Having taken the latest survey of expat views where we live/lived, my wife and I read how Malta has fallen near the bottom. To avoid any lingering suspense, we love it here. Our comments offer real-world home examination of the list.

We are retired and moved here three years ago from the US (my wife is an EU citizen). We came here because it meets most of our want/wish/need list. No country is perfect.

Many are falling. One reason we left the US was our inability to live with the continued escalation of intolerance and bigotry. Not as in my youth.

Why are we happy? Unlike many, we choose to live among the Maltese. No Sliema, St Julian’s or BuÄĦibba. How can one experience another country without interacting with the people? We live in Naxxar, away from the tourists. Full of services, a decent bus schedule (we are retired, and have no need to drive, and can be flexible in our schedules) and quiet, although getting less so.

We decided to learn Maltese. We have taken courses to incorporate Maltese into our life. My wife is better at speaking Maltese than I. We try. Sadly, when we do speak it to the Maltese, they respond in English. I have no scientific facts to back this up but I believe if you choose to live among expats, you are more likely to vibrate feelings of discontent.

We love the 5,000 years of history. We signed up for Heritage Malta, to see this history. You can’t beat the price. Thank you. And same for the buses that take us to the sites.

Healthcare was excellent when I had to avail myself of it a couple of times. We have health insurance. Facilities are not as modern as in some other countries but diagnostics, attitude and results are world-class as is individual attention by doctors, nurses and aides.

Financial services, however, are an issue that needs resolution. It is impossible for a foreigner (resident) to open a bank account in Malta and Maltese citizens have challenges in accessing their own banks. Read the paper almost every day and find how hard it is for citizens to get a decent service. And what with the ongoing thing of banks being closed for money laundering? And greylisting will not improve the financial situation, just like Brexit will strangle the UK’s businesses. Oh, and we pay taxes.

The most important aspect in retiring here would be the people. We are pressed to find one example of people treating us poorly or taking advantage of us.

One reason we left the US was our inability to live with the continued escalation of intolerance and bigotry- Alan Zelt

Maltese people go out of their way to be helpful. They make us feel welcome. From our neighbours in our block, to shopkeepers and restaurateurs, we are made to feel comfortable. There are price-gouging landlords. When we first came here, and rented in Lija, our landlord went out of his way to be friendly and extremely helpful.

And food! We love Maltese food. Wish your idea of a portion wouldn’t be so large as to feed an entire village.

I walk as much as possible. It would be helpful if the pavements weren’t in such a terrible state and riddled with dog poop and trash. Many streets lack pavements altogether. We don’t have mobility issues. That would be a serious challenge in Malta.

Public transport is an issue. With narrow, challenging roads, the bus service is difficult to provide with frequency and timeliness. Too many cars and trucks negating the service. The idea of a metro is ludicrous. Expensive and too long to complete. Not to mention overcoming thousands of years of history right where they will build it. The building industry must be salivating at all the dirt and rubble that would need to be excavated. More land to build upon.

We do have negatives (although they do not change our choice to live here). Should be taken as one. Between the Planning (oxymoron) Authority and Infrastructure Malta, their endgames appear to totally rape remaining land and populate it with unneeded apartments and hotels, destroying the remaining beautiful scenery. Not content with limiting this pillage to Malta, they are full speed ahead on Gozo.

And then there is Infrastructure Malta. More and bigger roads. More cars and even more gridlock, not to mention more swimming pools in new underpasses when it rains. They must be able to find a head of this agency who likes trees.

Eye pollution, detracting from 5,000 years of history, as well as the most terrible air pollution made by man. I predict asthma cases will get out of hand.

I also read letters and comments in response to the survey article including one which said that if expats didn’t like Malta, they should leave. People who don’t/didn’t like Malta already left. And such an attitude fails to account for the youth of today. Your future business leaders, educators, artists, entertainers, doctors, and nurses. And heaven help us, future politicians. Maltese born. The majority have gone on record stating they will probably remove themselves to other countries because of Malta’s shortcomings.

Us foreigners can be derided but, like the canaries in the long-gone British coal mines, warnings are issued.

Alan Zelt is a former entrepreneur, expat living in Malta. He writes a photo blog for friends around the world extolling the beauty of Malta (https://MaltabyZelt.home.blog)

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