MaltaToday Survey | Language, Mediterranean food, and the European currency: how the Maltese see themselves

MaltaToday Survey • Language makes us Maltese, food makes us Mediterranean and the euro makes us European

Language, food, the euro... the essentials for the modern Maltese
Language, food, the euro... the essentials for the modern Maltese

Language is what makes us Maltese, food is what makes us Mediterranean and the use of the euro currency is what makes us European.

This emerges from a survey asking 400 respondents who were asked to mention up to three characteristics constituting their Maltese, European and Mediterranean identities.

The survey reveals that more than 1 in 4 could not give an answer when asked to mention at least one characteristic which makes them European.

Only slightly more than 1 in 10 could not mention a characteristic of Mediterranean identity even if 40% replied by associating Mediterranean identity with simply being surrounded by the sea. Only 1% could not define their Maltese identity.

We are what we speak

The survey shows no changes in the way the Maltese conceive their identity over a similar survey conducted a year ago, which also showed language, culture, food and religion as the top markers of Maltese identity.

Moreover despite the Individual Investor Programme, which has effectively turned citizenship into a commodity, citizenship remains the fifth most popular marker of identity.

The survey shows that while respondents see language as the main definer of Maltese identity, university-educated respondents tend to emphasise culture, citizenship, history and Malta’s small size as definers of identity.

On the other hand, secondary-educated respondents tend to emphasise food, religion, family values, generosity and national pride.

Significantly, while 15% of secondary educated respondents consider national pride as a characteristic of identity, fewer than 2% of university-educated respondents gave the same answer.

Respondents with a lower level of education are also more likely to associate Maltese identity with the food they eat. In fact among those with a secondary education food comes only next to language as a marker of identity (23%) while among those with a university education the percentage falls to 7%.

Significantly 8% specifically refer to feasts as a definer of Maltese identity. Moreover, the percentage rises to 12% among under 35 year olds in a clear indication that feasts are far from being on the way out. 9% of respondents with a post secondary education also consider feasts as a marker of Maltese identity.

But while feasts seem to co-exist happily with modernity and rising levels of education, religion is less of a marker of identity among the young and the more educated.

While 1 in 5 of respondents older than 55 years considers religion as a marker of Maltese identity only 1 in 8 of under 35 year olds does the same.

Moreover while 21% of those with a primary level of education consider religion as a marker of identity only

10% of the university-educated do the same.

Malta’s small size features exclusively as a marker of identity among 13% of university-educated respondents.

Significantly those who consider generosity as a marker are mostly over-55
year olds. Only 2% of under 35 year 0 olds consider generosity as a marker of identity in contrast to 10% of over-55 year olds.

Europe: is it all about money?

Despite its restricted use in the 18 countries forming the Eurozone, the euro emerges as the most popular marker of European identity among the Maltese. Probably this can be attributed to the daily and mundane use of the currency, which has come to symbolise our daily interaction with the continent.

It might also be related to the way Europe has been sold to the Maltese as a monetary arrangement rather than a community of values.

Travel to other European countries, freedom of movement and knowledge of other European languages are seen as the other markers of Malta’s European identity.

Among the university-educated a substantial 26% consider their knowledge of other European languages as the marker of their European identity. Only 5% of secondary educated respondents cite this characteristic. Moreover while 16% of university-educated respondents refer to culture as a marker of European identity this characteristic was barely mentioned by other educational groups.

Interestingly the post secondary-educated are the most likely to associate European identity with democracy, human rights, peace and stability.

But the most interesting aspect of the survey is the fact that while 10% of respondents with a university education could not find a marker of European identity the percentage rises to over 20% among those with a post secondary or secondary education and to a staggering 56% among those with a primary level of education.

Food is what makes us Mediterranean

If we are what we eat and not what we buy, the Maltese are definitely more Mediterranean than European. In fact 45% of all respondents think that food is the marker of their identity.

While European identity is either abstract or connected to economic matters, the markers of Mediterranean identity are more physical and sensual.

Curiously after more obvious characteristics like climate and the sea surrounding us, it is our temper which makes us Mediterranean, according to 14% of respondents. Skin complexion, lifestyle and loudness are the other most mentioned markers of the Mediterranean identity. Indiscipline is also mentioned by nearly 3% of respondents.

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