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Maltese people are a bit of an enigma because they're not what you'd expect! In pure geographical terms the island is further south than Tunis, stuck between Europe and Africa. Consequently, in appearance, the Maltese can be quite dark and swarthy - almost Arabic looking! You'll find they exhibit few Eastern traits, however. This is without doubt a European island, that up to 50 years ago was controlled by the British - so not only is it English-speaking but it also has a very western outlook.
Aside from the appearance of the Maltese and them sounding slightly Arabic when they speak the native language, if you're expecting constant hectoring and badgering from people trying to sell you things in the street like you might get in Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt, then think again. OK, so you might get asked if you fancy a boat trip or a ride on a sightseeing bus but no more than you'd expect in London, Paris or Barcelona.
On the whole, the Maltese are typically warm, friendly and welcoming. Tourism is their lifeblood and they're savvy enough not to upset the people that pay their wages. However, their Mediterranean temperament is also evident – with lots of regularly raised voices and arm-waving. You'll get a reminder of the island's close proximity to Sicily when they get cut up while driving, or when they're having an argument with family members/friends/neighbours/anyone who does not agree with them.
What you may think of as a 'heated row’ is more likely to fall into the category of 'standard everyday chatting' for them. It may look passionate and about to spill over into physical violence but it very rarely does, if ever.
As a God-fearing Christian nation (98% are Roman Catholic) the concept of family is key to the inhabitants of the Maltese Isles. And not surprisingly, as a former British colony that has been exposed to Italian TV, so is European football. Given Malta's lack of success in international competition, most locals side with England or Italy.
Another subject likely to get the volume of voices on the increase is local politics. The are just two main political parties on Malta – the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party - and you support one or the other with plenty of passion!
As we've already hinted, religion plays a big part of Maltese life, especially among the older generation. Each town and village celebrates its dedicated patron saint with an annual festa (feast-day). These are normally held over several days across a weekend and incorporate serious worship with hardcore partying in the streets - plus letting off many noisy fireworks from early morning till late into the night.
Many villages have two patron saints and in that scenario the competition kicks in to show off that the supporters of one particular saint has the best festa, loudest and flashiest fireworks, better band, food and so on.
Youngsters on Malta are much like any other Mediterranean nation. They live largely an outdoor life through the summer with many trips to the beach, lido or beach club. For young adults there is a tenedency to mingle with the tourists in the island's nightlife capital of Paceville - while there are also plenty of bars and clubs in tourist traps like Bugibba during the summer months.
In Paceville, youngsters drink and dance into the early hours in the large selection of pubs, cafés, discos, casinos, nightclubs and also the odd strip-club as well. There's also a tradition for beach barbecues and al fresco eating on the warm summer evenings.
As a hangover of the period of British rule, which lasted 150 years from 1814 to 1964, almost all 450,000 Maltese are bi-lingual. This means that they can speak perfect English - albeit with an accent - as well as the native tongue of Maltese. Both are taught from a very early age as the primary languages at school. Discovering a fairly young person who cannot undertsand the vast majority of what you might say to them in English is a real achievement. There's also a good proportion of people who speak Italian as prior to the advent of cable and satellite TV, Malta could pick up Italian TV channels and watched them a lot.
But the best traits the Maltese have can be seen throughout the island's history. They are accepting of other nations and cultures but also fiercely loyal and proud of their country's immense heritage. They are dogged, hard-working, trustworthy and resourceful and if you 'really' make friends with someone from the Maltese islands – then you have a friend you can rely on for life!
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