Doing business in Malta is relatively straightforward, owing to the country's largely western business practices and etiquette.
Thanks to its investment incentives, central location, political stability and modern infrastructure, Malta is the main Mediterranean business hub. The tourism and service sectors are some of the country's biggest and most lucrative industries. Malta also offers a low-cost centre for manufacturing operations, particularly for electronics, shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals. In addition to being the capital, Valetta is also Malta’s commercial centre.
Office hours are typically between 8am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.
Maltese and English.
It is expected of professionals to dress in formal and conservative business attire. Men should wear suits, while women may wear dresses or suits for meetings. Some business sectors may accept casual clothing.
Gifts are not mandatory, but a small present is always a nice gesture. Giving something from an expat’s home country, such as a beverage or sweets, is standard and appreciated.
Gender equality has improved in Malta, but women still do not have equal representation in senior business positions.
Handshakes and exchanging business cards on the first meeting are standard greetings in Malta.
Business culture in Malta
Malta has a well-educated population, and all schools teach English. Nearly everyone speaks Maltese and English, and many also speak additional languages such as French and Italian.
English is the official business language, and most documents, including legal, commercial and official correspondence, are in English, which limits communication barriers for most expats.
Businesspeople in Malta expect prompt service and correspondence; expats should acknowledge emails and phone calls quickly. Though, expats will need to be patient – doing business in Malta takes time, usually due to restrictions and regulations.
Malta is a conservative and family-orientated country. Although no longer the case, it was once tradition for women to resign after getting married because men were supposed to provide for their families while women looked after the home. Today, women receive equal treatment in business, and more women are landing senior management positions.
This patriarchal, family-focused view still affects business in Malta. Traditional notions of company loyalty and a family atmosphere persist, especially in small businesses, making for a pleasant work environment but complicating resignation and changing jobs.
New arrivals should acknowledge their Maltese associates by their personal or professional titles (Mr, Mrs, Dr). Once expats have established a good working relationship with them, they can move 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 formally
Don’t be late for appointments or meetings
Don’t dress casually for business meetings