Effective communication is important to establish good relationships, especially when making contact with business partners and setting up meetings. Knowledge of the basic rules of business communication together with specific information about the cultural differences, attitudes and values of your foreign partners should help you to start successful negotiations andto generate more business opportunities.
In order to have effective communication with the Maltese people, it’s important to be clear and concise, using short and simple phrases and avoiding idioms or too many colloquial expressions.
Eye contact during a meeting is essential but it’s better to avoid gazing at your counterpart for long periods , as this can be considered intrusive.
People are bilingual: they speak Maltese and English. All official publications are available both in English and Maltese. Many Maltese understand and speak Italian well and German is recently being studied more frequently by younger people. People in Malta are very friendly and hospitable. In first business meetings they shake hands and introduce themselves, also presenting their business cards.
People usually establish friendly and helpful personal relationships.
Business relations are based on trust: Maltese people must feel that they know you well before establishing a partnership. Written presentations are useful especially before a first meeting.
The organisational management structures in Malta are not rigid. Hierarchical lines are determined by the degree of familiarity.
In Malta it’s normal practice to have a personal or professional connection (referrals, testimonials, etc) before asking for a meeting with a businessman or woman. If nobody can introduce you, you should address your letter requesting a meeting directly to the owner or the chairman of the company.
Email contact is rapidly becoming an acceptable means of communication with a business to request a meeting or to enquire about products and services.
There are several networking opportunities that are both business and expat oriented. Malta hosts regular meetings of Toastmasters, who meet on the second Tuesday of every month and in 2011 BNI (Business Network International) launched several chapters in Malta.
There are also several LinkedIn groups which are active in promoting business and making introductions including Network Malta, Malta Entrepreneurs, and Business Professionals in Malta.
At a first meeting or during formal communication with a Maltese partner, you would usually address your counterpart as Mr or Mrs, but in day-to-day business it’s not unusual to move to first name terms. It’s better to ask how your counterpart would prefer to be addressed to avoid any embarrassment.