Expat Interview With Mike And Jess - Canadian Expats In Malta

Published: 31 Oct at 12 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Malta
Mike works as an IT consultant for a Canadian medical software company. His first real job was as a sous chef at a hotel. He swims like a fish, makes a mean mojito, and has green eyes. Jess is a postgraduate marketing student and freelance writer. Her first real job was selling art in a gallery. She has a healthy interest in logos, social media, and ridding the world of the Comic Sans typeface. Her eyes are brown. The two met on their high school student council over eight years ago and have since added two dogs and a whole lot of air miles to their lives. Mike and Jess left a small Canadian city for life on an even smaller island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Together they document their travels and life abroad on their expat blog Mike & Jess in Malta (see listing here)

Mike & Jess in Malta

Here's the interview with Mike & Jess...

Where are you originally from?
Mike and I are originally from Halifax, a small city on Canada’s Atlantic coast that was founded in 1749.

In which country and city are you living now?
We are currently living in Sliema, Malta - a modern village on an ancient island that’s been inhabited for over 8,000 years!

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived in Malta for two years. Who knows what the future will bring!

Why did you move and what do you do?
We initially moved to Malta so I could study art history at the University of Malta. After that we decided to stay. I am now a postgraduate student in integrated marketing communications at the University of Malta, and Mike works from home for a Canadian IT company.

Did you bring family with you?
If dogs count as family, then yes. We have two Dachshund Chihuahua mixes that made the journey with us from Halifax to Malta in 2010.

Mike & Jess in MaltaHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Well, we actually got to ‘cheat’ the transition process. We first travelled to Malta in 2008 when Mike studied as an exchange student at the University of Malta for one semester. I came to visit him for six weeks, during which time we got accustomed to ‘living’ in Malta and got over our initial culture shock. We were staying in a university residence with 200 other international students, so we had a lot of peer support in transitioning too. This trial run made our second transition to living in a foreign country (2010) much easier and relatively pain free. We would definitely recommend a ‘trial run’ to all expats!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialize with other expats?
No and yes. Because Mike works from home we miss out on a lot of the natural networking that occurs in a workplace, so initially it was quite difficult to make friends. Two years in, our group of friends is mainly expats. Not because Maltese people aren’t friendly – they definitely are. But the Maltese community is also quite tight knit. And who can blame them? The expat community in Malta is large and very transient, and the locals have deep roots here. We’ve made some local friends who we’ve learned so much from, but it hasn’t been easy. I think most expats find themselves falling into the dangerous trap of surrounding themselves solely with expats at one time or another. It’s something that takes hard work to avoid.

Mike & Jess in MaltaWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In our neighbourhood, Sliema, we love walking the seaside promenade that stretches from one end of the city to another, exploring the shores with our dogs, and visiting restaurants and cafes. In the country as a whole (keep in mind, it’s
only 316 km2!) there is really something to do for everyone. We list some ideas of the best things to do in The Guide on our blog, but our favourites include exploring the ancient fortified cities of Valletta and Mdina, swimming at local beaches, rock climbing, going to the theatre, and checking out all of the festas and festivals the island has to offer.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
We never have an excuse to be bored. There’s always something to do, see, or eat, all year long. And the warm weather is nice, too.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living in Malta is slightly cheaper than in Canada. Our dollar goes much further here in the rental market, and food and alcohol are also considerably less expensive. Veterinary, dental, and some health expenses are also cheaper here. However, VAT (18%) is higher than sales tax in Canada (approx. 15%), and clothing, electronics, and cars are more expensive in Malta than in Canada.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Malta is very small. This isn’t a big problem for us, since we hail from a small city anyway, but many expats succumb to island fever.

Mike & Jess in MaltaIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Avoid comparisons! Just because something is different doesn’t make it any better or worse than what you’re used to. I find myself expecting Malta to be like Canada sometimes. But it’s not, and that’s why I moved here. Avoiding comparisons will get you through the tough times (and there will be some).

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being treated differently because you’re a foreigner. I think it’s probably the elephant in the room of travel and expatria, but if you’ve ever lived or travelled abroad you’ve experienced this before. It’s certainly not unique to Malta. It’s frustrating to get used to foreigner prices and foreigner policies. But it’s what we signed up for, and the pros of living in Malta outweigh the cons, so far.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
As Canadians, we recognize how lucky we are to have a safe, welcoming country to return home to, when we want to. It’s not something we take for granted. And when we visit Canada now we are also struck by the small things: how big and green it is, how many shops and services there are (24 hour shopping! 7 days a week! Department stores stuffed to the brim with endless product choices!) and how friendly and lovely everyone is. In a way, we appreciate all of that so much more now. But what I anticipate as the hardest part of repatriation is readjusting to Canadian weather, where there are four seasons, and three of them are cold and wet (in Halifax, at least!)

Mike & Jess in MaltaWhat are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
- Avoid comparisons! (see above)
- Mingle and integrate with locals.
- Expect that some things will cost more than you might expect. After all, you don’t have the insider’s scoop about where to get the best price for this or that, who the best car mechanic is, etc.
- Go easy on yourself. Just because you haven’t made an entirely new social circle in a few months doesn’t mean you’ve failed at being an expat. It comes with the territory.
- Volunteer. There’s no better way to give back to your newly adopted home country than to volunteer with a local organization. Find a cause that’s close to your heart and offer your expertise, your time, your money, or your two helping hands. You’ll meet a lot of great people, and feel good about contributing to the country that is already giving you so much.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
We started our blog to share bits of our life abroad with our families and friends. We took it public half a year later, and are happy to have picked up some new readers along the way. We use our blog to to share photos, stories, and advice about life abroad, traveling, and this little island we call home. We didn’t anticipate meeting so many real-life and virtual friends through our blog, but this has turned out to be one of our favourite things about blogging.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can visit our blog mike-jess.com to get in touch. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram @jessinmalta, and on Facebook.

Mike & Jess have their expat blog called Mike & Jess in Malta http://www.mike-jess.com which is very worthy of a visit. They can be found on Twitter @jessinmalta, their Facebook profile and their Pinterest profile. Their expat blog has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here which would love a nice review if you can spare a quick moment! If you liked this interview with Mike & Jess, please also drop them a quick note below.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Bex wrote 6 years ago:

What a great interview! I used to work for Air Malta many years ago and regularly went to Malta for holidays, making many friends in the process. And I love your pice of advice: Don't make comparissons. As Western Europeans & Westerners in general, we can be guilty of that. Great to have met you both. Bex www.leavingcairo.blogspot.com

Helena Esnerova wrote 5 years ago:

That's Brilliant Collage in Malta .University Malta is so good.

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