With business practices and etiquette that are similar to elsewhere in Europe and North America, doing business in Malta is not complicated.
Malta is a natural business hub in the Mediterranean owing to its central location, investment incentives, modern infrastructure and political stability. Tourism and the service sector are some of the largest and most lucrative industries in Malta. The country also offers a low-cost venue for manufacturing operations, particularly for electronics, ship building and pharmaceuticals. In addition to being the capital, Valetta is the commercial centre of Malta.
In the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Malta ranked 88th out of 190 countries. While the country scored well in the categories of enforcing contracts (41st) and trading across borders (48th), the biggest challenges to doing business in Malta are getting access to credit (144th) and registering property (152nd).
Office hours are generally between 8am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.
Maltese and English.
Smart, conservative business attire is typically expected. Men should wear a suit and tie, while women may wear a suit or dress, particularly for meetings. Some business sectors accept less formal clothing.
Gifts are not expected, but a small gift is always a nice gesture. Giving something from an expat’s home country such as sweets or beverages is common and appreciated.
While improvements have been made in this area, women are not equally represented in senior positions in business.
Handshakes and exchanging business cards on the first meeting are standard business greetings in Malta.
Business culture in Malta
Malta has a well-educated population and English is taught in all schools. Nearly everyone speaks Maltese and English, and many can also speak additional languages such as French and Italian.
Most business is done in English, including legal documents, commercial documents, and official correspondence, which limits communication barriers for expats who speak the language.
Businesspeople in Malta expect prompt service and correspondence; emails and phone calls should be acknowledged quickly. Expats will need to be patient though – doing business in Malta takes time, usually due to restrictions and regulations.
Malta is a fairly conservative and family-orientated country. Although no longer the case, it used to be tradition for women to resign after they married because men were supposed to provide for their families while women looked after the home. Today, women are usually treated as equals in business and it is becoming common to find women in senior management positions.
This patriarchal, family-focused view does still affect business in Malta. Traditional notions of company loyalty and a family atmosphere persist, especially in smaller businesses. This can be a good thing, but it can complicate resigning and changing jobs.
Maltese associates should be acknowledged by their personal or professional titles (Mr, Mrs, Dr) until a good working relationship is established and they suggest moving on to a first name basis.
Dos and don’ts of business in Malta
Do acknowledge the receipt of emails and phone calls
Do maintain eye contact and be direct
Do address those in a senior position in a formal manner
Don’t be late for appointments or meetings
Don’t dress casually for business meetings