It`s weekend in Malta! Summer has not yet arrived, but the terraces along Sliema`s main streets are animated with people. The weather is windy but sunny. Tourists try to take photos of the violent waves that throw themselves onto the shore. Some get caught in showers that splash against the rocks below the boulevard. A handful of locals, all earphone-equipped, are jogging or walking along the seafront as if nothing is happening. And then there`s me, trying to find out how Maltese people like to spend their weekends.
As I learnt yesterday, Malta has a well-known clubbing scene which is concentrated around Saint Julian`s and Paceville. This is where all the clubs and bars are located, and this is also where most of the tourists reside. Anna (24) and Lynne (24) would be happy visit a wine bar every now and then, but she often has to work during weekends. The hospitality branch offers many job opportunities, but it does prevent some Maltese from frequently mixing in with the parties themselves. Anna works in a hotel and her irregular shifts do not always allow her to join her friends.
`Drunk drivers only have small chances of getting caught`
Karen (25, photo) tells me that many Maltese people, regardless of age, spend their Saturday mornings shopping, both for food and for clothes: `Sliema and Valetta are favourite places for that. In the afternoon, people find their way to the sea boulevards to meet up with friends to have coffee. Some go for a stroll along the sea side, which is particularly pleasant in summer. Many families reserved their Saturday evenings to eat out. For young people, it is becoming more and more common to cook and share dinner with a few friends, especially during winter.`
`Later at night, young people first spends some hours in local bars, before they typically take their car to get to the party neighbourhoods. There are quite some foreign students, and during summer of course lots of tourists. It is easy to find out who is Maltese and who is not, but the tourists blend in well with the Maltese. They make a nice change from the Maltese community, where everybody knows everybody, at least by the face.`
`Parties last until late at night, and it is common for people to drive home after having drunk too much. It`s not socially acceptable, but neither is it something people really care about. They often just a few blocks anyway and chances of getting caught are very low. Taxis are expensive and public transportation stops running at 1, so there is not really any alternative to taking the car.`
Karen`s friend Lisa (24) explains that quite some people attend church on Sunday morning: `Malta is predominantly Roman Catholic, but attending Mass on Sundays is not necessarily people`s favourite way of expressing faith. People who party on Saturday are not very likely to make it to the Sunday morning service. They rather have a lie-in. Sunday afternoons are good for family picnics, while some people go to the beach in summer or head for the countryside in winter. People from the countryside often come down to the seaside.`
Also, many Maltese spend their weekends on Gozo, the island 20 ferry-minutes North West of Malta, which has a similar lay-out but is a lot quieter. Few people leave the islands just for a weekend. City trips to Europe are often expensive and will only be undertaken if there is a valid excuse, like somebody getting married or another type of celebration.`
According to Graziella (22), few people dedicate their weekend to sports: `Most of the joggers you see today are trying to get in shape for next month`s marathon. Normally, they go running during weekdays before going to work, or they exercise in the gym during weekday evenings. Running is not the only popular sport. There are also many people who play tennis or football, and those too are more suitable for weekday evenings than for weekends.`
One exception to the rule is hunting, as I learn from Sara (18). `Malta is a popular stop-over for migrating birds and the Maltese have made a sport out of shooting them from the air. Instead of eating their preys, they stuff them and turn them into trophies. That hobby is in danger though, as regulation is getting stricter and stricter and politicians are continuously trying to shorten the hunting season.`
Other news of the day
Not all Maltese youngsters are entirely free in choosing their weekend activities. Many teenagers need to look after their babies rather than hang around in sport schools or in clubs. Like Maria (22), whose son is now 5 years old, many Maltese have children at a young age and they also get married young. Thinking back of a similar tradition in Lithuania, I ask Maria whether many people, like they do in Lithuania, also get divorced at young age. Her reply surprises me: `Not even if they wanted to. Maltese law does not have provisions for divorce. Should any couples get tired of each other, they can separate but not remarry.`
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