Parliament is composed of the House of Representatives, (il-Kamra tad-Deputati), which has 65 members elected every five years. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic and represents the Executive power. The legal system is based on English common law. Judges are appointed by the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister.
Maltese people are friendly and courteous. Like people of other Mediterranean cultures, they are usually informal but they prefer to create an atmosphere of trust before doing business. During conversations and business meetings your Maltese counterpart may speak in an animated and excitable way and this is just a normal manner of expression.
The Maltese have a strong sense of their own identity and yet are very Mediterranean with a typical European life style. They are proud of their tolerant traditions and customs and are very tolerant of other customs or religious beliefs. For this reason there are many mixed marriages in Malta.
Malta has a rich cultural and social life that includes musical concerts, art exhibitions and the traditional religious processions.
Maltese people tend to be quite open minded but generally politics, religion and family are serious subjects for them and not ones that should necessarily be discussed at first meetings. If you do discuss one of these topics, especially during a first meeting, go with the flow because disagreeing might create a bad impression and get you off on the wrong foot.
Attitudes and values are vital to doing business abroad. Conversely, ignorance of these important issues can result in a cultural barrier that may inhibit the communication process, thus having a negative effect on the success of activities in a given country.
How important is work-life balance for Maltese people? How do they value fairness in business? An understanding of these issues may prove invaluable when doing business. All too often these matters are neglected during the preparation phase, despite their importance for business success. The following section will introduce you to the essential attitudes and values shared among Maltese people and highlight their implications for business practice.
Business dress code
In Malta there are no specific dress rules, however it is advised to dress conservatively for business meetings. Men should wear a suit or jacket and tie and women should wear an elegant, but not necessary conventional suit in a dark or subtle color. Less formal clothing is acceptable in some business sectors such as advertising, public relations, IT or other creative industries.
When organizing and attending meetings in Malta you should consider the general principles of business etiquette but to have maximum success you should also consider local culture and attitudes.
This is true especially when you organize the meeting (the date, the location) and decide the contents (the agenda), when you meet the people (greetings) when you decide the right strategies for conducting the relationship during and after the meeting (negotiations, business meals, gift giving).
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Business meeting planning
A meeting with a manager or the owner of a Maltese company should be fixed after a written communication or a phone call directly to them or to their executive secretary.
You should explain in detail who you are, give information about your company and the reason you are contacting him or her.
It’s better, before a business meeting, to establish an agenda because Maltese businessmen and women will follow it strictly.
All the information about the meeting and the participants must be confirmed in a fax or email.
You should be prepared to spend a lot of time on business transactions and have patience, because the negotiation process tends to be long. The communication style of Maltese partners during the negotiation is usually direct and they prefer pragmatism and people who are matter-of-fact rather than emotional.
Negotiations are usually reserved and polite. Do not interrupt someone while they are speaking.
Before reaching an agreement the Maltese will look in minute detail at the legal aspects and all the conditions in the written contract. Informal or unwritten forms of an agreement are frowned upon.
Bribery and corruption
In Malta many organizations are involved in fighting corruption (Malta Police, the Security Service, the Auditor General’s Office, the National Audit Office and the Permanent Commission against Corruption) but there is no official body that coordinates all the anti-corruption activities.
In 2004 Malta signed all the Council of Europe conventions on corruption and has ratified the Council of Europe’s Civil Law Convention on Corruption.