks from the U.S.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Philipino help is available for about $7.50/hour (Minimum wage).Generally available although the Maltese govt is cracking down on itinerant laborers so future travelers may have to suffer Maltese service.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Multiple options.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Abundant and safe although there have been reports of ATM fraud on the island.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Catholic.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

UK newspapers and local dailies.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Almost everyone, except for the southern reaches of the island, speaks decent English. A little Maltese will surprise and endear. Lots of Italian and Arabic spoken here as well.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, there is little to no accommodation for physical handicaps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local buses are affordable but run on their own schedule and occasionally on their own routes. Bus driver's are notoriously crass and boorish. Taxis are terribly expensive even for short distances. Call Wembley or other call service for something reasonable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A small SUV or Subaru type vehicle with some additional ground clearance would be ideal to battle the mostly horrible and often flooded roadways. Whatever you bring, bring something safe and stable. Traffic accidents, given the Maltese absolute ignorance of the courtesies of the road, are de rigeur.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. About $150/month for the top-end service.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Widely available with pre-pay or contract plans.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No but there are shot requirements before arrival.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Maltese love dogs and cats.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. The Maltese are really bad about issuing work permits and the relatively insular, closed-shop, nature of most businesses make foreign hires unlikely without some specialized (law/medicine/accounting) skill.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business attire, coat/tie, at work. Less formal in the summer months (no tie).In public anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The driving is horrendous and the Maltese are donkey-like, brutish people who have never believed themselves to be wrong. The roads are in even worse condition. In general though, very safe for foreigners when not driving.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is very accessible and affordable at the private hospitals. Unique or grave illnesses would best be treated off island.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Horrible air quality for such a small Med island. No regulation on buses or vehicles most of which belch smog.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot and dry most of the year. Winter (November - March) is damp, windy, and chilly.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience but, people seem quite satisfied.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Good selection of Philippino nannies on the island with excellent experience levels. Would never let a Maltese person watch my child as their own children are regularly hit, bombarded with cigarette smoke, and kept awake until all hours.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes - a number of strong offerings in swimming, soccer, rugby, martial arts, sailing and water polo are available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Malta itself is only 400,000 people. But there are tens of thousands of expats on the island depending on the time of year.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. Not a very tight knit community given the abundance of activities available.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Maltese love to eat and drink and that carries over to lots of entertaining at home for most people. Lots of big communal dinners out too.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Malta is family and children friendly and you'll find both in welcome quantities everywhere you go. SIngles will find a relatively small number of enlightened venues and an insular local population. Many foreigners on the island.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Relatively conservative island and culture but there are open gay clubs and couples.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes the Maltese are extremely xenophobic and racist.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Morning walks through M'dina. Skin diving and snorkeling the small coves on the southern end of the island.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Visiting historic M'dina, Three Cities, and Valletta. Diving, snorkeling, swimming, and sailing in the clear blue waters.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Locally blown glass and pottery are of decent quality but these industries appear to have been developed for tourists. You should spend it on diving lessons and the local scuba tours.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Good weather, good ocean for diving, swimming or sailing. Relatively easy ferry access to Sicily,decent air connections to Europe and North Africa. Lots of historical, and pre-historical, sites to visit.

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11. Can you save money?

Some, but living in Malta is very, very expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely. Great place to raise a family of any age.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Snow boots and skis. Do bring a hat and gloves for winter. Also - dump your expectations that you are coming to Europe. This is a North African island run by Catholic Arabs.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun block, swimwear, seafood cookbook, sunglasses, hats, and water sports gear.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sword and the Scimitar. Jukebox Queen of Malta. Kapillan of Malta.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Lots of movies filmed here - watch Count of Monte Cristo (Gerard Depardieu version.)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a nice tour and a nice island. Just be ready that it in no way shape or form resembles mainland Europe. The Maltese can be frustrating and disingenuous but in general are friendly.

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