We are Mike and Jess, a couple of young expats from the East Coast of
Canada. We are currently living in Malta, a small island in the middle
of the Mediterranean Sea.
1. Why did you move abroad?
We wanted to live in a place which made travelling easier. Hopping on a plane to visit a new country for a weekend was difficult and costly in Canada. We also wanted a different kind of lifestyle than the one we had in Canada, and we wanted to live in a country with a rich history and culture. And of course, we were looking to escape Canada’s notoriously long and cold winters.
We fell in love with Malta in 2008 when Mike participated in a university exchange program with the University of Malta and Jess went to Malta to visit him for several weeks. When we returned to Canada we realized that Malta was everything we wanted in a place to call our home.
Most people wait until retirement, or at least until they have steady jobs or job offers, to move abroad. But we decided that in our early 20s we didn’t have much to loose by uprooting our lives and starting over in a new place. So in the autumn of 2010 we packed up one little apartment and two little dogs and began a new adventure on this side of the ocean.
We are thankful and happy for having moved to Malta every single day. It’s a special thing to love the place that you live in, and this experience has also made us a better couple. We couldn’t be luckier.
2. How do you make a living?
Jess is an art history student at the local University and Mike works from home for a Canadian IT company that he worked for previous to moving.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We use our blog, Mike-Jess.com to provide updates about our life in Malta and to describe our travels to our friends and families. We do blog posts almost every other day. Like most expats, we also use email, phone, Facebook and Skype to keep in touch.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Malta?
We really enjoy the climate and the lifestyle in Malta. Good food and wine, which we are passionate about, are affordable and valued here. Local traditions, like the village festas, are so interesting and really fun to participate in. And although Malta is a small place there is always something to do – festivals, concerts, theatre, hiking, snorkeling, a baroque church or beach to visit, a DJ spinning at an open air club, a Neolithic temple to see.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Malta?
Mike: Although I am by no means a “handy-man” but I was pretty comfortable completing small repairs and fixing problems around a (wooden) house in Canada. Malta is more or less a small rock in the middle of the Mediterranean and construction methods are completely different here than in Canada. I have felt quite useless trying to complete everyday tasks like hanging pictures or trying to put up a flag pole on a cement/rock constructed building.
Jess: Although English is one of the official languages in Malta, Maltese is primarily spoken in day to day interactions and not understanding or being able to speak Maltese is frustrating at times. In the future I would love to learn at the very least conversational Maltese.
6. What do you miss most?
Jess: We miss family and friends, especially during the holidays. And, although it sounds strange, we (and our dogs) often miss green grass. Not surprisingly, Malta doesn’t have as many green spaces as Canada does and in the hot and dry summer we start to forget what the colour green looks like.
Mike: Other than family and friends I tend to miss a few of the comfort foods that you just can’t get on this side of the Atlantic. My family members have been kind enough to import (smuggle) such delicacies as Kraft Dinner (macaroni and dehydrated cheese) and Strub’s Kosher Dill Pickles when they visit.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Integrating and meeting new people are the most challenging aspects of creating a new life in a new place. We have met friends through the local university, through neighbours and friends of friends, and through participating in local volunteer projects.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Jess: Fireworks! Traditional village feasts are held throughout the year in Malta in celebration of patron saints or religious events. Fireworks are a mainstay of these events. But, strangely, they are lit off all the time. 8:00 am on a Thursday, 11:00 pm on a Sunday, anytime is a good time for fireworks in Malta.
Mike: Driving. The locals have a 6th sense about their cars when it comes to parallel parking, however, some drivers like to extend this 6th sense when passing around blind corners at high speeds. Also, queuing (or “ lining up" ). We aren’t sure if it’s just because there isn’t that much physical space on this island, but people tend to aggressively push their way to a service point. Queues/line-ups don’t really exist in Malta, so you constantly have to be on guard for people trying to cut you off or smother you at the supermarket, at a concert, a post office, boarding a bus, etc.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
We haven’t heard many myths about Malta, mostly because many people don’t know Malta exists. It’s a very small country with a population of just over 400,000.
10. What advice would you give other expats?
If you’re looking to move abroad you are probably already an adventurous and open-minded person, but our best advice is to accept the differences as differences. Differences don’t make your adopted country’s culture or customs inferior to those of your home country. They simply make it different, and that’s why we move abroad and travel anyway, right?
11. When and why did you start your blog?
Like most travel or expat bloggers, we started our blog as a way to keep in touch with family and friends while we were living in Europe.
12. How has the blog been beneficial?
Prior to arriving in Malta we couldn’t find many blogs or websites that prepared us, as a young couple and as North Americans, for our big move to this little island. We thought our story might help other young couples and expats who were thinking about pursuing a similar experience. We now enjoy sharing our photographs, ideas and experiences with expats, residents and visitors to Malta, as well as the broader community of blog readers around the world.
Jess: As a fine arts and art history student I have especially grown to love blogging as a creative pursuit. In my wildest blogging dreams our blog continues to grow and lead to new experiences for us; this is, after all, only the beginning of our adventures.
Mike & Jess's blog, Mike & Jess in Malta