Sarah McGourty has swapped the green, green grass of home for one of Europe’s sunniest spots, and has been living in sun-kissed Malta for almost a decade now.

She’s found a sweet spot in the local economy, with her confectionary business providing a tasty income. However, like almost all ex-pats, as much as she likes her current home, Sarah also misses Fermanagh’s people and scenery.

Here, Sarah talks to The Impartial Reporter about her life in the richly historic country of Malta, home to several distinct cultures, and what she misses about home.

Where are you currently based and have you been there since you left Fermanagh? Where else have you lived outside of the UK/Ireland?

I’m currently based on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

When did you leave Fermanagh and why did you originally leave?

I came here in 2009 on an Erasmus work programme, and I returned to live on the island in 2013.

I moved to Malta with the intention of setting up a mobile confectionary business. I purchased a 1950s Citroen van, had it reconditioned and shipped it to the island.

While waiting to sort the mountain of regulations faced in establishing a mobile business here, I secured a premises and began operating a pop-up confectionary shop.

Over time, the shop grew in size and popularity, and within the first year I had a shop and mobile business operating and ‘Miss Ellen’s Treats’ was born.

What do you miss most about home?

Like all ex-pats I do miss home – the great sense of community, being able to walk down the street in Enniskillen, and meet people I went to school with.

I miss that connectedness of parish and, of course, the great love of sport we have at home; the GAA clubs and county rivalries that are so much part of the fabric of life in Ireland.

Do you travel home often?

In the early years living here, I travelled home mostly for Christmas and special family occasions. The pandemic kept me away for the past two Christmas holiday seasons, but with restrictions easing, and having more staff available to run the business here, I am hoping to be able to travel home more frequently and for longer periods.

What has been a highlight of your time living abroad?

Malta is a beautiful island and is currently home to a growing financial and gaming sector service industry, and that attracts people from across the world to come and live here, and bring their own cultural richness with them.

The early years here were more difficult, because it took time to be established, I was working long hours, I had limited time and finances to socialise, but that has changed.

I now have my own home on the island, and I feel part of the Maltese community.

Have you faced many challenges?

Going somewhere new is always challenging; every country has its own way of operating, but I’ve been lucky with the people I have met who have helped me.

Have you introduced any ‘Fermanagh slang’ to the country you are currently living in? If so, what words/phrases have people picked up?

Fermanagh could almost have its own dictionary of local sayings, and of course, Adrian Dunbar has brought some of them to a wider audience in recent years.

“Wee” is one that often confuses, and “What’s the craic?” also needs explaining.

When giving directions here, “up the road” or “down the road” is generally met with looks of confusion.

“Sucking diesel” and “keep her lit” are also two that raise eyebrows!

How does the food where you live compare to food from home?

Maltese food is full of Mediterranean flair. Rabbit stew is a national dish of Malta, and there is a wide availability of fish all year round, octopus being a very common menu choice.

The food here has been influenced by many different nations that have occupied the island over centuries, and given the close proximity to Italy, there is a strong Italian food culture here.

What do you miss most from home? How have you found communicating across different time zones?

I miss the peacefulness and the green landscape of home. Malta is one of the most densely populated countries in the EU, and the island is only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide, so finding space is an issue here. Parking a car is quite frankly a nightmare. It is also incredibly busy and noisy here, and with 359 churches on the island, the sound of church bells punctuate every waking hour!

Do you think you will ever move back to Fermanagh?

For the moment Malta is home. The beautiful climate, the outdoor lifestyle that the islanders enjoy here almost all year round is something I am not considering giving up yet, but Fermanagh is the place where I have a foundation of love, warmth and happy memories, and where I will always consider as ‘home’.