January can feel like a long month; after the festivities and excitement of Christmas and New Year, it can be difficult to find anything to look forward to or get your spirits up about in the first part of the year. This year, why not break that cycle by heading to the warm, sunny shores of Malta?
Popular all year round, you will find a bustling community of locals, all ready to welcome you and invite you to their unique cultures and customs. Worried about standing out? Here are our top tips for living like a local in Malta this January!
1. Try the local cuisine
Maltese food is a big part of the local culture. More than merely a meal, it reflects the rich and diverse history, of the island, and shows strong influences from Sicily, England, Spain, France, and other Mediterranean cuisines.
With Malta being located along important historical trade routes, as well as being ruled by a variety of foreign powers, it was required to import most of the food for the island. This has led to a diverse and fascinating blend in Maltese cuisine of native and foreign, with elements such as HP brown sauce, English mustard, and Bovril all playing parts in traditional Maltese food; not elements too would necessarily expect to find in the Mediterranean!
To really live like a local, you must try Fenkata, often considered the national dish of Malta. Made from stewed rabbit, the dish, like so much else in Malta, has strong historical connections; it is thought to have developed as a resistance to the hunting ban and restrictions imposed by the Knights of St John.
Following this ban, rabbit became more readily available and commonplace, and the popularity of Fenkata skyrocketed, remaining well loved to this day.
2. Explore on foot
Malta is an island with a huge amount to see; beautiful beaches, wonderful towns and villages, and incredible heritage sites. Whilst you might be worried that sightseeing is a bit ‘touristy’, and detracts from the life like a local vibe you are aiming for, it is a great way to see and experience the wonderful place you are staying in.
By becoming familiar with what is around you, you will feel far more comfortable and at home in Malta, allowing you to give directions and recount anecdotes naturally and easily. Driving is popular and easy on the island, but perhaps the best way to really get the lay of the land is through hiking and walking.
Allow yourself to get totally lost, and find your way back. Develop a favourite hiking route, and truly immerse yourself in your environment to begin living like a local and feeling totally at home!
3. Don’t stick to tourist spots
In the same vein of immersion, it is important not to just stick to the touristy areas and typical tourist activities. Julian’s Bay, in particular, is a tourist hotspot, particularly as the island grows as an increasingly popular destination for holidays.
There is no doubt it is a lively, buzzing and fantastic place, but it will limit you with regards to the many wonders Malta has to offer, restricting you to the bubble of holidaymakers and expats.
There is nothing wrong with this per say, but if you are looking for a more authentic peek into local Maltese life, head for the small fishing villages, which remain almost frozen in time, maintaining traditional habits and ways of life which can be fascinating for an outsider!
Discover hidden beaches, the secrets of honey, or head off the beaten path to Tal-Kancillier, a small olive grove which escapes the tourist buzz and offers an unforgettable day trip. With so much choice, you will never have to ask what to do in Malta!
4. Join in the local celebrations, feasts and events
Malta is famous for its street parties, raucous feasts and colourful festivals. the best way to live like a local is to throw yourself headfirst into all of the opportunities which are on offer!
Traditional village feasts tend to occur in May and September and include street decorations, a variety of food stalls, marching bands, fireworks, parades and many other wonderful elements. Along with MayFest, the Isle of MTV and Wine Fest, these events give an insight into local traditions and really make you feel like part of the family. Take any excuse to celebrate!
5. Talk to everyone
This is perhaps the easiest way to help you to feel integrated and at home in Malta. The people are famously friendly, to take full advantage of this! Whilst you are staying, stock up on groceries and necessities at local stores, and build a relationship with the owners and workers.
Take busses and public transport, and make a point of being friendly to everyone you meet on your journey. Visit local restaurants and attractions, and form important bonds with the local owners.
This will translate to recognizing people, learning what you have in common, and will help you to truly feel like a local, and not just a tourist or visitor.