What it means to be a ‘global citizen’, an ‘expat’, a ‘migrant’ and a ‘refugee’ (in Malta and not only)

The state of affairs described below is not unique to Malta but the size of the country and the physical proximity of its different elements makes it more obvious.


In a nutshell, the terms ‘expat’ and ‘migrant’ echo the profound class and racial inequality which is still present in the world. ‘Expat’ is usually reserved for an individual from the EU&Co, North America and Australia who left his native country for work in a multinational company or for leisure. ‘Global citizen’ describes the specific, most privileged kind of expat, who sees the world “without borders” because the borders literally do not exist for him. The advantages of his golden passport and the financial assets spare him from the humiliating struggles for the freedom of movement.

A migrant, on the other hand, is everyone else who leaves his place of birth in search of a better life. A migrant only aspires to become a global citizen because his opportunities for re-settlement are institutionally restricted. ‘Refugee’ is the most disadvantaged kind of arrival: his resettlement is not driven by the free will but is forced upon him by war, natural disasters and/or extreme poverty.

‘Global citizens’, migrants and refugees do not receive an equal treatment. In fact, the treatment they receive directly corresponds to their status. Where a wealthy expat is greeted with an open gate, a migrant finds endless bureaucracy and a refugee – a barbed wire. For instance, this inequality of treatment was exposed by the favourable attention to the insensitive rant of the white, privileged, proud-to-be-expat Canadian who labelled Malta a “developing country”. Unsurprisingly, many Maltese swallowed the offence with resignation. Too many just nodded with embarrassment, apologising for the lack of sleek sophistication they could offer to such a distinguished guest.


While some expats bathe in public attention, homeless migrants die in poverty. The three-paragraphs-short articles reported the tragic events in a plain and casual manner, stating that one migrant was found dead under the bridge and the other – in a games room at Xatt il-Mollijiet in Marsa. Both Somali men came from afar only to find their lonely death in Malta. They left their native countries but poverty stayed with them until the very end.

Identity Malta office is a migrant’s torture chamber. Applicants have to queue from the early hours often just to be dismissed

While a refugee and a migrant constantly live in fear of deportation and repercussions, a wealthy ‘global citizen’ is welcomed with open arms and with the exclusive offer of a Maltese passport (if he happens to need one). On the other hand, a refugee is unwelcome: due to an alleged mysterious deal between Italy and Malta, a few refugees disembark here.

While refugees risk their lives and constantly battle the exhausting bureaucracy for a better life in Malta, the fat-walletted expats claim that the country is not good enough for them. Isn’t it profoundly disrespectful to wave the privileges and the superior demands in front of those to whom these privileges are out of reach?

Just like the natives, expats and migrants often complain about the treatment they receive in Malta – but they do so in a different manner and for very different reasons. When a privileged expat complains about Malta, he implies that the country fails to meet his exclusive demands, suitable for his high rank. A migrant (myself included) complains about the frustrating experience which obtaining of a residence permit involves. Anyone is likely to derail having to battle for their rights on a day-to-day basis, yet the luxury of the “hassle-free residency” do not stop a wealthy expat from expressing his constant dissatisfaction. The migrant’s complaints are the cries of distress whereas those of a privileged expat are a means of morally instructing the locals.


Overall, migrants contribute to their new home country much more than do the ‘global citizens’. Migrants perform the most necessary jobs – care taking, nursing, cleaning. If employed by the local companies, migrants pay their tax in Malta and contribute to the Social Security funds. An ordinary migrant is not too different from an ordinary local. All he aspires to is a secure job and a stable, decent quality of life.

The privileged expat hops from one country to the other with a mission to verify whether or not the many dots on the world map live up to his expectations. He wishes to customise every country according to his demands. He has no interest in participating in the celebratory, eccentric and often absurd spectacle of life which makes Malta so special.

Integrating into a foreign society is below a ‘global citizen’. He has the whole world to cater for his demands – and everybody seems eager to respect his privilege. Yet, concerns on integration immediately raise when migrants and refugees happen to pursue their cultural habits. In fact, the cultural particularities of migrants and refugees are always blamed on their ‘lack of civilisation’ while the disdainful attitudes of ‘global citizens’ are excused for their superiority.



Migrants are part of the crowd and for that reason they are visible. A crime committed by a migrant causes an outrage and quickly leads to an anti-migration movement. Though much more grave, the crimes of a ‘global citizen’ are invisible to the majority. These crimes are executed in an elegant, quiet manner: tax evasion, tax avoidance and shady business investments to mention a few.

The crimes of a global citizen are legalized. He prides his intelligence for tax avoidance and that is why he specifically chooses Malta to save – not spend! – money. While most of the inferior mortals – migrants and natives alike – are struggling to keep up with the soaring high rent, more luxurious property is designed to lure the ‘global citizens’ into the country. The luxurious apartments are built by the migrants for the expats to benefit a few tycoons.

A ‘global citizen’ rejects the blame for being the cause of global inequality. He pretends to be a charitable philanthropist. The facts, however, prove the opposite: the recent research has established that the wealthy investors extract more profit from the poorer countries than vise versa. They set foot in a country to take – not give – money.


the proposed residential development in St. George’s Bay is designed for the ‘global citizens’ (the estimated price of the apartments is over 1 million Euro each)

The new luxurious development projects in Malta are not designed for the ordinary Maltese and neither they are affordable to the migrants. Have a look at this website to see who owns the country. Malta is being given on a plate to the wealthy ‘global citizens’ – to that same cast of the privileged who call it a “developing country” and come here for “sun and the low tax”. And if the economic reasoning prevails, ask yourself: is it even worth to be humiliated by someone who comes to Malta to save – not spend! – money?

