Cultural tips: Canada

What to pay attention to when doing business with Canadians

  • Distinguish them clearly from the Americans. Appreciate the uniqueness of their culture and know Canadian geography. Canadians have world awareness.
  • Exercise cultural sensitivity. Canada is arguably the world’s most multicultural country. Show tolerance at all times.
  • Be low key and reliable. Impute the best motives. Most Canadians are trustworthy and will appreciate your confidence.
  • Stress impartiality in most matters.
  • Dress well, but comfortably. Boasting and ostentatiousness are taboo. Too many status symbols irritate.
  • Amusing after-dinner speeches and home entertaining are popular.
  • They like the soft sell and respond well to humour.
  • Meetings are essentially democratic, where everyone airs his/her views. Discussion style should be calm and reasonable.
  • They like quick action, but do not tackle business at the American tempo. Unhurried decisions, followed by rapid implementation is the name of the game.
  • When instructing Canadians, expect pleasant interruptions and a lot of give-and-take. Compromise is usually part of the process.
  • Instead of dictating, one should always try to get the agreement of everyone in the room before finalising decisions or initiating action. Negotiations must lead to a clear action plan.
  • Do not be too individualistic or expect them to be. Society counts too.
  • Exercise generosity. Canadians themselves are generous people. They are the only nation to have taken part in all of the UN’s peace-keeping operations and are big aid donors.
  • Simplify issues. Canadians dislike unnecessary complication and time-wasting.
  • Bear in mind that Canadians are somewhat traditional, so tailor your behaviour accordingly.
  • Quality of life is important. According to the UN’s Human Development Index, Canada is assessed in first place. 
  • Pragmatism is the order of the day. Rhetoric or over-tough talk are not generally appreciated. 
  • Canadians are among the most reasonable people in the world to negotiate with and meetings are normally conducted in a pleasant, open manner aiming at a win-win result. 
  • They move quickly towards implementation and their lean style suits both action-oriented Americans and low key Brits, Nordics and Asians. Canadians make good chairmen in international meetings.
  • Canadians have a no-nonsense approach to commitments. Contracts are to be adhered to. Failure to comply is seen as very serious and Canadians normally discontinue business relations with partners whom they suspect of unreliability.
  • Canada is a very open society, exercising maximum social tolerance. There are consequently few taboos apart from boasting and other forms of ostentation.
  • They are easy to deal with, as they are genuinely interested in other countries and are keen on being internationally popular.
  • As far as French Canadians are concerned, empathy is quickly gained by speaking French, if you can. They have sustained their isolation from Ontario and the rest of the country by clinging to the bonds of family, language and religion.

Source: CultureActive by Richard D. Lewis

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