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“Sometimes I feel sad when people say Maltese are not very friendly”

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

The words are by Onana Pierre, the young man from Cameroon whose integration into the Maltese society can be called a success story.

Onana smiling in house in Iklin during the interview

We are in a white-walled, pristinely clean apartment in Inklin, on a Saturday afternoon. Our host greeted us with a warm smile. Dressed in a colourful shirt, a brown knee-long pair of shorts and flip flops. He kept his smile throughout the interview, gently swinging his head and hands as he spoke, maybe a sign of nervousness, maybe not. He has a benevolent attitude and he is certainly captivating. For him “if you are a foreigner, it depends on how you introduce yourself to the locals. If you act good, for sure, they are going to give you a chance to be friends, so behave kindly.”

Who is Pierre Onana?

My name is Onana Pierre, an African of Cameroonian origin. I am 42 years old and I have been living in Malta for 3 years. I came here to seek asylum. I live here in Iklin, a very beautiful, quiet, residential area. Here I can rest after work and I have a beautiful view as you can see. I rent here and I do not intend to move because my relationship with the neighbors and landlord are very good. My landlord in particular is someone that I appreciate a lot. Always available whenever there is something to be fixed in the house. He is a very nice man; I hope he thinks the same of me.

What do you do for a living?

I work a full time job in a large company here in Malta as a Customer Manager. I like it because I have always wished to meet people and my work offers me that opportunity. I am happy at work and I appreciate my colleagues with whom I have a good relationship. Even if there are arguments, we always find a time and place to fix things.

What has Malta brought to you in terms of opportunities?

My wish was to become an expert in marketing and I think it was a great opportunity to come here and have it. My life has improved as I have a good job. I greatly appreciate my boss who is an expert in Marketing, and from whom I learn a lot. Sometimes I feel sad when people say Maltese are not very friendly. What I am going to say is that if you are a foreigner, it depends on how you introduce yourself to the locals. If you act good, for sure, they are going to give you a chance to be friends, so behave kindly. I have a lot of Maltese friends, we drink together, talk together. I have nothing to say against them. If you are a foreigner, you have to give the best of yourself to make them understand that you are a good person. I want to take this opportunity to send a hug to my colleagues:

I love you guys, Mr Ivan, Karl, I really appreciate what you are doing for me, your help, your support, thank you.

Your story can be an inspiration for those immigrants who are still struggling to find their way in a society so different from their own, what advice can you give them?

It depends on what one needs. Personally I wanted to improve myself to become an expert in marketing. For immigrants to have something better, they have to work, find the best ways to develop themselves. I know it is not easy, but It is important to dream big. If you have no knowledge, learn something. It is not easy because we come here to help our families, but you can do an evening course and learn something to improve yourself. Do not only think of people at home, but also think of yourself.

I want to add a piece of advice to some migrants who prefer working without a contract, so they can save money. When you pay taxes, you are clean with the government. My advice to them is this: guys, try to make things right, try to pay taxes. I also want to say to my Maltese friends: there are a lot of fantastic people among us, try to give us a chance to show what we can do before making up your mind about us.

Tell us something about the Maltese culture that you like.

I like the food. I cannot remember some names, but I like Pastizzi, and I also like Maltese music. Classical music is my favourite style and I like Estevan Ellul very much.

(Good big laugh at the question if he can speak Maltese): I cannot speak like a Maltese but I am going to try: “Mela (Editor’s note: It was said with a perfect Maltese accent !) Inħobb il-pastizzi, grazzi hafna.

Background On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2021, SuccessStories-RAS ( Success Stories among Refugees and Asylum Seekers) aims to showcase four unique lives of refugees based in Malta.

During the month of June every week, a video is published on our social media accounts, as well as on the US Embassy Malta's Face book page.

The project is done in partnership with the newspaper L'Orizzont _ It- Torca, publishing the printed and online version of the stories in Maltese.

All stories are featured here on our multilingual webzine.

This is the second article of the series. Read the Maltese version here

Funded by: Partners:

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