One of the biggest complaints of expats living in Malta – or any foreign country for that matter – is how difficult it is to make friends with the “locals.” To understand why, ask yourself – if you’re an expat – how many foreign friends you had when you were living in your homeland?
The answer is probably very few. It’s not because you didn’t want to; it’s more likely because you didn’t have any good opportunities to meet foreigners. Making friends evolves naturally from common interests and experiences. Here are some tips on how to create the opportunities for friendship when you live as an expat in Malta:
Give it time. Your first friends will probably be other expats from your own country who have–like yourself–moved to Malta. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that–and it is, in fact, the best way to ease the inevitable loneliness an expat feels upon first moving to the island. There’s no reason why you must make Maltese friends the first week you arrive in Malta. Having Maltese friends is a wonderful fulfilling part of living in Malta, but it’s not some kind of status symbol for expats.
Don’t force yourself on the locals. Most people find the Maltese to be very warm, curious about and welcoming toward foreigners. But real friendship may take a while to develop. To me, the Maltese sometimes seem shy at inviting new people into their homes–even new Maltese people they meet! This could be due to the closeness of island life. Everyone does know everyone and privacy is coveted. So sometimes it’s best to “let them call you.”
Go to church. Most Maltese are Catholic and many are regular church goers. If you’re so inclined, visit a church as a guest or even join one. Many churches host community and recreational events for their members. It’s an ideal way to get to involved with the locals.
Invite your Maltese neighbors to your home. Many Maltese wonder how foreigners live in their country–how they decorate their houses or flats, what they eat. After you’ve settled in your new location, invite some of your neighbors over, and serve a little something to eat and drink. This is what we did a couple of weeks ago and every single neighbor came to our housewarming party.
Ask for help with something. The Maltese are very willing to help you with difficulties you may encounter as an expat. When we moved to our new flat, we faced a terrible dog-barking problem that had been going on and off for about two years. We got together with some of the neighbors and made a big push to shut up this dog. The situation improved and we made friends with two Maltese couples this way. Now we get together socially and plot ways to kill the dig if we need to.
Take language lessons from a local. The Maltese are one of those societies where they love to hear foreigners speak their language. Leaning Maltese from someone who is Maltese is one of the best inroads into Maltese culture and friendship.
Do all the above and the next thing you know you’ll be complaining about how you never have time alone anymore.
Ilene Springer lives in Malta and is author of An-American-in-Malta.com.