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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Unpublished stories: Archaeologist of corruption assassinated in Malta

Shortly after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, I had my pitch accepted by the Equal Times, which turned into an article about the murder and DCG’s place in the society. As Malta marks half a year since her death, below I’m posting an edited version of the bits I prepared while doing research on her work last year but ended up not using in my article.

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Drawing on mini canvas

I bought a few mini canvases from Nanu Nana on my last trip to Germany. I love using them outdoors in Malta.

In San Anton gardens

Near Hagar Qim temples

Ordering a coffee in Malta

Coffee is one of the greater joys of this life. But it’s important to know the cultural norms of each place to avoid disappointment – I learned it the hard way.

Rule No. 1 is easy: never order a coffee by saying just ‘coffee’. In Portugal, ‘coffee’ means ‘espresso’. In Luxembourg, Lithuania and many other places, it means a regular black coffee, which is a less diluted version of americano. In Malta, by default, ‘coffee’ it means tasteless instant drink. Fair enough, despite being so close to Sicily, this is what local people seem to enjoy. But if you, like me, like the continental style black coffee, espresso lungo is as close as it gets.

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