The exchange has come to an end now, I am writing this at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Waiting for my connecting flight – almost three hours to go.
The last night home before my flight to Malta I remember being scared. Thinking ”Oh my god oh my god I can’t do this.” But I did, and I am beyond happy that I did. Granted not everything was a total succes, but what’s life without its up and downs?
To save you from a boring (too long) post, I’ll gather my biggest successes and failures from the past four weeks to two lists:
What went well
Getting along with my boss
Meeting a maltese friend (three times)
Improving my english skills
Figuring out what makes me happy and what doesn’t
Discovering new interests (reflexology, sound therapy, theta healing, aromatherapy)
And not so well
Getting lost on the first day
Struggling with verbal communication
Getting homesick and frustrated
Trying to buy a gym membership (ended up paying a lot, and it was a mess)
Bought a sim (I didn’t really need)
Four weeks felt at the same time like an eternity and like only a couple of days. Saw some amazing places (and not so amazing places), met old friends and new friends. Did a lot in a short amount of time and also spent four days at home sick watching netflix. Sticked to my habits with food and gym, and also enjoyed a little (or a lot) of chocolate and wines.
And it was an experience I’l cherish for the rest of my life.
Where: Malta Work: L-Imsida Apartment: San Gwann Duration: 4 weeks, 12th March to 9th April Profession: Beautician Erasmus funding: approx 1100euros, later upped with extra 100euros Housing: 600 euros Flights: 210 euros
Transportation, garbage collection, customer service. The daily life in Malta (for a tourist). What’s it like? I’ll share my own experiences from the past almost four weeks.
The life in Malta (for a Finnish person) feels very relaxed. When it comes to work you need to be on time and get things done, but other than that it is better to take it easy. Even if you don’t really want to. The only public transportation here are the buses, which by the way have a life of their own. No matter how many times you check the timetable, the bus will most likely be late, not come at all or be too full to take you on.
So living by a strict time table might be a bit difficult if you rely on the buses. Having a car is the second option. Not suitable for a packed and busy life are also the opening times of local (and not local) stores. Depending on where you live of course, but most shops close between 18:00 and 19:30 – yes, even on weekdays – and on Sundays they are not open at all, or only for few hours.
One big difference in everyday life here is the garbage disposal. At home you are used to just taking the trash out whenever, but here there are spesific pick up dates and times for spesicif trash. Good for the environment, but definitely something to get used to. Littering is very frowned upon, and failing to pick up after your dog can lead to a ticket!
But after all this (complaining some might say) I have to tell you that there are a lot of positives things as well! All the locals here have been more than nice to me here. I felt very welcome in every place I went to. One day in Valletta the sidewalk was wet and I slipped and fell down – quite badly – and like four people stopped by to ask me if I was okay or needed something. Even though I was with a friend. Something you definitely wouldn’t see in Finland.
And compared to Finland the weather here has been very nice, even though it is only the start of spring. With some rain and wind, but mostly good weather and sunshine. Also because of the minimum wage being as low as it is, is also means that certain things here are more affordable. For example eating out.
To be completely honest I don’t see Malta as a place where I would necessarily want to live, but definitely as a place I want to visit again. With it’s friendly people, great weather and amazing views and history. So many places yet to uncover.
And wether it’s the easy going way of life, the never ending views of the ocean or the feeling of literally being at the edge of the world – I don’t think I have ever felt more relaxed in my life.
From my instagram @riikkayas you can find lots of pictures from all of these wonderful places! Even thought its tiny size Malta has a lot to offer. And I feel like I could easily spend another four weeks here just exploring. But here is a list of the places I did visit during the past few weeks.
San Gwann (my apartment is here)
L-Imsida (Beauty Rituals)
Valletta (the Capital)
St. Julian’s (San Giljan)
Sliema (Tas-Sliema, The Point Shoppin Mall)
St Paul’s Bay (Salini Resort)
I tried to download a lot more pictures, but for some reason it did’n work. But go check out my instagram if you want to see more! I have posts and ’Malta’ highlights.
Week three was my first full week of work from Tuesday to Saturday. I worked seven to eight hours a day as usual, and it went by surprisingly fast.
Tuesday 26th March
Tuesday was a fairly quiet day for me, as I didn’t have any of my own clients. But I did get a set of OPI polishes, which I practiced with. I also priced some products (Dermalogica and GUAM). Scariest part of the day was the BOMB outside the salon! Well not right outside, but on the opposite street was a bomb doubt. The police has evacuated and clsoed down the street. It turned out to be a real bomb, but glady they found it. Apparently here it is not a big deal, but for a while I was super scared.
