So Your Character is ... is back for a time after a long hiatus! In this series, I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last time's So Your Character is from Mongolia ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!
Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.
(None of the Images are Mine)
Hi, my name is Charlene. I am 25 years old and I am from Malta. I live in Gozo which is the smaller island of the Maltese Islands. I work in a rehabilitation center for addiction and I love reading, cats, and food.
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
I think that something which Malta is the proudest of is its village feasts. These take place in the summer where each village has a patron saint and every week during summer and each village has their own specific time when they celebrate. The celebrations take place over the week where there are many different activities. I think something that many people enjoy are the spectacular fireworks show.
Something else which is gorgeous in summer is the Maltese coastline which consists of an abundance of beaches were people can go and swim in the crystal blue seas. Nothing more refreshing than dipping into the Mediterranean Sea in the summer.
Tell me about your country’s environment. What are some of your favorite places?
The Maltese weather is the typical Mediterranean climate. It’s hot and humid in the summer slowing drifting through autumn with more humidity and then suddenly it’s Christmas and it may get a little cold. It can be a bit weird having Christmas and it’s sunny. The weather can be a bit crazy at times, one day it’s hot and then another day or a few hours later it’s pouring rain. But on the whole, I guess it’s not too bad as we don’t get the freezing weather even though I would love to have snow in winter.
I think that my favorite place in Gozo is quite close to my village. It’s called Dwejra – there was the Azure Window a few years back which a lot of people from all over the world used to come see. Now that the window is gone, Dwejra seems to be lacking something however I recently went for a picnic there with my boyfriend and it was quite nice especially during sunset hours.
Tell me about your country’s food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
There are a lot of things which are considered a staple in Maltese cuisine. I think that the ultimate snack for me is the ricotta-filled filo-pastry called Pastizzi. They are divine and so delicious especially when they are just coming out of the oven. The local drink is Kinnie, which is a soft drink made from oranges and a blend of spices which is also delicious however it is not something that I like to drink often but it makes a delicious change.
A meal which is found in the typical Maltese grandma kitchen is the rabbit which I think is the grandma speciality for me. It can be booked in two ways either with a red sauce or with onions and wine and I can honestly say I love them both especially when it is with some spaghetti.
There are so many foods which are considered as traditional that I can only list them and if anyone has some questions I can give more information: Ftira ( a different type of pizza), Timpana, Mahi Mahi Pie, Imqaret or fig cakes.
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
As I already mentioned there are two main islands in the Maltese Islands – Malta and Gozo. There is a significant difference how Maltese people speak and how Gozitan speak as us Gozitans have our own dialects which some people find it difficult to understand for some reason. For example, in Gozitan we say “tirex” (embarrassed) but in Malta they use the word “tisthi”. For clothes pins we use the word “combini” where in Malta they use the phrase “labar tal-inxir” and in Gozo to say a little we use the word “farka” and in Malta it’s “ftit”.
In Maltese the two main languages which are spoken are English and Maltese and it depends on where you are in Malta as some people speak only in English and find it difficult to speak or write in Maltese.
Again, in the Maltese villages there are also different dialects which is mainly divided in the North, South and the other parts of Malta.
A lot of our language is a mix of Arabic, English, and Italian – something that we say in Maltese for good morning is “Bongu” which comes from the Italian word Buongiorno.
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
A typical day in Malta - well for me it consists of waking up and going to work and going back home. I think that the typical Maltese day (I may be a bit stereotypical here). People wake up relatively early when compared to other European countries and some go to an early mass to church and then people start their mornings in the village square. The Maltese breakfast consists of pastizzi and a coffee. Then people either go to work or they go home and do what they have at home. In summer people usually go to the beach after work or have a bbq and in winter people meet up in each other’s homes or go out to eat. Right now, it’s a bit difficult to the regular day in Malta as the coronavirus situation is not helping that much.
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Compared to America, I think that Malta is really lacking in opportunities. For example, there are so many chains such as restaurants and stores that aren’t found in Malta. Something which is really frustrating for me is that when I try to buy something online sometimes do not ship to Malta as it can be a bit tad expensive. politically I’m not that knowledgeable so I can’t really comment that much about it. For example, in America there is so much different cultures due to the country being so big and having so many states so when compared to it Malta is so small.
Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
Hmm I’m trying to remember from my primary school days and the history lessons we had. I may not be the best person to talk about these but the three that I remember are the 21st of September 1964 which is the date where Malta was granted independence from the United Kingdom which was a really big deal for a small country like Malta. The second event was on the 31st of March 1979 where the last British forces left from Malta completing what was agreed making Malta free from all UK forces.
Don’t laugh at me but I actually had to google for the third event as I couldn’t think of anything but I found this one and I think that this is a very important event. In 1973 homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Malta.
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Some stereotypes about Maltese people are that we all know Italian as we are so close to Sicily and Italy so we obviously know Italian right? Wrong. I took Italian for 5 years and people were still amazed that I found it difficult to learn as they said it would be easy but in reality, it’s still another language that not everyone knows. A stereotype that I hate about Gozo is that we are all old-fashioned and all work in the fields and are considered as farmers however in reality Gozo is just as modern as Malta and I feel that it is a better environment.
What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I haven’t really seen Malta being mentioned that much in movies or other media. I believe that it was mentioned in the series The Crown given that the Queen had spent some time here when she was younger so that was a really good portrayal of Malta, I think even though it was quite brief. I haven’t seen Malta mentioned in a lot of books. I remember that I read a book once and was so happy that Malta was mentioned however it was just mentioned by name and there was no real detail about it.
Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?
I feel so stupid replying to these last two questions but honestly, I don’t think that there are a lot of fictional Maltese characters. When I was young, I barely read books in Maltese as there were a lot of better books in English and I always used to read in English. In my life, I think I don’t think I’ve read more than 20 Maltese books so I don’t have any favorite characters which are native to my country which I can talk about.
Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com.
So Your Character is From Mongolia ... Featuring Jenny Sandiford