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Why Are There Red Telephone Booths In Malta and Why Is English So Widely Spoken There?

By October 15, 2021 November 22nd, 2021 No Comments

If you have never been to Malta before, your first visit to the country might confuse you! Did you mistakenly end up in the United Kingdom? People speak English everywhere; there are red streaks in city maps in the form of telephone booths just like you would see in London, Victorian-era buildings-Malta is indeed a patch of Britain outside of Britain! 

Throughout its eventful history, Malta has seen many foreign forces as its rulers. The British were the last to colonise the archipelago when Malta became a part of the British Empire in 1800.

You might assume by now that the British had forcibly taken control of Malta back then. But that was not the case!

Before British rule, Malta was a French colony, and the Maltese people sought assistance from Britain to drive the French out of their country. As a token of its appreciation for the British intervention, Malta voluntarily became a British colony and remained under the direct rule of Britain till 1974.

Malta bore great geographical importance to Britain because of its convenient location. Using the Maltese harbours, Britain got easier access to the Mediterranean, which benefitted them both geopolitically and commercially.

The red telephone booths you see in the streets of Valetta, Gozo, or Mdina bear witness to the British governance in Malta. They were introduced on the Maltese islands around the same time they were first established in the UK.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed these iconic boxes to make telephones more accessible to the public. Scott wanted to paint these boxes in steel grey, but the British Post Office suggested using the colour red, for better visibility.

In the age of mobile phones, telephone booths have lost their relevance. Public phones are becoming more and more of a rarity because of their lack of use and maintenance. The Maltese government had started to remove telephone boxes since they were no longer in use.

But, the local community protested and asked the authorities to preserve these boxes. They might not be practical in the modern landscape, but these telephone boxes became representative of the Maltese heritage over the years.

So, the authorities have changed their stance on the telephone booths and have started reinstalling them. Most telephone booths across the country have gotten a new coat of paint. Some have also been transformed into mini-libraries and internet stalls.

Unsurprisingly, the booths have turned into one of the biggest tourist attractions in Maltese cities. You can take some fantastic photos for your Instagram feed in and around these telephone booths. If you are a Dr Who fan and have never been to London, we are sure you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to take a snap beside one of these booths.

One of the major factors that make many people hesitant about visiting Europe is the language barrier. You will face zero problems navigating Malta if you speak no other languages other than English. 99% of the people in Malta can fluently communicate in English. From Valetta to Marsaskala, no matter where you are in Malta, you can communicate in English.

Besides Maltese, English is an official language in Malta. It is taught in the local schools from an early stage. So, most of the population can read, write, and speak English.

Fun fact, Malta did not only adopt English as one of its primary languages. The Maltese languages have also influenced a few words in English. For example, the word ‘’spitchered’’, which means ‘ruined or damaged, comes from the Maltese word spiċċa. 

The cultural resemblance, subtropical climate, and liberal tax regulations have made Malta one of the popular destinations for British expatriates. Many British nationals have their second home here; many have settled permanently and own businesses in the country. If you visit Malta from the UK, you will not feel like a traveller at all!  (The weather is much better, though! Haha!)

The Maltese language has drawn inspiration from several languages, including English. Because of the country’s proximity to Italy, you can identify a strong Italian touch in Maltese. Almost half of its vocabulary is attributable to Italian or Sicilian. Arabic and French have also contributed to building the Maltese dialect.

British influence in Maltese society is not limited to telephone booths and English. To this day, you can sense a British tone in Malta’s political, cultural, and national identity.

The Maltese flag features the George Cross, which is one of UK’s most significant national symbols. King George VI bestowed the George Cross to the Maltese people because of their valorous World War II contributions.

The architectural inspiration is another indication of the rich and colourful Malta-UK ties. Apart from the British era buildings, many new constructions also mimic modern British architecture. This is a testament to the fact that the social and cultural values of the UK are still prevalent in Malta.

Like the British driving standard, you will found the Maltese drivers driving on the left side of the road. The education system in Malta also take after the British structure and focuses on secondary school and university.

Malta is a hotpot of cultures. The local people loves to welcome the cultural views of others and spread their own values across the world. It has been almost half a century since the British had left the Maltese territory but many British traditions still live on in Malta.

The British influence is only one side of the multidimensional Maltese cultural. If you want to have a bona fide cosmopolitan experience, you must travel Malta and find out for yourself how fascinatingly the Maltese people have integrated many exotic cultural values into their lifestyle without sacrificing their own heritage.

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