Venting anger is a physiological need in a setting of high economic pressure and social injustice. The universal tolerance is a poor response to the deepening inequality of opportunities and results. How can we pretend to treat the people, whose status and life conditions are profoundly unequal, in an equal way? Contrasting attitudes can be the basic act of justice, aiming to compensate for the abundance of privileges or the lack of them.

Do not keep “go back to your country!” to yourself but use it justly. Venting your anger towards the least privileged, the most vulnerable, the lowest levels of social hierarchy is too easy, not to mention unfair and unkind. Vent your anger with a purpose – channel it at the privileged representatives of corrupt institutions. Stand up for those in need of help –  tell the parasites to go back to wherever they belong and tell them to quit tax avoidance for good.

Point of no return … to the homeland

Point of no return by Heiner Blum (credits: http://sammlung-zimmermann.com/collection/heiner-blum-point-of-no-return/)

What if you could meet yourself from a far away land as if you were strangers? Would you recognize yourself then? Hardly do we see ourselves LEGO-like, constructed from different customs, languages, mentalities and geo-references that can be altered into a new combination. No difference is felt between a self of yesterday and that of today. What if your consciousness is not as indivisible as you think? What if you met yourself a decade younger, would you be friends?

A few days ago a ghost from the past sprang out from an email by someone once very dear, whose influence on me back in my Russian days was unprecedented. It felt as if I could hear myself of a decade younger talking to the present day me and the voice from the past did not sound any familiar. On the contrary, those few sentences made me realize how much these past few years have changed me, how far ‘my Russian past self’ and ‘the Maltese me’ have grown apart and how much this transformation is irreversible.

The message, the sound call for patriotic love for the motherland and the firm condemnation of immigration brushed upon my senses like sandpaper on bare skin. It was disturbing and alienating. It made me wonder what response the exact same words would have caused in me if I never left Russia – would it have been natural to side with that point of view? I would have been different then, no doubt. Existence determines consciousness. ‘The Russian me’ today would have regarded ‘my Maltese self’ as a traitor, a poor-spirited westerner who exchanged the excitement of belonging to one of the world’s greatest powers for the comforts of a European residency. ‘The Russian I’ would disdain, just as much as my former alter-ego did, the lightness of the Mediterranean lifestyle as unintelligent. The very thought of how different my consciousness could have been in different environment from what it is today scares me. And what scares even more is that I could have approved of something I so dislike now.

You know it precisely when you hit the point of no return and the idea of returning to a place once called home brings fits. When a message from a former soul mate, so admired back then, is ideologically offensive, you know there is no way back. It is not the fear of being again misunderstood and constantly unaccepted but the fear of subjecting myself to a risky mental experiment – existence determines consciousness – and feeling comfortable with the ideas cultivated on the other side of the fence. If, to a great extent, my consciousness is a function of the social reality around me, I would like to be able to choose what reality to be a function of.

Even after decades spent in immigration, many of us still care of that, often invisible and unsensed, umbilical cord connecting to the place of birth. There our eyes saw the world for the first time, there belong all our childhood memories. Cutting yourself off from the homeland is painful. Your senses were hurt beyond healing and you had to perform an emotional surgery. What once had been an indivisible part of self became external and disconnected. The remains from that umbilical cord are now in the fragmented memories of rather sentimental than ideological significance – the sunlit memories of bursting buds and of the air filled with the rustle of sticky newborn leaves, of the spicy smell of spring grass, of the smoky scent of autumn and the cards with greetings. The memories are the roots transplanted into new soil.

Admitting to yourself there is no return unavoidably separates you in two: the one back then and the one now. These two might be best friends or they might not be, but in either case no longer are they one.

‘Encounter with migrant narratives’ explore definitions of home

Despite its frequent mention, the word ‘migrant’ tells nothing about an individual except for that he no longer lives in the country of origin. Although it gives no insights into what makes one a migrant, the term itself is enough to draw a line between those who remain in a home country since birth and those who deliberately chose what country to call home. Linguistics and social sciences attempt at classifying ‘migrants’ into different categories based on the external conditions that lead to leaving the country of origin, yet these categories dehumanise the individual experiences hidden behind them.

What distinguishes RIMA project from other initiatives focused on the matters of migration, is that, rather than calling for acceptance of migrants, it delves into the very heart of the matter by searching for an integral and comprehensive definition of the term ‘migrant’ itself. Coordinated by Virginia Monteforte and Elise Billiard Pisani, RIMA project brings out personal experiences of migrants – individuals looking for their sense of home outside of their country of birth. The project dissolves boundaries between a ‘migrant’ and a ‘non-migrant’ by defining them both through a personal journey in search for home that is common to us all.

The real life stories collected through RIMA were transformed into a theatrical adaptation titled ‘Encounter with migrant narratives’, directed by Marcelle Teuma and held at Palazzo Pereira on 26th and 27th February. The performance involved four actors, two of whom were amateurs, and a minimalist set-up which helped to establish a feeling of intimacy and connection with the audience without sacrificing the means of expression.

A scene from Marta Lombardi’s narrative

Four actors, five different journeys in search for a place to feel, as stated by one of the narrators, “accepted, protected, welcomed”. Sharon Bezzina, an actor by profession, presented her interpretation of two stories – one by a Japanese woman, driven by photography and thirst for travelling and the other – by a young Maltese female who moved to Milan for her studies. Magdalena Van Kuilenburg interpreted a narrative of a USA migrant married to a Maltese man, who was attempting to find home in Malta after spending a few years in UK. Both, Marta Lombardi and Ali Konate, told their own stories which established a unique and profound feel of intimacy and trust between the cast and the audience. While the reasons that set the female characters on a journey originated in their own willingness, same did not apply to a Mali-born Ali who was forced to leave the country of birth even though he was deeply rooted to it.