Wednesday 27th March
I did a mini manicure for Graziella, waxed Jess’s arms, and did a hand massage for a client. Most of my treatments have been little extras like this to Graziellas clients. But I really don’t mind, I actually like it. It was a really busy day for Graziella, so I ended up handling a lot of appointments, cancellations etc. At the end of the day she thanked me for my hard work!
Thursday 28th March
On Thursday I got to do a deluxe pedi (scrub and massage included) for the loveliest british lady. I also did a little hand treatment for Graziellas client (including hot towels, a massage and cuticle treatment). After that I got to watch and help with the paraffin treatments for the clients hands. We also updated Beauty Rituals facebook page a little.
Friday 29th March
Friday went a little differently from what we had planned, since we had a SIX HOUR cancellation. One client had booked a time for mani, pedi, body massage and a facial. And didn’t come. But because of all the extra time, I did a pedicure for Graziella, and she did a reflexology session for me (more about this on another post)
Saturday 30th March
Saturday was a short day and I wasn’t feelin well, so I mostly spent time checking the appointments, and making facebook posts. I did do a half leg wax for a nice french girl who we managed to get in even thought she didn’t have an appointment.
Alternative health care: Beginners guide to reflexology
When I first came to Malta, I had done research on Beauty Rituals and the treatments offered. One of them was reflexology. I did not know what it was. Some kind of massage maybe? Boy was I wrong.
”Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion”
It is believed that the whole body is reflected on ones feet through spesific zones. At first it might seem a bit complicated. But you basically just look at the feet, as if they were ones whole body. Head being in the big toes, spine in the middle, and hands on the outer edges etc.
Reflexology is a treatment where through a system of zones and pressure areas, you treat a clients whole body – physical and mental – by their feet. (Can also be performed through hand and ears, but feet are most commonly used). It is concidered pseudo-medicine, as in it has no scientific proof that it helps any medical condition. However here in Malta it is very popular, and even practiced by licensed doctors in the hospital.
With just one treatment the effects are mostly relaxation. But with several treatments, and a spesific area to be treated, you can focus on a spesific problem for example digestion issues or neck pain.
Graziella did a basic reflexology session for me on Friday 29th of March. It lasted for one hour and included cleaning the feet with warm towels, gentle opening massage with joint movements and feeling the pressure points, and the treatment itself.
For me it was ofcourse a learning experience as well, so we talked during the treatment, and Graziella explained what areas she was working on at the time. It was crazy by how just the reflective points on the feet she could feel the problem going on in my body (which by the way she did not know about beforehand).
For example I’ve had respiratory issues for awhile and even got tested for asthma. I’ve had lower back pains for the most part of my life, and recently also very bad neck pain caused by stress, moving and a lot of other things. My knees are still quite weak, affected by a job I had years ago.
All these things she could feel in the reflective points through my feet. Usually the area feels more sensitive to touch, and a bit stiff. In the worst places (my knees and neck), there was even a crackling sound during the reflexology movements. (From my feet, the zones reflecting my knees and neck).
So pseudo or not, I felt it and I believed it. And I also believe it can have long term health benefits, when treated regularly by an educated reflexologist. When I go back to Finland I might have to find a practicioner and try it again.
Beauty Salons around the world. What are they like? Are they all the same? Here are some insights and observations I’ve made in the past few weeks.
Granted, I have only been to one beauty salon here in Malta, so these opinions are based solely on my work place Beauty Rituals, and the things I’ve noticed and learned there. (And also on some common sense)
A Beauty Salon in Malta
Closed Sunday and Monday
Not a lot of technology (a small UV sterilization, ultrasound device, one device for face/body treatments, a steamer)
No Body Sugaring, waxing with pink wax
A Beauty Salon in Finland
Often closed during the weekend, or only closed for one day
Often a lot of technology (drills, devices for facials, teeth whitening, steamers etc.)
Body Sugaring or waxing (honeywax)
Often the environment in Beauty Salons in Finland is very professional. Which is obviously a good thing, but it is important to still create a welcoming and homey atmosphere for the clients. Here in Beauty Rituals clients are always made feel like at home and as comfortable as possible.
A lot of Graziellas clients have been here clients for years, which of course changes the situation a bit. But an old client or a new one, nonetheless making them feel welcome is important. And if the setting is too professional, the atmosphere can become a bit rigid.
