Moving to a new country can be stressful enough; doing it with kids is enough to give you heart palpitations. Luckily, Malta is a welcoming place so it shouldn’t take too long for everyone to settle in. To make sure that the whole family is happy, you do need to get two basic choices right though; where you live and what school you choose.
When you first arrive, it’s worth renting a place on a short lease or even staying in a hotel or Airbnb so that you can tour schools and choose the right one for your children, rather than being tied to a particular location. Read here for a summary of the regions in Malta.
There are three main types of primary and secondary schools in Malta; state schools, church schools and independent private schools (including international schools). The school year runs from September to June and school is compulsory from ages 5 to 16 in Malta. The introduction of home-schooling in Malta is still under review. For very young children, there are various options for childcare, some of which is government supported. Kindergarten is available for free from age 3 to 5. Read on about schools in Malta.
Bear in mind that most instruction at state schools (and often church schools too) will be in Maltese. Maltese is also a compulsory O-level. While that might sound daunting, it’s a great opportunity for your children to learn a foreign language. Special language courses are provided for non-Maltese speaking children and adults. Read more about learning Maltese here.
Major change can be difficult for children but you can sweeten the pill by renting an apartment with a communal pool or finding a place near the sea. There are also lots of fun things to do here including the ‘Splash and Fun’ water-park in Bahar ic-Caghaq, the Malta National Aquarium, Playmobil Fun Park and Funland Malta, or kids can learn a new skill such as snorkeling, diving, paddle-boarding, kayaking and rock climbing. Here are a few activities to keep your little ones happy.
To help children make friends at first, encourage them to join activities such as swimming clubs in summer; drama classes or dance classes or art programs.
The Maltese are very friendly, welcoming and hospitable. If you’re from Northern Europe or North America, it might take a while to get used to the Mediterranean culture - a perfectly civil conversation might sound like an argument at first especially since they like to gesture with their hands when they speak! When real disputes do flare up, they are quickly forgotten.
It’s worth remembering that the Maltese are used to seeing lots of foreigners come and go and they have their own lives and families. For that reason, it might take longer to get into their ‘inner circle’ but if you stay long enough in Malta, you’ll have friends for life. The Maltese really come through in a crisis - they will rally round if you find yourself in need.As a foreigner, where should I send my kids to school?
There is a free state school system in Malta which is open to everyone and church schools are free too (although they require donations and are usually oversubscribed). Many foreigners choose to send their children to private school, in part because tuition is in English rather than Maltese. Fees vary from a few thousand Euros a year to considerably more than that.Where shall I live?
Where you choose to live will depend on where your work is based and/or the children’s schools. Many foreigners start off in the Sliema area if they can afford it – nearby Swieqi, Msida, Gzira and Pembroke are a little cheaper and less busy. St Paul’s Bay is popular too, especially with older residents. Xemxija is an up-and-coming village towards the north, which is cheaper and away from the crowds.
Bugibba and Qawra are principally holiday zones, popular especially with the British – unless you like hanging out with your fellow countrymen abroad, you might want to look elsewhere.
Towns such as Balzan, Attard, Birkirkara and Lija are quaint and pleasant places to live and not too far from all the action. Madliena or Gharghur tend to be a little more expensive but are highly sought after. Mellieha is a beautiful town, but far north if you have to commute to work every day. The same could be said for Marsascala and Marsaxlokk, which are situated at the other end and to the south of the island.
Gozo is caught in a dreamy time warp – this is the place to settle in if you genuinely want to get away from it all. Here's a quick guide to the regions of Malta.How safe is Malta?
Welcome to one of the safest countries in the world. There aren’t any ‘no-go’ zones and violent crime is rare. Petty crime does exist (especially pickpocketing in tourist centres) but can be avoided with sensible precautions such as keeping your bag zipped and being aware of your personal possessions. The clubbing capital of Paceville can be edgy at times but no more so than any other nightclub zone. Burglaries are reported to be on the rise.