The expressive exploration of the limits that prevent the sense of home from setting in was the most memorable element of the performance. The play began from portrayal of unspoken distrust and isolation between the Japanese avid traveler and the American migrant, expressed by placing a line of tape which remained dividing the two for a while. The interpretation of this line of tape could vary from physical limits such as country frontiers to more subtle reasons like lack of common memories or customs that consolidate individuals into a nation. After a while, the sharing of life experiences finally broke the ice between the two and created an opening in the previously solid line of tape. The exploration of limits did not stop at portraying the country frontiers, it delved into such obstacles of emotional comfort as physical boundaries of a tiny studio apartment (whose plan was outlined with tape right on the stage) which made the Maltese architecture student miss Malta in Milan. Marta Lombardi’s search for home was of a more intimate kind, the barriers keeping her from feeling at home emerged from difficulties to be understood, accepted and welcomed. “We find home in people just as much as in places” (*). For a moment the cast got united around a dining table celebrating Marta’s hospitality yet, even in that warm surrounding, she admitted the struggle to feel at home in Malta.

Maltese architecture student played by Sharon Bezzina who struggled to feel at home in a Milan’s tiny studio apartment

The most visually striking part of the performance was Ali’s narrative. The sense of uneasiness and alarm created by his story of forced resettlement and a journey on a flimsy boat was accentuated by his colleagues on stage, whose synchronized fluttering interactions with scarlet draperies gave an extra visual dimension to the powerful message. Thus, at some point the scarlet cloths turned into waves, a symbolic expression of the waves of blood, the waters of the Mediterranean that kept the lives of so many on their way of finding home.

Through the artistic means of expression, ‘Encounter with migrant narratives’ succeeded to depict the longing for a place where an intuitive inner state of home develops naturally. Also, the performance did quite a good job at underlining how natural it is for everyone to search for home, be it the place of birth or any other place on the planet, and how illusory the differences between ‘a migrant’ and a ‘non-migrant’ are within this concept. The only room for improvement could have been increasing the number of performances since the limited amount of seats at Palazzo Pereira did not allow the play to be viewed by a broader audience, which it certainly deserved.

Click here if you wish to participate in crowdfunding of publishing the migrant narratives collected though the project.

P.S. (*) “We find home in people just as much as in places” is quoted from an article by Marcelle Fenech.

What bubble of Maltese society do you belong to?


This is a non-serious yet quite realistic scope of Maltese society. Choose the bubble that ticks most boxes for you and read the description at the bottom of the page :). Please remember to laugh and not to take it all seriously.

Oo. Bubble 1 .oO

Political party: Labour/Nationalist.

Religion: Believer.

Interests: cars, family, fashion, local TV programmes, feast and other loud events, pop-music (preferably loud)

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: send them home!

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Le ta.

How accepting you are of new bubble members? Jien naf!

Places to hang out: social media, bars, Paceville, Café del Mar.

How you see other bubbles: Mhux Maltin ta veru!

How other bubbles see you: try not to have much in common.


Oo. Bubble 2 .oO

Political party: Nationalist.

Religion: Agnostic/Believer

Interests: international politics, British/French literature, travels, fine dining (basically, everything what excludes interests of bubble 1).

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: not so much in favour but you keep it to yourself

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Yes, about time we get a fine example of contemporary architecture.

How accepting you are of new bubble members? Only if they are born in the same bubble.

Places to hang out: art events, receptions, boutique launches, fine restaurants.

How you see other bubbles: plebs and peasants.

How other bubbles see you: uppers class snobs.


Oo. Bubble 3 .oO

Political party: floating voter/Alternattiva Democratica

Religion: Never!

Interests: blaming religion for all world’s disasters, astronomy, non-fiction or comic books, action movies or true stories, vintage rock music (all wrapped in “Science will save the world!”).

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: Generally favourable. If not, you still pretend it’s favourable.

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Never, it is ugly!

How accepting you are of new bubble members? If they are ready to bitch about church, they are very welcome!

Places to hang out: mostly in front of PC, trying to solve world’s problems by arguing with idiots on social networks.

How you see other bubbles: morons!

How other bubbles see you: with caution.


Oo. Bubble 4 .oO

Political party: Alternattiva Democratica

Religion: Not particularly but Buddha sounds like a nice guy.

Interests: Environment, human rights, green politics, organic/vegetarian/vegan food, meditation, a joint once in a while.

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: Very favourable! The world is one and we need to help less fortunate ones!

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Generally yes, but we need more open and green spaces.

How accepting you are of new bubble members? They are welcome; we need more like-minders.

Places to hang out: Gugar, Juuls, Happy Days, reggae parties, indie film, literature and ethnic festivals.

How you see other bubbles: ignorant plebs and slaves of capitalism.

How other bubbles see you: annoying hippies.


Oo. Bubble 5 .oO

Political party: Alternattiva Democratica

Religion: No.

Interests: Visual and performance art, architecture, arthouse films, smart TV series, personally styled clothes, geek books and other stuff that makes no sense to other bubbles.

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: Favourable.

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Very much so.

How accepting you are of new bubble members? Generally accepting but let’s keep the number low: we feel more special being a minority.

Places to hang out: Gugar, St. James Cavalier, Blitz, I’Ingliz bar, indie film, literature and ethnic festivals.

