Mick: "Gozo also reminds us of Malta in the past and we like that"

Expat interviews
  • Mick in Gozo
Published on 2014-12-11 at 00:00
Mick, British expat, settled in Gozo with his wife two years ago. Having retired early, he now enjoys photography and travelling around Malta. Meet Mick.

Where are you from Mick, and what are you doing nowadays?

My wife and I moved here from Norfolk, in the UK. I am an ex British Forces Officer and a Senior Youth Justice Officer. I retired early due to Government cuts in service. My wife also retired early, unfortunately, due to ill health. I am 61 years old and my wife is 58.

Why did you choose to expatriate to Malta?

I first came to Malta in 1977 to work and my wife was born at Mtarfa and raised on Malta though she is not Maltese. I have always had a strong attachment to the islands and their history, particularly as my uncle served here during the siege of 1941 - 43. My wife and I visited frequently over 32 years before deciding to move to Gozo. We got to know the people and the culture and history of the islands.

What were the procedures to follow for a British national to move there?

Before leaving UK there are several procedures to be followed, informing HMRC, NHS and Pensions departments in particular. If moving from an EU member country upon arrival and before 90 days expire (unless a job seeker when one may have 180 days), it is necessary to register intent to reside here by applying for residency and register for tax (whether one pays tax or not).
I have written an article setting out the procedures for EU persons moving to Malta and it also explains health issues etc. It is available on the Malta Forum. There are other requirements for those moving here from non EU countries.

How long have you been in the country?

Previous extended visits aside, we have lived in Xaghra for nearly 2 years. Just my wife and I, though family visit frequently.

What has attracted you to Gozo?

Our past experiences, the people, the culture and the history. Gozo for the tranquility, food and wine. We live on Gozo because it is cleaner, quieter and more accepting than Malta. In fact we would never live on Malta. Gozo also reminds us of Malta in the past and we like that.

Can you give us an insight about the local labor market?

As I stated we are both retired so I will not comment about the labor market here, except to say that anyone looking for a job here would get a better response to any application if they lived here. What I mean is that many speculative job seekers email resumes, etc. before moving here and are disappointed that they do not receive any responses.
It's something that I have found here, Maltese prefer to do business 'face to face' and employers and businesses tend to ignore emails, especially from abroad. Those moving here from non EU countries may well find it very difficult to find employment unless qualified in certain services.

Was it difficult to find accommodation in Gozo?

For us it was not difficult at all to find accommodation. We dealt directly with our landlady before moving out from the UK. I would always advise against buying property here. With so many empty properties available, it is a rental market that is ever changing. Also, it is very difficult to sell property here and Maltese inheritance laws could present issues. I also say that if an emergency arose and one had to return to one's original country to live, then it is far easier to do so if renting than if one owns property.

How do you find the local lifestyle?

The lifestyle on Gozo is extremely "laissez faire" and "aid-back", though locals here like to know everything about you and they will tell you everything about themselves.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

We have adapted very easily. Before moving here we visited often, we researched and came with no 'mind set' of expectations. Maltese bureaucracy and some procedures can seem complicated and sometimes illogical but remember, the Maltese inherited a lot of it from the British! I suggest that if an issue arises, the best strategy to try to resolve it is to ask a lot of questions and be passively assertive.
However, it has also been my experience that the number of different answers one gets to a question is directly related to the number of people one asks, often in the same office!

What does your everyday life look like in Malta?

Our everyday life is exactly as we want it to be: a combination of learning and relaxation with the usual household tasks thrown in. I enjoy photography and we both enjoy traveling so we do both. Malta is ideally situated for travel.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

The worst surprise I had was to see the way that Malta is being overdeveloped and becoming polluted with so many motor vehicles and rubbish left lying around. The main island, Malta, has become over exploited in pursuit of tourist's money and by greedy developers (another reason as to why we live on Gozo).
Also, the cost of burial here, it is very expensive. There is no cremation, though a body can be sent to Sicily for that. Not a great subject ,I know, but that should be considered, especially if one is an elderly. What is exceptional here is the internet/telephone service: excellent!

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

There could be many but all would describe and illustrate the friendliness and helpfulness and support we have had here, particularly when I had to go into hospital suddenly. The care and concern shown by staff, friends and others was amazing.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Malta? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

The cost of living is approximately two thirds that of living in the UK. Everyone has their own preferred lifestyle. Ours is a simple one, free of any real responsibilities, so we have no problems.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

In the pursuit of happiness.

What are the differences between life in Malta and in England?

Where on earth do I start with that one? Everything is different! Many people come out here with preconceptions and usually, though not always, simply based upon their experiences on a holiday. There are so many differences and it is important to be prepared. Many think that just because so many Maltese speak English that life will be the same. It will not be and one should respect the culture here. One should be prepared for how cold it can feel during the 'winter' months, especially indoors.

Do you miss your home country?

Obviously there are some things that I miss and my wife really misses our family, especially our daughters and grandchildren.

Would like to give any advice to future expatriates in Malta?

Yes! Stick to the 6 P's: Prior Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance! Research and research again. If thinking of moving out, come to stay in a property, not a hotel, for at least 6 weeks before; make it a 'due diligence' visit if you like. Consider any children's educational needs and life opportunities. Many leave the islands to gain employment or enhance life opportunities. Consider health needs.
Beware of unscrupulous and/or predatory property agents who may well promise all clients may want but do not deliver. It is often stated that Malta is like Marmite, you will either love it or hate it, so be very sure before any move.
Always have a contingency plan and an emergency fund should things go wrong.

What are your plans for the future?

We have never intended to stay here permanently so we will be returning to UK in due course. In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy living here as we do so much.

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