Jess: The Stroke Blog
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Malta, etc.
I am a Canadian who exchanged the North Atlantic for the Mediterranean in 2010. I’m the curious product of journalism school, art school, and business school. I blog about travel and lifestyle at The Stroke.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began blogging before I left Canada to share the journey with family members and close friends. In those days there were practically no expat bloggers in Malta, so my blog quickly began to take on a life of its own. It still surprises me to think that anyone other than my grandma is reading, though!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I was very lucky to get a sneak-peek tour of Malta’s new parliament buildings, designed by Renzo Piano, as they were being built in 2013. I’ve been coming to Malta since 2008 and the country has changed so much since then, particularly Valletta, the capital city where the parliament buildings are located. Like many Maltese, I am nostalgic about this city, and I feel like I have a personal stake in this building project, which is so changing its identity. The blog posts I wrote about Malta’s new parliament buildings got a lot of attention and positive feedback. Writing about things you are passionate about, and finding others share your feelings, is an amazing feeling.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Malta differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Luckily, my husband and I had lived in Malta briefly through a study abroad program in 2008. We hashed out cultural differences then, so when we returned to Malta in 2010 it felt a bit like coming home. A much warmer, sunnier home, I might add.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Malta? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
We were prepared for the ‘work’ of moving abroad. We had compiled stacks and stacks of paperwork, categorized and colour-coded, before we left Canada. But we hadn’t prepared for how draining dealing with bureaucracy would be – renewing residence permits, getting ID cards, fighting for resident utility rates. Year after year it can be quite exhausting. But, in the end, it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of living abroad.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My expat experience has been fairly uneventful (knock on wood) but of course I have been through the standard language-barrier adjustments. I’m embarrassed to admit that I washed my clothes in fabric softener for months before realizing it wasn’t detergent (most labels in Malta are in Italian).
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Malta?
- First – Research, research, research. Read everything you can about what to expect as an expat in Malta – from immigration regulations to the public transit system to finding a flat. The greatest gift you can give yourself as an expat is the expectation that nothing will be easy.
- Second – Make friends with the locals. I’m not saying you should expect your entire social circle to be Maltese; that’s quite unlikely in a country so full of expats and tourists. But do befriend your local butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. Those small neighbourhood friendships go a long way to make Malta feel like ‘home’.
- Third – pack sunscreen, and ditch your wristwatch. You’re on island time now!
How is the expat community in Malta? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Since 2008 the number of expats in Malta has steadily increased every year. The English language, euro currency, Schengen area, safety, sunshine – it’s not hard to see why! It’s quite easy to meet like-minded people and fellow expats in Malta, particularly through digital communities. Sliema and St. Julian’s are great hubs for expats: In every pub and bar there you will find them, chatting over a Cisk (local beer). The expat community here is great and it doesn’t take long to be welcomed into its folds.
How would you summarize your expat life in Malta in a single, catchy sentence?
I traded snowstorms for sandstorms, craft beer for Chianti, the Atlantic for the Med; and I haven’t looked back since.