How you see other bubbles: uncultured shallow plebs with no sense of aesthetics.

How other bubbles see you: deny your existence.


Oo. Bubble 6 .oO

Political party: Liberal something.

Religion: No, but Krishna sounds cool.

Interests: LIFE! Good music, good entertainment, good company, diving, climbing, adventures.

Attitude to immigrants/refugees: Favourable.

Do you like Valletta City Gate project? Yeah, nice.

How accepting you are of new bubble members? Our bubble sustains on new members.

Places to hang out: St. Julians, Paceville, boat parties, Café del Mar, live music concerts.

How you see other bubbles: know nothing about them. If they aren’t with us, they must be boring.

How other bubbles see you: unaware of your existence.


Bubble 1:

Congratulations! You belong to the most numerous bubble of “Typical Maltese” (or a “Typical Gozitan”) whatever it means :). Your preferences are main-stream to the bone. Regardless of your educational level, you care little about such useless things as classic literature, philosophy, art and other cultural aspects (or, in short, areas that are not connected to your money-earning routine).

Bubble 2:

Congratulations! You are so-called “Tal-pepe”, a well-mannered individual, familiar with dining etiquette, often mistaken for a snob. You strive not to mix with Bubble 1 and even speak Maltese with English accent to scare them off. With your good education, good taste and style, family traditions and high status, you make sure others understand they can’t imagine they are your equal.

Bubble 3:

Congratulations! Most likely, you are a member of Malta Humanist Association. You see yourself as hope and future of the Maltese nation. With all your devotion to humanism, science and politics you lack awareness and appreciation of art in all its forms and ways. If something is not linked to Dawkins, Hitchens, Sagan or another scientific dude, then it’s worthless rubbish (exception made for superheroes, they are cool!).

Bubble 4:

Congratulations! You are an environmental activist. Your bubble is pretty much international. You are a politically aware, thinking and socially responsible individual which hopes (and works for) to make the world a better and fairer place. Most likely, you are a member of an environmental NGO. Others see you as a weirdo and a dreamer, and for that reason you have no other choice but to stick to your bubble.

Bubble 5:

Congratulations! Together with bubble 4, you belong to the minority of thoughtful individuals. You are artistic or have a deep appreciation and understanding of art (also, you might have none of these but just want to hang around cool people). You and other bubble members are not so easily approachable what makes it rather difficult to penetrate into your bubble.

Bubble 6:

Congratulations! Most likely, you are a foreigner or a rare example of Maltese who do not keep to bubbles, do not care for ideology and do not hold to roots. You live somewhere around Sliema/St. Julians/Gzira/Msida, love life, dedicate some time (but not a lot) to thinking and ready to leave Malta in a minute if a better opportunity crops up.

Didn’t find your bubble in this scope? Define it yourself 🙂

Astrakhan, where East meets West and both get confused

Astrakhan is a province city in the south-western outskirts of Russia, located a few miles away from the Russian-Kazakstanian frontier. Oriental presence was always strong here: the capitals of Khazaria and the Golden Horde established in the area, made it particularly important for merchandise. Burnt by Tamerlan to the ground in 1395, the capital of Astrakhan Khanate was rebuilt 12km upstream from the modern-day city. Fertile soils of the Volga delta, rich in sturgeon and exotic plants, were of interest to Ottomans. In 1556 Ivan the Terrible joined Astrakhan Khanate to Russia, but the spirit of Astrakhan was shaping under the influence of many merchants from Armenia, Persia and India, settled in the town. To a certain extent, Astrakhan had some impact on the history of the 20th century: father of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionist, was born and grew up here.

It is truly a land of contrasts: fertile soils neighbour steppes and sand dunes, Caspian seals can be found not far from Astrakhan camels; Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Buddhist religions are all present here, giving the place a multinational and variegated character. Slavs mixed well with Mongolian tribes and the integration resulted in a variety of face types, high cheek bones, eyes of all colours and shapes.

What is written above is true, but do not be mistaken imagining an exotic paradise, perfect for tourists. The reality is not as bright-coloured as the info in a tourist flyer. The city, slowly but surely, is sinking into alcoholism and drug addiction. Doom and frustration on people’s faces, their clenched fists would convince even deliberate positive thinkers that existence effects conscience and not the contrary.

The historical city centre is packed with old architecture: 18th and 19th century houses of merchants are falling apart without a touch of restoration.

Old merchant house (late 18th - early 19th century)
Old merchant house (late 18th – early 19th century)
Post arrived (inside the old merchant's house)
Post arrived (inside the old merchant’s house)
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Backyards in the old city
Often melancholy is the only hobby
Often melancholy is the only hobby

Astrakhan Kremlin built in mid-16th century is under UNESCO protection, and one of few well-maintained historical objects.

St. Nocolai Church within Astrakhan Kremlin
St. Nocolai Church within Astrakhan Kremlin
Children playing next to the Cathedral and the Bell Tower
Children playing next to the Cathedral and the Bell Tower

Oriental feel is especially strong at open markets …

Bolshye Isady open market - traditional residence of Muslim merchants
Bolshye Isady open market – traditional residence of Muslim merchants
Southern sun made Astrakhan rich in fruits and vegetables
Southern sun made Astrakhan rich in fruits and vegetables

… and in the traditions of different ethnicities.

Tatar man playing harmonica
Tatar man playing harmonica
Muslim girls playing basketball
Muslim girl playing basketball
Russian and Dagestanian boys posing together
Russian and Dagestanian boys posing together

Life is life, with all its attributes: children do not look forward to the new school year, …

First year school boy is hiding behind a balloon
First year school boy is hiding behind a balloon

… or rather play outside instead of listening to teacher’s explanations.

Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard
Children playing in the school yard

Not easy to get back to lessons and homework after summer fun by the river.

Summer fun by the river in one of suburbs
Summer fun by the river in one of suburbs

Here, as everywhere else, people fall in love and get married.

Newly married couple waving to passers-by from a wedding limousine
Newly married couple waving to passers-by from a wedding limousine
Wedding photo session on Lover's bridge
Wedding photo session on Lover’s bridge
Awkward wedding photo session: the bride surrounded with friends holding a gun and a champagne bottle
Awkward wedding photo session: the bride surrounded with friends holding a gun and a champagne bottle

As in any other Russian city, there is a memorial to Anonymous Soldiers.

Memorial to Anonymous Soldiers
Memorial to Anonymous Soldiers

… and fun mixes with fatalism.

Celebrating Day of Pensioner despite low pensions and lack of healthcare
Celebrating Day of Pensioner despite low pensions and lack of healthcare
Roof maintenance Russian way
Roof maintenance Russian way

I think, I know where the famous Russian fatalism comes from. When life is so unstable or stably hopeless, hardly it is worth to cling to.

Even a week spent here might be quite depressive. In such moments I take my Maltese residence permit out of a file and look at it as at a bridge to a fairy better world. Or, perhaps, same world, just with little more hope in it.

Read more: http://raisatarasova.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/born-in-ussr/

“Why in Malta?” Edouard Michel: “Malta is the perfect place to be surprised”

Edouard Michel and I met at the University of Malta. Having learnt that Edouard came from France, I could not resist asking him to share his experience of living in Malta.


WM: How did you come to Malta?

 Edouard: I came to Malta for my job. After a work experience at a regional office of the UNEP, at the end of 2012 I was looking for a job and had applied for a vacancy which was for a Programme Manager for the Mediterranean at CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). I noticed the job’s location was in Malta and decided to go for it, although at that time I knew nothing about Malta. I had to move here very quickly as my contract in Malta began only two days after the end of my other contract. I was living in Nice at that time and had to move some things back to my parents’ place before leaving France. It was hectic! Same thing will happen again at the end of September: my current contract in Malta finishes the last day of September and on the 1st October I start working in Paris.

I knew nothing about Malta and its people. Yes, I had heard about the knights but not much apart from that. I was aware that the population speaks English well because years ago, I had seen a newspaper advert for Maltese English schools. I had lived in Greece before and could picture life on small Mediterranean islands.

WM: What was your first impression about Malta then?

Edouard: In terms of architecture and landscapes, it reminded me very much of Syria and Lebanon. I have never been to Sicily so I don’t know if it is in any way similar to Malta but it felt like Middle East to me. Besides, I speak a little of Arabic and Maltese language is similar to Arabic, which make this impression even stronger. I was also surprised by the density of population and the lack of open spaces.

 WM: What do you like most about Malta?

Edouard: It might sound funny but I love the fact that in Malta you have to be relaxed. When I try to rush things, it does not work. On the contrary, when I leave things by themselves, it works. Of course, it works at its own pace but the final result is usually good.

… And the weather is fantastic here!

 WM: Is there anything you do not like in Malta?

Edouard: I would not say there is something in Malta I really dislike. Yet I miss nature very much. By nature I mean mountains, forests, open spaces and hiking paths… Friends tell me ‘Come on, Malta is famous for diving, there is underwater nature to discover!”. But I am rather a ‘land’ person.


 WM: What are the most amusing things in Malta in your opinion?

 Edouard: Recently, I have made a discovery. Right now it is too hot for a hot shower so I turned off the heating system. To my surprise, water from the cold tap is warmer that water for the hot water tap; it heats up in the tank on the roof! Therefore, I use water from the hot tap to have a ‘cold’ shower. I think it would be more rational to switch hot and cold water sources: hot water tank could be placed on the roof where the full use of solar energy is made.

And another amusing thing is the transport system! It takes an hour and a half by bus to cross just a half of Malta. The first month here I tried using buses but they always were too slow, with many stops, traffic jams, or even never showing up. Traffic is crazy here! Then I decided to walk to the University from Sliema; it takes about 30 minutes and yet it is still faster than taking a bus.

WM: If you asked about Malta in Paris what would you say?

 Edouard: I would say it is so completely unexpected. When I came here I was surprised by the place: it is a small island and, at the same time, it is a country. I travelled a lot but had not seen a place like Malta; it is different from everything I had seen before. When looking at Malta closely, you would not expect such a difference: there are slight differences in culture and traditions, architecture, food, everything still feels close enough. However when everything sums up, it becomes very different in total. If someone looks for broad sandy beaches or untouched nature then Malta would not be their thing. But if you are curious, if you are looking for new impressions then Malta is the perfect place to be surprised.

 WM: What would be your brightest memory about Malta?

 Edouard (thinking and smiling): It is not so easy to answer. I would say, waking up in Xlendi after spending a night on the flat rocks, and seeing only the sea – unbelievably beautiful scenery.

WM: Do you think Malta lacks a broad variety of cultural events?

 Edouard: I knew I was going to stay in Malta temporarily so I have not missed it, but on for a longer time, I probably would. In Paris you are surrounded with cultural venues, however, any place has its own ‘museum’ to be discovered. For Malta such ‘museum’, besides the actual ones, would be any town or village, and especially during the “festas” which transform familiar places into something completely new.


