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Guide to Cultural Traits for Expats in Malta

Submitted: November 2013

Malta is a beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean and has a long and rich history. Maybe these factors account for the general easy-going and laid back atmosphere on the island.

It can be said that generally, Maltese islanders are friendly and welcoming. Having said that, it often takes locals a while to accept newcomers. Expats are advised to persevere with their efforts of making friends with their new neighbours and, it is said, once locals get to know them a little, the warmth and friendliness of the islanders will really show itself.

As is often the case in the warm regions of the Mediterranean, newcomers can feel frustrated with the generally slower pace of life than the one they have been used to.

A handshake is the normal way of greeting and saying goodbye and when doing so, the hierarchy in the family or business setting determines the sequence of handshakes. Maltese individuals can be very formal and it is advisable to use the title and surname to address one another until invited to use first names.

When invited to dinner in a Maltese home, the visitor is advised to bring a small gift such as flowers or chocolates to show their appreciation. The host will usually allocate a particular seat to the visitors and will also make the first toast. Leaving a little food on one’s plate at the end of the dinner is not generally considered impolite.

The Maltese family unit is important to individuals but it is generally said that the links to the maternal side of the family are much stronger than those to the paternal side. It is not uncommon for siblings to not have close links to one another after their mother has passed away.

Perhaps because of the predominance of the catholic religion, for many Maltese, marriage is seen as a very important institution and a good opportunity for a female to improve her status in society. Divorce was not permitted until October 2011 when a law allowing it came into force following a referendum earlier that year when the majority of voters came out in favour of such legislation. In 2011, Malta was the only country in the world apart from the Philippines and Vatican City where divorce was not permitted.

Such a fundamental change in attitude to marriage can be seen as major progression and a willingness to adopt a more liberal attitude by many Maltese islanders. Perhaps the influx of expats and the ease of connectivity to other countries have helped to influence the way of thinking.

Religion still has a very important role in Malta and there are many local religious festivals in celebration of the village saint throughout most of the year. These activities are a very important part of life on the island. Expats can enjoy the spectacle of the ‘festas’ by partaking in the delicacies offered by the food stalls set up for the occasion, while admiring the rich street decorations and  watching the band marches through the village.

The rich local heritage reflected by the many fascinating sites, combined with the warmth and friendliness of the local inhabitants make Malta a wonderful experience for an expat wanting to set up home on the island.



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