Here I will curate a collection of Malta’s endearing quirks, curiosities, oddities and peculiarities. Some are directly from mine and Bee’s experiences here, and some have been contributed by friends. Enjoy!
The Sudden Wall
On our way to work, Bee and I were diverted from our usual safe path by a construction team, which resulted in us making three extra road crossings in an area where cars regularly come zooming unexpectedly around corners.
On the way home, we discovered that a wall had been constructed – blocking the (public) footpath from end to end! Our first thought was that the person living there simply didn’t like people to walk past, but it turns out this is standard procedure when there is long-term construction work afoot.
The Residence Card Episode
This is something that got me very irate at the time, but now I can look back and laugh. After waiting three months (much longer than promised) and sending numerous chase emails, the glorious day finally arrived when we would receive our residence cards.
First of all, the man at Evans Building told us that “he couldn’t give her (my wife) the card”. When I asked why he half-laughed and said that it wasn’t in the file. I suggested that he take another look. The man then brought the envelope to demonstrate it was empty – and the card fell out.
Shaking off the thought that the residence card we worked so hard to get could have ended up in the day’s recycling, we took our cards and left. Once outside, we had a proper look. Mine was fine, but something didn’t seem right with Bee’s..
Nationality: COL. COL stands for Colombia, Bee is from Cambodia (KHM). They are literally as far apart as it is possible to be without going into orbit. Brilliant.
Fortunately a brief and polite email and two days later Bee was given a residence card bearing the correct nationality. Phew!
Water bottles outside houses
Thanks to Claire and Mario for this one. One of the more baffling Maltese quirks is their penchant for placing water bottles outside their houses.
Apparently this is intended to deter cats from using their front garden/porch/step as a toilet. The logic behind this is unclear, although it is said that cats dislike the reflection of the sunlight which emanates from the bottles and this puts them off.
The practice is also prevalent in parts of Japan and Spain, among other places, but is largely met with scorn by those who are uninitiated in The Prevention of Feline Defecation field.
One of the few Maltese words I have learned thus far is “Mela”. It’s a useful sentence filler word, kind of like “well..”, “now..” or “so..” in English.
Few conversations with a Maltese person go by without multiple uses of this word, even when speaking English. In fact, I have noticed it slipping into my own lexicon – it’s a pretty fun word to use.
If you don’t get the above reference, I strongly advise you to watch the classic 1994 Jim Carrey film The Mask – or at the very least, this clip.
Thanks to Samantha for this contribution. When there is a traffic jam in Malta, it is customary for each car in the queue to take turns sounding their horn, with the final car often holding the note for at least 10 seconds.
Living next to an often-jammed one way street, Bee and I enjoy this background noise regularly in the mornings. In fact, Bee was told by a Maltese colleague that many cars do this when they see the oil lorry outside, to prompt people in the area to look outside and see that it is there.
Whatever the reason, they make highly effective alarm clocks – so much so that I wish I had one of the Mask’s ‘squeeze me gently’ horns under my pillow to respond with!
Excellent contribution from Lauren here.Here we have a photo of an outdoor cat refuge type thing where people are encouraged to leave stuff for the cats.
Malta is home to a great many stray cats, which are often looked after and fed by multiple locals. It is a common sight to see large congregations of cats around a lump of chicken left by a feline-friendly Maltese person.
Here’s your change.. Psych!
Good point out from Harriet – when you are given change in a Maltese shop, it is very rare that the money is handed directly to you. The shopkeepers seem to prefer simply dropping it (often literally) on the counter for you to pick up.
This is a classic example of something that people from elsewhere might find rude, but it’s normal here so we just roll with it!
This one from Cheryl – referring to the mad rush to be first on the bus when it eventually arrives, even at the expense of people who were waiting before you.
The buses do get extraordinarily crowded at peak times on popular routes, so there is definitely an element of ‘every man for himself’ when it comes to this!
Natasha also contributed a bus related anecdote – her bus driver stopped in the middle of a narrow one-way street to have a chat with a pedestrian friend of his! Not only that, but Carrie’s bus driver stopped off mid-journey to make a bet and Vito’s took the bus off route in order to relieve himself behind a bush!
Speaking of buses, nothing can quite prepare you for the disappointment you feel after waiting 30 minutes for a bus that should arrive every 10, only to see it is jammed full as the driver zooms on by…
Whether they are being used to complement a street procession in honour of one of the many Maltese festivals, ward off evil spirits, or just because they like loud noises – it seems like you are never far away from the gunshot-like sounds of daytime fireworks here in Malta.
Cherry tomatoes are one of Bee’s favourites.
You encounter a lot of people selling fresh fruit and vegetables from the backs of trucks here. Sometimes when you buy from them, you get more than you bargained for. If you ask for 200g of potatoes, you will often be given quite a lot more! In these situations the seller is invariably miffed when you call them out on it and ask to put some back.
That’s all I’ve got for now, leave a comment if you can think of more!