The Dole Dance

I decided to leave sunny Buncrana – after hearing third-hand, over a cup of coffee out the back of Rodden’s, that I could transfer my dole to another EU country – and join Louise and the crew in Malta. It was surprisingly easy on the Irish end actually. Trip to citizens advice the next day, which wasn’t much help, and then down to the dole office, who asked me to return when I’d a flight booked. Got home and booked one, and came back the next day – five minutes filling out forms and I was all set. Just had to register with the Maltese dole within 7 days of arriving, and the Irish government would keep the money flowing into my bank account. Easy.

It turns out the Maltese dole folk had other ideas. For starters, all the government buildings close by noon (attractive job prospect right off the bat). The morning after my flight arrived, I got the bus into Valletta with Sean and Kev for the first time, arriving at 11:30 – full of optimism that I was heading to the right place, and sure it’d only take a minute anyway. Found the office handily enough, and explained my situation to the guy at the front desk.

“Take a number, first floor.”

Going well so far! Waited a few minutes in some lovely A/C, then my number was called and I headed through to get this sorted out. Explained my situation again to the woman at the desk.

“You need to go upstairs, second floor.”

OK. Minor setback, I’ll just go with it. Went on upstairs. Found a nearly deserted office, the sole occupant busy at a computer, so I explained my situation to her.

“Oh, you need to go down to the first floor!”

I could sense a pattern emerging. I brought her up to speed with my prior twenty minutes and she gave me a couple of separate offices to try. It was nearing 12 by now, so I wasn’t feeling optimistic. Thanked her and got out of there to find Sean sitting on the step outside, Kev away to work. We headed off towards what I thought was the street she’d mentioned, but this time it was a completely unrelated building I went into for advice. The woman at the desk did point me to a couple of other places, but at 11:55, my day’s work was done. Off to a park overlooking the city for a lovely cold can of beer.

Day two, and I’d resolved to get up earlier and restart the hunt with more time to spare. Out the door at 9:30, lack of sleep and slight hangover be damned. Navigated the bus system myself without too many mistakes, and got back to my starting point yesterday. Same again, first floor, second floor, but this time I had a plan – I got the 2nd floor lady to show me on google maps where I needed to go. Much smoother sailing.

Up a couple of streets and over a few more, and I found the place I needed. Joined the queue, waited my turn, and sat down. After explaining myself to the limping JobsPlus officer (not that the limping was job related, I hope), he limped over to his manager for a five minute talk in Maltese, both looking at my transfer papers. Back at the desk he gave me a piercing glare, told me I’d need to be applying for 5 jobs a fortnight, and would have to bring a copy of my degree and a rental agreement with me – failing that, get a letter from Louise explaining I’m crashing with her temporarily – before he could register me. A bit doom and gloom, and certainly sounding stricter than home. Without the necessary papers, I was done with day two of the registration process, without actually being entered into any Maltese systems. A bit troubling, but a nice cold can of beer and the optimism returned.

Day three. Knowing where I needed to go, and what I needed to bring, I set out with Louise on her way to work. She wrote me the required letter and pointed me to a wee shop where I could print the photo of my degree that my Ma whatsapped me the night before. 20c well spent, and I was on my way to Valletta again.

Had a different, older chap in the job centre this time, who knew the story with my transfer papers without having to check with the boss. Good sign. He got my details and entered me into the system. The letter from Louise was taken, but the degree wasn’t – apparently a photo is no good, and I’d need to find my qualification in their online database for it to be recognised. €10 if it’s there, and €50 to add it if it’s not. Blood from a stone! Put that to the back of my mind and continued the registration process. He set me up an appointment with a case officer out near Msida, for a month’s time (pressure off!), and told me to head around the corner to the local social security office, who’d notify Ireland that I was all good to go. With a spring in my step I dandered over, headed in, explained myself to the guy out front, who told me I had to go to my local social security office in Msida, not the one in Valletta…

Back to Msida. No problem. The bus ticket was still good, I got to see a bit more of the locality, and have a nice brisk walk in the hot sun – what’s not to love? Found the Msida branch, headed in, explained myself to the guy at the front, and waved on through to a counter. I explained my situation, again, gave the guy my papers, and waited. He read them for a while, asked me a couple of questions in very broken English, and pulled out a lengthy looking form and started slowly copying my name across. After a few minutes and a few questions about my bank balance and whether I’m paying rent to Louise, someone walked past behind him and saw my transfer form on the desk. A short conversation in Maltese, he ripped up what I’m guessing was a social security application form, and handed me another piece of paper – telling me that I needed to go to the International Relations branch of social security. Back in Valletta.

Thanks, out the door, check the time on my bus ticket – still 10 minutes. Luckily a bus arrives just as I get to the stop, so I get on and start google mapping the address they’ve given me – only a street or two over from both the job centre and the Valletta social security office. Would have been nice if they’d known that, but hey ho…

Got to Valletta and found the office with about 10 minutes to spare before closing. Pressed the buzzer and said hello, expecting to be let in, but after a few “hello”s back and forth, the line clicked and the conversation was over. I pressed again and explained why I was there.

Had I been to the job centre? Yes. Had I been registered? Yes. Have I got a U2 form with me? Yes. Ok, you can come in. Buzz.

A bit weird conducting the talk through intercom, but whatever. Upstairs, found the disembodied voice I’d talked to earlier, and handed her my papers. Confirmed the email addresses, made copies of my forms and passport, told me she’d be in touch with Ireland that day to get me sorted, and I was done. Thanked her, headed out to meet Louise for lunch, my dole journey complete.

Now I just need to find a flat… Well, maybe a nice cold can first.