“Why in Malta?” Fritz Grimm: “Malta taught me there is something very special in the Universe”

Something tells me this edition of “Why in Malta?” will be especially popular among ladies. Fritz Grimm, who is an aspiring photographer, a very handsome guy and just a charming person, kindly agreed to share his story of becoming Maltese. We recommend you take a look at his photography website http://www.fritz-grimm.de and his page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fritz-Photography-Malta/453777761357867?fref=ts.


WM:  Fritz, your home country, Germany, is a dream country of many. How did you decide to change it for Malta?

Fritz: I would say I am different from the most people in Germany. They are so close-minded and live so much ‘in the structure’. It is pre-defined that a person gets a job and then keeps working, buying, and spending. I never liked this lifestyle, especially when a lot of people in the world are living in much worse conditions. When I was younger, I used to dream about living by the sea in a warm country and imagined Caribbean, something like paradise, but those dreams were not realistic. I never seriously thought about leaving Germany until some time ago because my daughter was still too young for me to leave her. Now she is 9 years old and comes to visit me from time to time.

WM: Why did you decide to move to Malta and not to any other Mediterranean country, say, Italy, Spain or Greece?

Fritz:  At the end of 2011 I met a Maltese girl in Thailand. We became close and in the beginning of 2012 we decided to be together. We visited each other a few times: I came to Malta twice and she came to Germany. She could not imagine working there; a whole day at the office, besides there is a language barrier – finding a job without knowing German is unrealistic. For me it was fine to move, I was prepared; I liked the country and the people.  By the time I moved to Malta, however, our relationship became unstable; we spent some time on and off. It did not change my plans to move to Malta, though.

WM: What do you miss about Germany the most?

Fritz:  Greenery, forests, hills, my daughter and my family. I cannot say I miss friends; they always can come over to visit me if they want, and they can afford it. In fact, some friends come to visit, others promise to come but do not. In that way I can see who the real friends are and who are not.


WM: Did Malta teach you something new?

Fritz: It is a good question… Yes, I would say Malta taught me there is something in the Universe, something very special and particular. Maybe, it is God…

WM: Was it the country’s lifestyle that gave you this experience, or the people?

Fritz: I think it is a mix of factors: the place, the people and how they live together. Maltese are so relaxed, sincere and warm. They are not always polite, but, at the same time, not as mean as some people in other countries. Germans in comparison are too negative, close-minded and consumerist. When it happens to share business ideas with them, the negative response just shocks me sometimes.

WM:  What do you do in Malta apart from photography?

Fritz: Although, photography is a big part of my life, it is just a hobby.  I work part-time for a company where I am responsible for quality management system.

WM: Is there anything that makes you uncomfortable in Malta?

Fritz: I can see many things are not well, but I am a foreigner here and I do not think I should teach the locals. One thing is particularly unfair: electricity and water rates for foreigners should not be higher than for Maltese. It is a big deal to get resident’s rates. If Maltese cheat on foreigners then foreigners have every right to cheat back, which is not a good situation.

 WM: Do you prefer to spend your free time with Maltese or with other expats?

Fritz: With Maltese. I live in Tarxien and do not know other foreigners living there, it is so peaceful and quiet. I cannot imagine living in Sliema – a busy tourist area which looks the same in many countries. It has no true spirit of Malta.

WM: Do you feel the mentality difference?

Fritz: Yes, the Maltese mentality is different; the people are relaxed and not so exact. I can understand this, however. It happens to me not to be on time too because in Malta you cannot plan well. One day it takes you 10 minutes to get somewhere, another time on the same route you can spend half an hour looking for parking.

WM: Do you think to stay in Malta for long?

Fritz: I do not make plans, but certainly, I cannot imagine going back to Germany. It is too alien for me now with its consumerism and predictable life.


“Why in Malta?” Anna Koroniak talks about Maltese architecture, buses and house wives

I met Anna in one of those delicate June evenings at the Upper Barrakka Garden. The light was soft, water purl in the fountain and subdued hum of couples sitting on the benches perfectly harmonized with the soft-spoken girl, holding a cup of coffee, and her gentle smile. I was not mistaken, expecting an interesting conversation.


WM:  How did you find your way to Malta and for how long have you been living here?

Anna: I came to Malta almost 2 years ago, in September 2011 and there was a bunch of reasons for that. In 2010, I spent a whole year in Tunisia and was absolutely charmed by its lifestyle, there was so much life going one, so many activities and things to do. I would say, in Poland people are too much focused on their work and career, they do not have much time left to enjoy life. When I returned to Poland after the year in Tunisia, I felt as stranger, could not find myself there anymore. I needed to come back to the Mediterranean, and it was the main reason for me to come to Malta. Besides, it also was difficult to find a job in Poland. So, when I came to Malta to visit my sister, who was an Erasmus student, it was enough to get affection to the island. I also started following a course on journalism with the University of Malta.

The lifestyle in Malta is strikingly different and so are the people. I find Poles very sad, as if they have, or almost forced, to live. I absolutely love the Mediterranean lifestyle and mentality.

WM: Which part of Poland do you come from?

Anna:  I came from Poznan, a city in the West of Poland, which is only 3 hours away from Berlin. It is a place of free spirit and “know-how” for a reason of opportunities. The liberating and non-conformist spirit in Poznan is stronger than anywhere else in Poland, I guess. It is also a city of youth and students, they actually make a half of the population. The vibes of youth allow a real freedom of expression and sexual choices, with many gay clubs and parades for equality.

WM: At the moment, are you studying or working?

Anna: I work as a private English teacher and I also worked in the World Aviation Group.


WM:  What do you love the most about Malta?

