From South Africa to Malta – Eyes wide shut.
For any South African, the reason for choosing to immigrate is pretty obvious. Suffice to say, we felt the need to leave a good life in a beautiful country for the future and security of our kids.
As an established, middle aged couple with kids in various stages of dependency, there was a whole lot to take into consideration and we spent a whole lot of time doing an enormous amount of research – first in Canada, then New Zealand and finally Malta – spanning a period of about 2 years. When you are young, things are a whole lot simpler and easier I think. We decided on Malta as our destination of choice as it ticks a lot of boxes for a South African – English speaking, similar climate, friendly culture, strong economy with employment opportunities, acceptable education and healthcare standards and access to the rest of Europe.
My first word of advice is to do your homework and reach out to people – be a sponge and soak up every bit of information about the new place that you will hopefully call home. Each person has a unique situation and must decide for themselves at the end of the day, but arm yourself with the information you need to make the best decision for your future. Consider all the financial, social, and cultural aspects that will affect your new life. Try and be as prepared as possible for every eventuality and get a good understanding of exactly what your new life will look and feel like, right down to your daily activities. There are many social media groups you can join and you will find that most people will be most helpful in offering advice and guidance – we are all in various stages of this journey. (How people actually immigrated before Google and social media is unimaginable!) Make a list of things that are important to you and find out how these will work for you in Malta. Trust me, there will be surprises, but managing your expectations, for me at least, is key to your success and happiness.
All this research and the decision-making process left my husband and I with a bit of ‘analysis paralysis’. At the end of the day, it boiled down to having to simply let go and take the plunge, which I did with our pre-teen daughter in September 2019.
My daughter and I set off to Malta (so she could start school) leaving my husband behind for 3 months to finish up at work and basically wrap up our lives in South Africa.
3 things that I could not have survived without:
- First and foremost, the advice, encouragement and assistance of complete strangers on various on-line groups where you can ask the ‘how to’ questions and even also just to commiserate with when you are feeling low. Some of these people that I met in the digital world have become close friends in Malta. We also made use of professional services to assist us with the minefield of paperwork and processes involved in getting residency and work visas, etc. Sitting at Identity Malta for 5 hours on 3 separate occasions was that much more bearable having a professional beside me that knows the ropes.
- Google maps on my phone. Forget the Garmin, it does not know Malta. Only Google maps and the grace of God will help you to get from point A to point B in Malta.
- A very positive, can-do attitude. Don’t come here and complain, this will not serve you well and you will never be happy. Understand that every place has its good and bad features.
These are the 3 things that I have learnt to live with in Malta:
- This is a congested, shabby looking country with precious little greenery, animal life, and continuous construction which result in a skyline of cranes against a beautiful backdrop of the Mediterranean. It is old, it is over-populated, it is severely congested from a traffic perspective and there is not a lot of order in things here. It can take 45 minutes to travel 10km! You will need lots of patience. That’s the reality. I call it quirky. But there is beauty to be found in the chaos.
- Locals are friendly but you may always be a foreigner/outsider and you will find that a lot of your friends will also be foreigners. That’s ok, accept it. The very sad thing for me is that this is a very transient community with people coming and going so I have sadly lost several of my new, closest friends in such a short space of time as they have already moved on. That hurts.
- The bureaucracy, paperwork and procedures that must be endured by a non-EU citizen is diabolical at times and will have you both screaming and crying in frustration. You simply have to go through it and roll with the punches. You can’t buck the system.
Yes, you will miss your maid dearly, your garden, having your groceries packed and your petrol put in and the oil and water checked. Never mind your friends and family left behind. Life is that much more hectic and hard without these home comforts and familiarity. This is not your country and you have to fight for your right to be here. You must learn to fit in and embrace your new circumstances and surroundings. When you feel at your lowest, just remember the reason why you made the move in the first place and it helps to keep you motivated and focused.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say, that not for a single moment have we regretted making this move to Malta despite all the sacrifices that we have had to make to be here today and I am better, stronger and grateful for having had this experience. Good luck and ‘Sterkte’ to my fellow South Africans!