Cultural tips: Maltese

Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with Maltese

  • Maltese culture defines correct behavior and comportment in a variety of ways depending on status, familiarity, age, and social connections. They range from reserved and courtly to warm and expressive.
  • Whereas introductions and recommendations can open doors, presumptions of instant familiarity invite rebuff. Even business relationships are sometimes resented as manipulative if they do not unfold in a context of social intercourse. Invitations into homes for tea or dinner are considered special and non-routine occasions.
  • When many Maltese people talk, they tend to be rather loud. When in a conversation with a Maltese person who just doesn’t stop talking, it might be a good idea to interrupt them if you have something to say. The average Maltese conversationalist won’t pause that often, so you need to create your own opening most times.
  • Maltese people have a predisposition towards creating an ‘us and them’ scenario. Whether it’s the rivalry created by politics, football or even affection for a particular village festa or affiliation to a specific band club, the Maltese do tend to get rather clannish. It may happen that one can sense a certain sentiment of ‘us and them’ in with relation to the presence of certain foreigners on the island. For this reason it is recommended to never ask anyone to do anything you would not do yourself and to avoid giving brusque orders or any other form of arrogance.
  • Many Maltese people seem to have a strange relationship with rules, sometimes closing an eye – or even two – in the process. When driving, Maltese people tend to break the rules – though the extent of this ranges from person to person.
  • Families tend to be close to each other. This is no doubt helped by the geographical proximity Maltese people share with each other. In recent years, the family bonds seem to be somewhat weakening but you will still find families meeting up rather often – and not just immediate family but also cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents.
  • According to the CIA World Factbook, 98% of the Maltese population are Catholics. But while the Church still has a strong political influence on the country (no divorce or abortion, for example), it has much less of an influence on people’s daily lives than before. While older generations may still get scandalized by certain discussions and behaviors, the younger generations of Maltese are much less likely to do so. Nevertheless, they too are probably still somewhat more closed minded than their northern European counterparts.
  • The wearing of scanty dress away from the beaches is not welcomed, nor is immodest dress inside of churches. Face-saving behavior is important in Maltese society, not only because of decorum and for the sake of maintaining the respect of individuals, but also to protect the honor of families. In contrast to nearby northern Africa, public hand holding among men and the veiling of women do not occur.