When organising 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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Importance of business meetings
Usually, a Maltese person, wishing to establish contact with a foreign business, will ask for the owner or the chairman of the company. Initially, it is likely that a number of emails and/or telephone calls will then be exchanged along the way. However, once it is determined that there is the potential for some form of business relationship a face-to-face meeting is set up.
Face-to-face meetings are especially likely to take place in Malta. When travelling is a problem, where for example one of the parties is outside of Malta, web conferencing is becoming an ever more acceptablemedium for meetings. The use of web conferencing facilities initially does not exclude that at some point one of the parties may travel to carry to attend face-to-face meetings.
First meetings are generally follow a conservative approach and protocol because the Maltese want to get to know their counterpart better before talking business. Thus, time taken to establish a relationship is very important before getting down to business.
Punctuality is expected and appreciated.
A meeting is considered a process of exchanging information: you should expect many questions and try to give prompt and clear replies.
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.
People in Malta are very friendly and hospitable. In initial business meetings they will shake hands and introduce themselves, also presenting their business cards.
When you come into an office or when you meet your business counterpart, you should say “bongu” (good morning) or “bonswa” (good evening) and before leaving “sah ha” (good bye). Although the Maltese speak good English, this small effort with the Maltese language will be appreciated.
How to run a business meeting
During a business meeting you will probably give a presentation using appropriate graphics or distribute written material about your company. It is better when possible to send copies of all materials you intend to use in advance.
Detailed brochures and price lists show that you are taking an interest in the company and are willing to work with them.
Usually, Maltese negotiators are good listeners and don’t interrupt their counterparts. You should however expect many questions and requests for explanations at the end of your presentation because Maltese businessmen and women will want to make sure that they clearly understand every aspect of your proposal.
Follow up letter after meeting with client
When you return to your office following a meetin, it is important to confirm the agreement reached and follow up.
Maltese partners use the same rules and follow up procedures as other EU partners: they will prepare the minutes of the meeting which summarise all the decisions taken and then circulate these to all those involved in the business relationship.
Generally, Maltese businessman and women tend to move quickly and after the quite protracted negotiations mentioned above, deals are usually closed in a matter of few weeks.
Generally, meals are rich: the first course is a pasta dish, followed by meat or fish, fruits and desserts, generally accompanied by wine. Usually a cup of coffee is served to finish the meal.
The main business areas such as St. Julians, Sliema, and Valletta, the capital, offer a good selection of international cuisines.
Maltese food is influenced by Italian, Spanish, African and east Mediterranean traditional cuisines.
Fresh fish dishes are especially recommended like the Maltese speciality Lampuki Pie made with lampuki fishes and cauliflowers.
Famous local dishes are: rabbit cooked in differentways. You could order a meal based on rabbit: spaghetti with rabbit sauce, followed by a Fenek (rabbit cooked in wine) or fried or stewed rabbit.
At the end of your meal you could finish with fresh fruits (figs, orange, grapes) or with nuts and the traditional Helwa tat-Tork, a sweet mixture of almonds.
Maltese wine is good and the local beer is excellent. A famous homemade liqueur is the Bajtra Liqueur which is made from prickly pears.
During the meal Maltese people normally drink wine and commonly use the expression “Evviva” (i.e. Cheers) as a toast. In restaurants as in other public places, smoking is not permitted.
Tipping is optional, but if you receive particularly good service you could leave an additional 10% on top of the cost of the meal.
Business Meeting tips
Accepting your counterpart’s invitation for lunch or dinner; is a good way to gain trust.
If you are invited to someone’s home, accept with pleasure and remember to take a gift with you, such as chocolates or a bottle of wine or spirits.