Thursday, 13 August 2009

Gozitano-Malti… so what difference does it make?

Few weeks ago, Raphael Vassallo called from the newspaper MaltaToday and informed me that on the week of Santa Maria, during the influx of Maltese in Gozo, the paper will be dedicating some pages on Gozo and I was being asked to write about the perception of Gozitans over the Maltese and if possible vice versa.

During the following days I kept asking people whom I usually meet: 'What makes a Gozitan a Gozitan'? Peter-Paul and Joe, two Gozitans working in Malta with whom I meet almost every morning on the ferry, both agree that there IS a difference between a Gozitan and a Maltese but they hardly could tell me what!

I trid to do another brainstorming session with Joe - a new Maltese friend of mine and collegue at work. This one was quite successful. Amongst other points, he could relate that 'a Gozitan is able to take more risks in business than a Maltese'.

However many other people from Malta whom I tired to discuss the topic just said : "Ghawdxi tajjeb aharqu, ahseb u ara hazin" (If you find a good Gozitan burn him/her, then imagine what one would do with a bad Gozitan) if it is impossible to find a good Gozitan at all!

Deadline for the newspaper was approaching so I decided to share my thoughts.

Not being an anthropologist or a sociologist, any analysis on any assumed different characteristics between Gozitans and Maltese, is purely based on my personal experience of a person born and raised in Gozo, and who resided periodically in Malta and who continuously commute between the islands. I do not intend to generalise on such characteristics, as any good or shady personalities can be met in any of the islands. Nor is it my intent to rely on quoted research but rather to interpret views as seen through one’s own course of events.
A person simply interprets situations according to one’s own personal traits and environment. For example, a Maltese person may regard Gozitans as thrifty, whereas Gozitans may reiterate that they want to live within their means and are diligent enough to save for unforeseen emergencies.

Work ethic
A Maltese person seems to be more focused professionally, whereas a Gozitan often seeks another source of income from another activity outside their main job. Of course there are also Maltese active in different fields. I experienced a feeling that in Malta a person shows more professionalism at work without being hindered by nepotistic tendencies that are more evident in Gozo. Gozitans who spent a considerable time of their time working in Malta and then are transferred home, attest that they felt better at their Maltese place of work, and in fact some do request to be transferred back.

A Gozitan is a more relaxed person

One could imagine that Gozo’s clean and natural environment may transmit a benign psychological effect on its inhabitants. A Gozo person often seems to exhibit more calm and relaxation than a Maltese person. Heavy traffic, pollution, population density and loud noise in Malta could have its negative effects on a Gozitan raised in more healthy surroundings. And one often hears a Gozitan sigh relief on arriving at the sister island.

Gozitans are down to earth
Another variance is the simplicity of life most Gozitans adopt. They are not as spoilt or caressed like their Maltese brothers. They grew up in a context of a survival society and have therefore a hardier, craftier character. Whereas many Maltese seem to prefer crowded leisure resorts like Bugibba, Sliema or Wied il-Ghajn or sophisticated hotels and restaurants, Gozitans go for quieter areas such as Dwejra, Hondoq or Qbajjar.

Financial attitudes

The hardship of the double insularity of Gozo could instil its youth to be more attentive to any income earned. Gozitan youth may differ from their Maltese counterparts in that they save to invest on their future and tend to borrow less from banks for current expenditures on car ownerships. A Gozitan will always defend his place at work and could also be aggressive doing so, as it is realised that jobs are not easy to come by in such a small island. Having more employment opportunities in Malta, a Maltese does not think twice to alternate between various jobs.

Conservative and wary

The Gozitan is noted for being a conservative person and wary in his behaviour. Gozitans live in a tight community, every person knows every other person, personal family problems are known by all, so a Gozitan needs to weigh his words well, and more than a Maltese person would prefer to act dumb than appear to remark badly on a neighbour or an acquaintance.

See, hear, say no evil

It has been noted that Gozitans tend not to see, hear or talk even when it concerns helping authorities to unravel crime such as theft or homicides. A Gozitan may redeem himself from such behaviour by explaining the island’s close familiarity and lack of confidentiality. What happened to those files found hidden at the Victoria Police Station? Any explanation for confiscated drugs to be left in the Police safe? It could be that an upright Gozitan may feel that he could end up victimized were he to report a crime to an authority that seems to be so lax, others may say corrupt.

Gozitan survival instincts

Although Gozo has over the years under various governments suffered a shortage of investment funds, Gozo entrepreneurship survived and is quite vibrant. One can see this present in a myriad of added-value food products on supermarket shelves in Malta. The Gozitan entrepreneur struggled to survive, then learnt and adapted to modern techniques. Gozitans are often keen to obtain more income from other activities. Thus various public servants in Gozo could opt to be less efficient at work and save their energies for private work after working hours. I am of the opinion that a Maltese regards his main income satisfactory. A Gozitan seeks alternate sources of income. And this when the Gozitan can often rely on his own grown agricultural products, whereas a Maltese needs to buy all his groceries, also because the erstwhile garden plot behind his house is now another block of flats.

Self-independence and maturity

At an early age, many Gozitans are obliged to leave the safety of their home and for work or study reasons ‘immigrate’ to Malta to live on their own and often to share a flat with similar others. This obliges them to be self-sufficient, independent, gregarious and self-managed. A contemporary Maltese feels cosy and taken care of at home. The young ‘immigrant’ Gozitan is constrained to experience budgetary skills to meet rent and costs of food, clothing and utilities; during weekdays this Gozitan experiences adult chores and matures into adulthood at an earlier stage of life than his Maltese compatriot.

Other different characteristics between Gozitans and Maltese can be analysed, such as, variances in attitudes. However without any doubt, Maltese and Gozitans possess countless similarities; but about this, I could write another time...


Joe said...

Well done & Thanks for the comment Vic!! It is one of those positive and factual articles,which I enjoyed reading! Keep it up!! Another brainstorming session any time!!! =)


Anonymous said...

I think the fiction of a distinct Gozitan character has gone on long enough. There are differences, sure, but the inferiority complex of Gozitan residents must change if they are to become valuable members of Maltese society, and not simply the butt of jokes, condescending attitudes and wariness regarding the honesty of their transactions with the Maltese.