Maltese people are generally friendly and welcoming and the usual European etiquette and courtesies are the norm.. However you should also bear in mind that this is a fiercely religious country and that Roman Catholicism plays a major role in society. Therefore, if you are visiting a church it's customary to wear modest attire and make sure that your shoulders and legs are covered (i.e. no shorts!).
Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in some public buildings, including cinemas.
Where no service charge has been included in the bill, a 10% or 15% tip is appreciated in hotels and restaurants. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% of the fare.
The Roman Catholic faith is predominant in Malta and the church is a very prominent aspect of the Maltese way of life. Catholicism is believed to have been brought to Malta by St Paul, a Christian Missionary shipwrecked on the island around A.D. 60, who converted the then pagan Maltese population making them one of the oldest Christian people in the world. Splendid domes are a hallmark of Maltese churches and the grand interiors are beautifully ornate. Around the island you will also see street corner religious icons or shrines, these are usually found in older sections of the towns and villages.
Malta has been inhabited since around 5200 BC and over the next six millennia it was ruled by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Sicilian Normans, the Angevine, the Hohenstaufen, the Aragonese and the Spanish.
In 1530, the islands were given by Spain to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, who had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire. Their reign ended when Malta was captured by Napoleon en route to his expedition of Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798.
The occupying French forces were unpopular and the Maltese rebelled with the aid of the British. The French surrendered and the island became a British protectorate, then officially part of the Empire.
In the 1930s, due to Malta's cultural and geographical proximity to Italy, the British Mediterranean Fleet was moved to Alexandria, and because of its strategic position Malta played an important role during World War II. The courage of the Maltese was rewarded with a George Cross from King George VI “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.”
After the war, and after a short period of political instability due to the Malta Labour Party's unsuccessful attempt at integration with Britain, Malta was granted independence in 1964, later becoming a republic. Malta joined the European Union in 2004.
The Maltese people are descended from mixed French, Italian, English, Arab, Spanish, and Greek peoples. The population of Malta is approximately 400,000 and it is the most densely polpulated country in the EU.
Malta has two official languages, Maltese and English. The English language is a leftover of about 160 years of British colonisation of Malta. Maltese is the national language and is unique, with many words borrowed from the languages of the various countries that once occupied Malta. It is the only Semitic language written in the Latin alphabet and is closely related to western Arabic dialects. Italian, French and German are also widely spoken and taught in secondary schools.