Our journey to Malta

Interview with Merle Whale
- founder of MaltaLifestyle

Merle Whale is the owner of MaltaLifestyle.com and a South African expat who has lived in Malta for more than 11 years. She assists South Africans with making the very important move of relocating to Malta and advises on purchasing real estate to dealing with paperwork and everything else.

With her diverse experience of living in Malta for many years, she is the ideal contact for any South African who is considering investing or relocating to Malta. In order to get to know her better, we sat down with Merle and asked her some informal and at times very pertinent questions. Here is what she had to say:

Can you tell us about your background in SA for instance what you did for a living and how long you lived there?
When I left South Africa, I was running a seminar and conference business, as well as presenting training and presentations myself. My personal training was through the international Westin Hotels group at the grand old lady The Carlton Hotel. In my younger years I went to school in different towns which gave me a good understanding of the people of South Africa. These included Johannesburg, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein/Kimberly, Krugersdorp and before leaving we lived in Cape Town.
What was the inspiration for wanting to move from South Africa?

The idea of leaving South Africa was never top of my mind. I believed myself to be progressive and in participated in many different activities to embrace the changes in our country and assisted in empowering our people. However, trading conditions became difficult as a single woman and my personal security and that of my family became a major priority.

We believe you first went to Mauritius and got residency there. How was it?

When first looking for a Plan B, it seemed that Mauritius was the obvious choice with its proximity and weather. However, after spending time there we found ourselves feeling rather isolated and with limited choices.  For instance, airfares are run by a monopoly and were expensive if it was not part of a holiday package deal. Day-to-day expensive were also quite pricey and getting our family together from different parts of the world was not that simple.

When did you first hear about Malta and from whom?
When Malta became a member of the EU this pricked up our ears and we attended a Frank Salt seminar.
What stood out as the persuading factors that convinced you that Malta was a better option than Mauritius or South Africa?

The European environment, with people culturally similar to us, as well as the accessibility to other destinations and hubs was a big attraction especially as our family became more global. The daily cost of living and running our household was more attractive and we had more choices despite it being in Euros.

When did you make your first trip to Malta and was it an inspection trip at first?
Our first visit was 2010 and I can’t say that it was love at first sight. It was only once we started getting around and interacted with the people that we decided to give it a go.
Afterwards, did you go back to your previous place of residency to pack up for your move to Malta ?

At first, we thought that we’d keep our feet in both camps, but that was only until we spent more time in Malta. We then fully relocated ourselves and our investments.

What was the paperwork like? Any hurdles/red tape?

Having had experience with other jurisdictions we were prepared for the processes of acquiring residency and we were pleasantly surprised. Subsequently there have been many changes implemented by the EU, but as this is getting streamlined, the system is improving although the entry requirements and diligence checks are undoubtedly tougher than before.

When did you know that you had fallen in love with Malta?

Honestly there were times when I wasn’t sure if we’d made the right choice. However, whenever I return to the island after time away, I was very pleased to be home. Our family regards this as home, and one of our daughters held her wedding here and another will do the same next year!

When did you first arrive here permanently and where did you settle?
We settled almost immediately in Sliema as we were attracted by the conveniences and accessibility of the area.
Have you moved home in Malta since arriving?
We have acquired a place in Gozo, which definitely has a different feel.
Did you have a difficult or easy time adjusting to Malta?
From day one we found adapting easy and if anything was a problem, we quickly received assistance from the locals.
How do you get along with the locals?
Locals from across a varied spectrum of life are my friends and family.
What has been your experience driving in Malta or even with public transport?

Public transport is a privilege that can easily be taken for granted. There is always someone interesting to meet and things to see while one is on the buses or ferries. I love the old traditional beautifully coloured buses they currently run on special routes

Do you go abroad for holidays or do you believe “local is lekker”?

Local is certainly “lekker”, but we still enjoy traveling and visiting family and friends. We also welcome many visitors to the islands so we have the best of both worlds.

When did you start MaltaLifestyle and what was the inspiration?
From day one I wanted to spread the word about Malta and the lifestyle it offers. The people, the safety, the vibe…it all made me want to share it with everyone.
Tell us about becoming an ambassador for South Africa and Malta: what spurs you on to do what you do?
Networking and sharing information with others have always been my passion. I particularly see so many advantages for co-operation between people and countries and there seems to be always something new to share.
Tell us about your professional relationship with Frank Salt Real Estate: How does it work?

Having purchased my own home and other properties from Frank Salt Real Estate and also having it managed by Frank Salt Real Estate, I am privy to every area of the business and hence have no hesitation in recommending them to others.

Do you know how many South Africans you have helped make the transition to Malta in the past? I am contacted by people who are at different stages of life on a daily basis, at times even late into the night and on weekends. We have had many seminars ourselves, I am active on social media and also have regular newsletters and tips on different topics that I am sending out daily. I also host many one-to-one meetings weekly.
What do you miss that is typically South African?
It goes without saying that old habits die hard! There are the conveniences of shops like Woolworths for instance, as well as the open landscape and of course trees
Would you advise anyone from South Africa who is interested in exploring the options, to stay put in SA and wait for better days or make the move?
Only the individual can answer a question like this for themselves and it reminds me of the Chinese proverb:  “When the student is ready the teacher will be found”. I often caution people if I feel that they have unrealistic expectations or attitudes and I’m not always popular because of that.
Would you advise anyone from South Africa who is interested in exploring the options, to stay put in SA and wait for better days or make the move?
Only the individual can answer a question like this for themselves and it reminds me of the Chinese proverb: “When the student is ready the teacher will be found”. I often caution people if I feel that they have unrealistic expectations or attitudes and I’m not always popular because of that.
Give us some tips on how any newbies to the islands should go about making friends.
Rule number one: do not look back and compare. Come with an open slate and do in Rome as the Romans do.
Did you find it easy to assimilate into society in Malta and if so, how long did it take?
Yes. I immersed myself in the local community through charity work, in the church and it was very easy.
Do you believe property is a good investment for South Africans in Malta?
Once again it depends on one’s expectations. If you’re a believer in cryptocurrencies or want to avoid land invasion, your priorities may be different. In the years we’ve been here we have seen steady returns even through tough times.
 Do you go back to South Africa now and then and is the traveling a burden or pleasure since there are no direct flights from SA to Malta?
Commuting to South Africa or other destinations has never been a hassle and we use different carriers depending on the deals on offer and of course the commuting times.
Are you in Malta for the long haul and is it now your forever home?
Malta is home.
Are you available on a daily basis for South Africans who want to contact you?
I make myself available as much as possible, but like everyone else I take time out for family and friends.
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