Quite often, the living room, dining room, and kitchen are combined in Maltese flats into one open-concept living area. In most flats in Malta this room is tiled (hardwood is rare and carpets are almost non existent), and can be quite small compared to its Canadian counterpart. It is also very rare to have a fireplace, but air conditioners are pretty standard.
In Malta there seems to be a penchant for leather couches (particularly white ones) so you're quite likely to find one in a Maltese flat. Walls are almost always painted white, and that's where the generalizations end. Depending on the owner, decorator, and their taste, you might find rugs, artwork, shelving, display cabinets, or lamps in a Maltese living room, much like any North American home.
The living room seems like a good place to sit down and chat about the overall differences between the Maltese and Canadian, or North American, home. As we wrote in our Renting Property in Malta post, buildings in Malta are generally constructed of steel, concrete, and local limestone. Houses are not insulated and central heating is rare, so they can get quite damp and cold during the winter months. On the flip side, older Maltese homes in particular keep cooler during the summer months.
Modern apartment blocks are generally built in tall, rectangular stacks - similar to those teetering towers of standard rectangular Lego pieces you built as a kid. This means they have few windows, and are long and narrow. But this can be good for air circulation - flats tend to have windows or door at the front and back that you can open and let the breeze blow through.
Malta is the third most densely populated country in the world (Monaco is #1 and Singapore #2). Hence the tall, narrow buildings and urban density - 95% of the population lives in an urban setting. Not surprisingly, then, Maltese homes don't tend to have large gardens. Like many Mediterranean building styles, flats and homes are generally built around an inner courtyard - for ventilation and cooling purposes - but big British style gardens are quite rare. And it's much too dry here for sprawling, grassy North American style lawns - just imagine the water bill. Instead you will often see artificial turf in a Maltese garden!
|artificial turf on a maltese balcony. image via|
Malta is highly dependent on fossil fuels and, for a sunny and windy island, doesn't take great advantage of sustainable energy. But slowly, more and more home owners are choosing to invest in solar water heaters (installed on the roof) to save money on rising electricity costs. You can find facts and figures about solar water heaters on the University of Malta's web site here.
And yes, you can drink the tap water here. It is desalinated (ground water is scarce - it's a bit of a crisis), so it has a strange taste to many people. But we just filter ours in a standard Brita and it tastes fine.
Moving on to electricity. Like Maltese food, everything in the Maltese home is a curious blend of British and Italian influences. And while you probably know that outlets and plugs are different in Malta, you may not know that appliances here are sold with both Continental European two prong and British three prong plugs. But outlets in Malta are only British three prong. So Maltese flats are bursting with converters (by law, I think businesses are required to give you a converter if you purchase a European two prong appliance in Malta). And, electrical outlets here have on/off switches, which make so much sense!
|maltese british-style three-prong electrical outlets - with on/off switches!|
|european light switches|
Light bulbs are also different in Malta than in North America. And, as above, there isn't a standard light bulb in Malta. The difference is really in the shape of the base of the light bulb. There are two types: screw/Edison: like in Italy, or flat: like in the UK.
Over to you. Have you lived in, or visited Malta? What was your impression of the Maltese home? We've only touched on the Maltese flat - we didn't even begin to scratch the surface of Maltese villas or townhouses - and would love to have your insight! Even if you've never been to Malta, what differences do you find the strangest? What would bother you the most?