Author Archives: Daiva

Immigrant life in Malta: it’s lagom

When I was still relatively new to Malta, I wrote about how the Danish word ‘hygge’ captures what I sorely lack in Maltese houses and offices. Now I’m going to use the Swedish word ‘lagom’ to explain, in my understanding, why so many people get frustrated about living in Malta but continue living there.

Being a member in a couple of Facebook forums for immigrants, I frequently see some people estimating, half jokingly, how long it takes until some Maltese member will virtually shout “Go back to your country” after an immigrant complains about this or that. A few hours. A day! Maltese people join immigrant groups for various reasons – to sell stuff, to advertise, – or to offer tips and helpful advice. Once in a while some of them snap in the face of criticism of their country. Those who complained get an additional point – “you see, they’re not welcoming people after all.”

My theory about the patterns of complaining among Malta’s immigrants on social networks has to do with cognitive overload. It is rather difficult to form habits and automatisms, because you have to be on the lookout as you move around, and constantly process the environment. Various negative stimuli add to the overload (noise, pollution, eyesore buildings, stressful road conditions, dust, garbage and pervasive humidity assault all senses). But I’ll elaborate this some time later. This time I’ll try to answer the question why people stay in Malta when they see so many negative aspects of both its development and its cultural habits. Continue reading

Decluttering, backlash against Marie Kondo, and obsessive ownership

My Facebook feed is full of posts denouncing the suggestion made by decluttering guru Marie Kondo to keep no more than 30 books (example). How dare she, they write,  attack the most noble of middle class obsessions – book hoarding? In the age of bite-sized online news, screaming headlines and kids who never let go of their tablets, aren’t books the last refuge? As an avid reader, I beg to differ. Continue reading

Travel ABC of 2018

Adapted from the questionnaire used here.

Anti-consumerist travel achievement: fully ditching make-up. This happened way before 2018, but I never blogged about it much. I had never used much of that stuff, but every little item means more space in the luggage and more toxic chemicals down the drain. Using nail polish requires a nail polish remover. Using mascara calls for special fluid suitable for the eye area. Everything is packed in unrecyclable single-use plastics. It’s so much easier without any of these things! When I was younger, I allpwed myself to get convinced that especially formal occasions demand following social conventions. I understand that many women also use make-up as a form of creative expression, and that these things help people, especially with less standard looks, feel more confident. Going around without make-up and not using facial cosmetics means exposing one’s skin to a world that is often cruel and merciless for women. Just think of the language in advertising: ‘impurities’, ‘imperfections’… Let’s cut this crap – we don’t owe the world perfection. Leave the cyborg looks to those people who are paid to look like this.

Bucket-list destination visited: Austrian Alps, Sahara Desert.

Cuisine, discovered this year: Ghanaian (in Hamrun, Malta). Emmanuel is not the most organised restaurant, but it’s genuine and low-key. Fried plantain with beans is excellent. Continue reading

Mogul sets off to lecture young people, admits infrastructure flaws

Real estate mogul Frank Salt, whose family-owned business is one of the largest in this sector in Malta, is known for writing somewhat puzzling columns for the Times of Malta, the country’s largest, conservative-leaning newspaper. I won’t help the editors, who eagerly publish all this, in their clickbaiting efforts, but you can find out about Salt’s interpretation of things by searching for his name plus ‘Times of Malta’.

In one of his columns in December this year, he said of British colonialism: “It was a match made in heaven.” Later in the column he wrote that it paid off to be friendly and not to mistreat people from other countries. Perhaps he was correcting the damage of his previous column, which I wanted to discuss here not because of its any meaningful contribution to public debates, but because of a very interesting warp in Salt’s reasoning, where he starts off by stereotyping and blaming people from other countries and ends up admitting that many of the problems boil down to bad infrastructure. Continue reading

Why do restaurants shoot themselves in the foot?

Food is increasingly glorified – as a travel, community, bonding and self-development experience. Many people of my generation and social class spend a huge portion of their monthly budgets on eating out rather than saving for purchases. Unsurprisingly, catering is a robust business even in countries that are still grappling with the impact of the economic crisis. Restaurants compete for this ever-growing market – if not locals, then at least tourists will consume whatever is on offer. Yet I keep seeing habits that are counter-intuitive and don’t seem to make business sense.

