Up until 1964 Malta was a colony of the United Kingdom, and British culture still underpins the Maltese way of doing business. At the same time, meetings are much less formal, and business is conducted in a more leisurely manner than in Northern Europe. However, appointments are necessary and should be made one to two weeks in advance. As in most Mediterranean countries, the concept of time is a little more relaxed than in countries to the north. Nevertheless, punctuality is expected and appreciated.
There is no specific protocol for the exchange of business cards, but it typically happens when potential business partners meet for the first time. Business attire should be smart, with conservative suits and ties for men, and suits or dresses for women. Work contacts are usually greeted with their title, if they have one, followed by the surname. However, once a relationship has been established, only first names are used.
Most business correspondence is carried out in English, which is one of the country’s two official languages, Maltese being the other. Laws and regulations are published in both. Many Maltese also have a good command of Italian and a sizeable proportion also speak either German or French.
Office hours are generally 8.30 am to 1 pm, and 2 pm to 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday. Some government departments work half days in summer, but many have adapted to ensure offices are manned throughout normal business hours, and the private sector continues to operate normally throughout the year. Factories usually start at 8 am and run to 5 pm. Most banks open from 8 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday, and Saturday until 12 pm. Shops open from 9 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday. Most retail and commercial shops are closed on Sunday.