Aseptics are highly valued in Finland, and there are a lot of rules. Obviously this varies from salon to salon, and everyone has their own habits of cleaning and disinfecting. But more often than not there are certain professional products and devices being used. Here in Malta it is not as precise. I am not saying the hygiene here is poor, quite the contrary. But the products used are regular retail products, and most things are washed by hand.
Keep in mind
All of the things I have mentioned also vary based on the location, the owner, the size of the salon and various other factors. But obviously the culture and the people (client base) have a massive impact on the end result: a beauty salon up and running and making profit.
I am abroad only for four weeks, so a fairly short time. Being away from home in another country (no matter the duration) still has its down sides. The longer you are gone, more likely you are to get homesick.
Here are some tips I’ve found helpful
Make it feel like home unpack, but your toiletries, clothes and other things where they belong
Food eat the foods you would eat at home, breakfast, snacks etc.
Keep up with the habits what ever it might be, having a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, going for a walk everyday, reading a book, watching videos. Habits are an important part of your routine! Don’t let them go.
Keep in touch with friends and family as often as you would at home, if not more
Positive thoughts instead of focusing on the things you miss or that are better in your home country, focus on all the good things that you prefer ’here’ compared to home
And wherever you are staying and no matter how long, remember it is completely normal and totally okay to feel homesick. But don’t let it keep you from enjoying yourself. Home will always be there for you to go back to.
To be completely honest with you, I haven’t tried much of the Maltese traditional foods. Aside from pastizzi, a fluffy pastry filled with cheese, meat or veggies. You can see pastizzerias in practically every street and corner here. Most of them also sell drinks such as coffee and sodas, and other salty treats like pizza. They are crazy affordable as well, which explains all the people on their way to work walking around with a pastizzi in hand.
Lunch and dinner
From local cafe’s, bistros, bars and fast food chains you can get a proper meal usually for under seven or eight euros. Maltese do a lot of fishing, so there are lots of fish dishes available. But for someone with specific diet or allergies, getting a meal might be a bit tricky, since a lot of meals have a dairy or meat in them.
In tourist areas the restaurants are obviously way more expensive, so make sure to check the prizes before going in if you are on a budget. So far nothing I have eaten has been very expensive. And with a meal coffee usually costs between 0,5 and 1,5 euros!
I was surprised to find Lidl in Malta, but most of the locals shop their food from smaller shops. From these, for example The Convenience shop you can find a lot of treats, frozen food, bread etc. but not a lot of fresh food. Most of the fruits, veggies and fresh produce are sold from little farmers market style places on the street, or from the back of a car. I’ve bought most of my fruits and veggies from a place like this in San Gwann, and they’re very good and affordable. There’s also some fruits and veggies I have never seen before. Maybe I’ll build up courage to try them as well.
There are a lot of plant placed products, nuts and legumes sold in the local food shops as well. Which was a pleasant surprise. And if there is still something you are missing (organic, health food) you can surely find it at Holland&Barrett in Valletta
The tap water in Malta is safe to drink, but since it is basically just poorly filtered sea water the taste is quite bad. That’s why everyone drinks imported bottled water. It is a nuisance to carry around huge bottles and obviously bad for the environment. But at least it’s cheap! A small bottle costs between 50c and 1€, and a six pack of 2l bottles costs between 2 and 4 euros.
And in public places down the street, there are a lot of water points where you can fill your own bottle with still or sparkling water.
Eating healthy has definitely been a challenge here. There are so many treats, sweets and chocolates that I haven’t been able to find in Finland. So of course you have to try them out! Gelato I’ve only eaten once so far, but it is to die for. Anywhere you go the tempting is real, because there are sooo many things like biscuits, donuts, croissants, salty treats, chocolate and chips available. Of course you can find all those things from Finland as well, but here most of them are cheaper.
You can definitely keep up the same diet here in than in Finland, but why not try all the amazing treats as well. Pastizzi and gelato at least are a must!
On tuesday, 19th of March I went to Valletta again. This time with a local friend whom I met last year during a different exchange. We took a ferry tour to the three cities and back, saw the views from Barakka Gardens, and ate some amazing gelato from Amorino’s!
It was nice to walk around with a local, and hear about the history of Malta and especially Valetta. We spend a lot of time talking and comparing our cultures, from politics to food, traffic and architecture.
Comparing also led us to think about the size difference between Malta and Finland. For me Finland feels small sometimes, compared to the rest of the world. But the distance here from shore to shore (vertically) is approximately 15km. One sixth of the distance from my house to my parents house!