Maltese culture defines correct behaviour and comportment in a variety of ways depending on status, familiarity, age, and social connections. They range from reserved and courtly to warm and expressive.

Men play brilli, a form of bowling often called ninepins, on a narrow street in Gozo,Malta.

Whereas introductions and recommendations can open doors, presumptions of instant familiarity invite rebuff. Even business relationships are sometimes resented as manipulative if they do not unfold in a context of social intercourse. Invitations into homes for tea or dinner are considered special and non-routine occasions.

The wearing of scanty dress away from the beaches is not welcomed, nor is immodest dress inside of churches. Face-saving behaviour is important in Maltese society, not only because of decorum and for the sake of maintaining the respect of individuals, but also to protect the honour of families. In contrast to nearby northern Africa, public hand holding among men and the veiling of women do not occur

Business culture

In general, what is considered good business practice in the United States also applies when doing business in Malta. Business people in Malta appreciate prompt replies to their inquiries, and expect all correspondence to be acknowledged. Conservative business attire is recommended at all times. Business appointments are also required, and visitors are expected to be punctual. Maltese buyers appreciate quality and service, but are also interested in delivery times and price. Care must be taken to honour delivery dates and provide prompt after-sales service.

While Maltese is the first official language, English is also an official language. Widely spoken and understood, virtually all business is transacted in English.

Although first names are used in day-to-day business, it is usual to use more formal addressing (Mr--, Mrs--) for those in senior positions and on formal occasions. A good rule of thumb is to ask how your contact would prefer to be addressed! Punctuality is expected and appreciated and business dress should be smart. Use of business cards is important and exchanges are always made on first meeting. There are no special issues regarding women in business.

Effective business communication with Malta’s people

Be clear and concise

Less is more: use, short, simple sentences. Use active rather than passive voice. Don’t use idioms, irony, jargon or dialect expressions.

Speak more slowly

Communicate your message in bite-size chunks, and pause regularly……but maintain the natural rhythm and stress pattern.

Reinforce your message

Maintain eye contact so your listener benefits from facial expression and lip movement. Help your audience understand by getting LOUDER on key words and using intonation to communicate meaning. Make clear, direct statements. ’Triangulate’ your ideas: repeat them three times in slightly different ways.

Make presentation effective

Adapt your message to the audience in advance. Use appropriate graphics and handouts to enhance communications. Send through materials in advance, if possible. Signpost your main points and summarise at the end.

Double-check understanding

Yours and theirs! Jot down names, numbers and technicalities. Ask your audience to repeat key points or arrangements back to you.