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.
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!
Wednesday 20th of March Once a month Graziella rents a laser machine (and products), and does a whole day of only laser clients.
I have seen laser before, but this was a bit different. The hair needed to be shaved before the treatment, and molds and other abnormalities in the skin colour (i.e varicose vains, redness) had to be covered with white.
During the day Graziella did laser treatments for basically the whole body and for both men and women. The most commonly treated areas were upper lip and underarms. The treatment was also done to arms, legs, back, chest, face and bikiniline.
I got to assist in the treatments by covering the skin, cleaning the skin and applying the after laser cream.
Malta, even though its tiny size, is packed with churches, cathedrals and statues, most of them built as memorials for people fallen in the war, or for when Malta became a rebuplic. Not anymore under the England colony, but its own indpendent country.
Malta became independent in 1964, a rebuplic in 1974, and joined the European Union in 2004. The British ruled Malta for over 150 years, which still shows in the culture around, the language and the left sided traffic.
Majority of the maltese people are religious, and most of them roman catholic. Catholicism is also known as the state religion, even though freedom of religion is a constitutional right. There’s also a large amount of other religions represented in the island, for example adventist, buddhist, greek catholic, jewish and islamic.
Even more noticeable than the rule of the British, is the rule of the Order, the knights of St John that lasted for 250 years. They left their mark in the architecture of the island, courtyards, gardens, forts and watch towers that still surround the island. The eight pointed cross of Malta is also an heritage from the knights, still used by the Maltese military to this day.
Sette Giugno is a national maltese holiday, still celebrated to this day. It is in the memory of the riots in 1919, considered as the first step to Malta’s independence. Especially in Valletta you can see a lot of statues like these, rich in history and reminding the maltese people and the tourists about the power of a small country. One thousandth the size of Finland!