Anna (smiling): Most definitely, architecture! Wherever I walk in Malta, be it St. Julian’s, or Valletta, or Rabat, the architecture amazes me. I am completely perplexed by the way houses are built, by the absence of any general plan. At first, when I came here, I thought I would never get used to this chaos of styles and types of buildings, it seemed crazy and messy. Now I am in love with it. Another thing I love very much is the Maltese tango society. The most interesting people in Malta and my best friends belong to this society.

WM: Do you prefer to socialize with the Maltese or with compatriots?

Anna: For me, it does not matter where a person comes from, but at the same time, I almost consciously avoid Polish people, there is too little in common between us now. Here, in Malta I made friends with people from different countries and many of them are Maltese.

WM:  What do you find most amusing in Malta?

Anna (laughing): I have already thought about it! It may sound funny, but I have to say, it is Maltese housewives. Please, do not take me wrong, I have nothing against them at all! (laughing). Or should I say, it is not the housewives themselves but the sense of propriety and the competition between them? In fact, my aunt is a housewife, however, of a very different mentality. I know, in some small remote villages, women have particular ways of hanging laundry, they sort it by colour or by type of items and it is almost a rule. If a housewife steps back from this rule, she will be labelled lazy and condemned by others. This urge for perfection in drying laundry seems very amusing to me, especially, the judgement made for such a reason. I was also amazed to know about a ‘dark room’ in many Maltese houses.

WM: A dark room??!

Anna: Yes, a room which is always kept in the best way possible, dusted every day and left with curtains shuttered. It is done for guests: in case they decide to visit, the room will be in perfect order, displaying diligence of the housekeepers (smiling). Some people even have a set of dark rooms. I have never experienced it anywhere else, Maltese are so much keen on the opinion of other members from their community, they are afraid of judgement for untidy rooms.

WM:  Must say, when I heard a similar story, I took it as a joke! What is the funniest accident that happened to you in Malta?

Anna: I cannot recall many accidents. Once I went on the bus and the driver asked me what number of the bus she was driving.

WM:  Is there anything in Malta you cannot get used to?

Anna Buses. In terms of logistics, they are uncomfortable and very difficult to get used to. Another thing, maybe, is anonymous living. In Malta it is very hard to be an anonymous, completely by yourself.

WM: Are you going to stay in Malta for long?

No, unfortunately. I am leaving Malta in two months. I am going to miss it and my friends a lot, but the most important, that I understood what I want to do in life and where I want to be.


Why in Malta? Introduction to the project and the authour’s story

Photo taken from malta.cc

Malta is not only a beautiful island in the Mediterranean; it also is a truly international place with 36 thousands of its residents of a foreign origin. It makes 8% of the whole population which slightly exceeds 450 thousands people. In many European countries ‘immigrant problem’ is close to a boiling point, far right movements are gaining popularity as well as cases of national and religious intolerance are more frequently reported by the media. In Malta, it seems, expats and Maltese manage to co-exist in peace, with only a few exceptions reported. So what does make Malta unique? Why does it attract so many foreigners, wishing to settle down on the small island state? Is its charm reserved only to the heavenly climate and beautiful landscapes? These and many other subjects will be discussed with expats who now call Malta their second motherland.

Being an immigrant myself, I regularly meet interesting people from different countries and cultures, who not only find harmony in living in Malta but also contribute to making this country a unique place. The aim of the “Why in Malta?” initiative is to share stories of foreign residents living in Malta, to discover and unveil their impressions from the country. I believe, real life stories speak lot better than discussions on tolerance to different cultures or efforts of political correctness.

 Why in Malta? The Author’s story

Photo by Martin Galea de Giovanni

 I came to Malta for the first time in November 2007 – my first experience of a Western country, or, in other words, of a non-Russian speaking country. It was a very short stay to attend the international conference Pacem in Maribus (PIM) and, despite a short term, it still managed to change my life completely. In the beginning, it was very embarrassing for me to communicate with the other participants due to limitations of my English. I could only say “my name is…” and “I am from…”, the rest of time I had to smile and nod without clear understanding. But it was only in the beginning. On the second and the third days of the conference, my communicative nature won over the lack of English and I managed to talk (mostly, using signs and primitive words) with many influential people from all over the world. Coming from a Southern province of Russia, before the PIM experience I had not have a chance to meet foreigners, and could only rely on the impression of others, who often described foreigner people as “too pragmatic” and “soulless”. In 2007 in Malta I found out it was so untrue.

Another reason why I will always remain grateful to Malta is because it managed to breathe life back into me. Two previous to 2007 years were quite dark and desperate, but the darkness vanished under Maltese sun. For two more weeks, already back home, I did not bother to notice the gloomy, rainy weather, and still could see the palms, the sea and the boats on the horizon. Yes, the impressions all together worked wonders.

Realization of how important it is to know English was an immediate advantage of that short stay in November 2007, and so I made an effort to learn it as quickly as possible. Naturally, we tend to return to places where we felt good, and so did I. A short holiday in Malta was needed to explore it more, and the memories of the sunny and warm January days kept me warm until April. The third visit to Malta happened in November 2008, one year after the first one. This time it was for a 5 week course on Ocean Governance (which became the first stable bridge between me and Malta), followed by another course on ecological modelling few months later. Almost miraculously, during my prolonged holiday in Malta after the course in June 2009, the University of Malta issued a call for a post that matched my expertise precisely. Important things always come at the right time; it was one of such cases. In October 2009 I arrived to Malta to stay and work, having no detailed future plans but with an intention to stay here and to become a part of the country.