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Things I would take with me when moving countries (III): kitchen equipment

As we completed half of our studies, my best friend at the time and I set off to opposite ends of the European continent for our much-awaited exchange semester. We had both been informed that our dormitory rooms will only have the most basic furniture, and we chose very different ways to deal with it. My friend at the time decided to travel with a huge suitcase complete with pans and cutlery. I went with clothes for all seasons and products that I was told were expensive in the destination. This was before Facebook, meaning, before exchange, second-hand and upcycling groups.

Fortunately for me, I found that the dormitory kitchen, shared with seven other rooms, was fully equipped. I also found that the previous inhabitant left a pillow and a blanket, so I didn’t need to look for those. People who stayed in the more expensive dormitories, either because they applied too late or because they preferred not to share anything, had their own kitchenette – and had to procure utensils themselves. Ever since that time I’ve been contemplating this issue – kitchenware is bulky, heavy and, although not extremely expensive, adds to the ballooning initial costs when moving to a new country. How to go about it in an affordable and sustainable way?

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Things I would take with me when moving countries (II): stationery

In the first post about an essential kit to take along when moving countries, I wrote about an essential wardrobe to go through most of the life situations in one’s new home. I want to make it clear that all of the countries I’ve lived in had plenty of shops for various budgets, but whenever I can, I try to avoid a shopping spree in a new country, because it is neither financially nor environmentally sustainable. It can also feel totally overwhelming in a new place, before I get to know how to navigate it.

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Charity or rights? New survey on helping poor countries

I’ve been unpacking the results of the recently released Eurobarometer survey with a focus on Malta lately. It is full of interesting trends, which are likely to translate into policy decisions about development aid. These are the most interesting findings:

  • Respondents who experience the most difficulty in paying bills are generally less positive about development aid issues and the least likely to agree providing financial assistance to developing countries is an effective way to address irregular migration (61% vs. 68%-71%). They are also the least likely to be personally involved in helping developing countries by donations, volunteering or ethical shopping (33% vs. 39%-50%). Note that the lower limit of the less financially challenged individuals is very close.
  • Apart from France, which caused quite a bit of turmoil in its former colonies, which now receive development aid, the least enthusiastic Europeans when it comes to aid live in Central and Eastern Europe. Residents in the Baltic States are among the least likely to say that tackling poverty in developing countries should be a priority of the EU – among rich countries, Dutch residents rank the lowest by this parameter.

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Transport in Malta – problems and solutions

I recently had a story published in the Equal Times – one of my favourite publications to work with. As always, it was a demanding process, and I took a long time to work on it. As a result, I collected by far more stories than I could use in the article. Since then, a pedelec rental scheme has been launched in Valletta (I’m still to try it out), and the government hinted at more ferries and other solutions. The blog is a good platform to follow up on the story and reflect on various sub-issues. Continue reading

Things I would take with me for moving countries (I)

The headache of packing a huge suitcase before the trip. The compulsory journey to Ikea in a new location. The equations and calculations – how many clothes, how many decorative items, if any, how many things for daily life… I certainly don’t miss any of those. These were my chores of moving to a new country, and I’ve lived in quite a few – usually for various short-term projects or interships. The stay in Malta is my longest, and perhaps it’s a good chance to contemplate how I would do it differently today.

Moving to Sweden in 2006 and moving to Malta recently are worlds apart in terms of logistics and my skills in moving around. When my bestie at the time and I set off to our Erasmus adventure on the opposite ends of Europe, we dreaded the thought of having to buy various utensils, bed linen and the like. My friend decided to take as much stuff as she could possibly carry, and I thought I’ll freeride on the shared kitchen. When I arrived, I found out that the previous student had left some bedsheets behind, which I happily used. In Budapest two years later, I bought some simple things at Ikea and left a box for a student I knew when I moved out – I was told the box travelled for several years to come from one Lithuanian student to another. Buying mugs, forks and pillowcases in each new country is annoying.

Since then I am continuously working to optimise my luggage when I travel, and so moving into a new life abroad would not be tremendously different from a trip on a low-cost airline. These are the tips I’d like to pass on to movers of today.

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