The story would not be complete if I do not mention another very important reason for me to come to Malta. I happened to meet a Maltese guy who I fell in love with. The distance between us, entry visas, and international bureaucracy were a big challenge. I always believed that home is where the heart is (even though my heart had a tendency to change ‘locations’). That time it seemed worth the enormous struggle with obstacles, and I was fully ready for the adventure. Those, thinking it is easy for a non-EU citizen to move to Malta, cannot be more wrong. The road led me to Malta was rather full of thorns, not rose petals.

After almost 4 years of living in Malta I have become as much Maltese as possible for a Russian person. All friends of mine, with a few exceptions, are Maltese. It might sound funny, but I picked up many Maltese words and I constantly mix them with English once or say them even when speaking Russian (!). Another amusing fact is that, somehow, I learnt to swear in Maltese too and, even more amusing, proud of it. Despite their utter vulgarity, those emotional sentences are made in such an unimaginably creative way that it leaves me astonished. Concluding the story, I would say, yes, I do call Malta home now, there are too many connections with the country and its people, that I would rather be here than anywhere else.

“Next Door Family EU project” or the language of friendship does not need translation

Russian marmelade "Lemon slices"

Yesterday, on the 18th of November, I had a pleasure to participate in the Next Door Family EU project. Here, in Malta, the project brings together Maltese and non-EU families to have a lunch on a particular date. Every meal is attended by one Maltese family (which can be either a host or a guest), one non-EU family and an assistant.

Information about the project can be found here: http://www.nextdoorfamily.eu/ma/index.php/en/2-project/1-next-door-family-project-eu.

I learnt about the project from a friend of mine a week and a half before the date. The idea sounded very appealing, indeed, though, due to the lack of free time I could apply as a guest only. To be honest, I felt a pity about ‘poor hosts’ who would have to prepare a meal for me and my partner, as we are both very selective in food, but in different ways . Both of us are vegetarians, he cannot even stand smell of sea food (which I love); one would have to torture or to starve me before feeding me pasta, French fries or any processed food – also so popular among Maltese people – are out of the question. The organisers let me know, the couple who applied as hosts were seriously worried (let’s say, frustrated, as they could not decide what to cook). Perhaps, it was the food frustration I gave to the supposed hosts, that led to changing of the plan. Three days before the event, I got to know the Maltese couple could not host us. Apparently, there was another guest couple who could not manage to arrange the lunch with their Canadian hosts. The news left me with two options: to become a host myself or to postpone my participation until the next time. And I chose the first option. The project really looked meaningful and participating in it was irresistible.

Getting ready to host the Maltese couple and the assistance was quite a challenge, considering other ongoing activities we were involved in. Preparation of a traditional Russian meal takes a lot of time and effort. A festive table must be covered with food and drinks, and new dishes and bottles are placed as soon as previous disappear – a pleasant succession. Not only the lack of time was challenging in my case, but also lack of space in the fridge to store prepared dishes, lack of pots and lack of space in general. These conditions forced me to sacrifice the possible great variety of salads, pies and other yummies that could have been cooked otherwise. The vegetarian meal was planned with love and care, though. Russian salad Vinegret (sour cabbage, boiled beetroot, carrots, carrots, salted cucumbers, onions and peas) and Maltese brushcetta – for the start; potato mush, aubergine towers, mushrooms in batter, slices of pepper – for the main course; Russian sweets and Maltese roly-poly as a desert. And, of course, in the centre of the table, on the improvised Maltese flag made of white and red napkins, there was a selection of drinks. Russian soft drinks, vodka “Russian Standard” (oh, that smooth, soft, liquid fire!), Hennessy, red and white wines (that we did not even managed to get to) were waiting to welcome my guests.

Aubergine towers, personal recipe
Aubergine towers, personal recipe
Vodka "Russian standard", French cognac "Hennesy", Maltese white and red wines on the improvised Maltese flag made from a white and a red napkinds. Soft drinks were added later on.
Vodka “Russian standard”, French cognac “Hennessy”, Maltese white and red wines on the improvised Maltese flag made from a white and a red napkins. Soft drinks were added later on (picture by Martin Galea de Giovanni with a mobile photo camera)
Russian marmelade "Lemon slices"
Russian marmalade “Lemon slices” (picture by Martin Galea de Giovanni with a mobile phone camera)

The guests, Mary-Rose and Joe from Tarxien, assisted by a sweet British young man Daniel, came to my apartment with a smile, an open heart and some more food (rice salad from Mary-Rose, and humus from Daniel). The lunch could not be better. When the starters were over, we toasted with vodka to our meeting (“Za vstrechu!”). “You have to drink it in one gulp!” I warned my guests, and they showed class, I must say. After a while, proceeding with the main course, we toasted to friendship (“Za druzhbu!”) with some Hennessy. Deserts were served together with the special tea (black tea leaves, infused accordingly to the Russian tradition).

Russian romances were playing on the background, and we were talking as if had already known each other for years. So many subjects were discussed – life in Malta and politics, health, Maltese and Russian wedding traditions, customs and hospitality. We even sang to each other – Mary and Joe sang in Maltese, and me – in Russian. The atmosphere of warmth embraced us so much that we even forgot to take a photo of us around the table :).

Speaking about the project in general, I believe, such activities cultivate understanding, tolerance and assimilating in the new home country better than slogans and politically correct statements. Nothing is so powerful than the experience of meeting people from a country with different traditions and realising how much in common there is between us all. Yes, we speak different languages, cook different meals, but the language of friendship does not need translation, it is understood by everyone.

N.B. If a Japanese family living in Malta decides to take part in the project, may I take liberty to propose myself as a guest? 🙂