Canada is a country in the northern half of North America. Its territory extends across the width of the continent, and it is therefore flanked by the Pacific Ocean to its west and the Atlantic Ocean to its east. To the north, Canada is bordered by the Arctic Ocean, and to the south by the United States. By surface area, Canada is the second-largest country in the world. Should you be looking to travel, live, relocate, or do business in the sovereign state, we will give you a helpful head start on understanding the country and Canadian culture.
Guide to Canadian Culture, Customs, Business Practices & Etiquette
Location and Geography
Canada is located in the northern portion of the continent of North America, extending, in general, from the 49th parallel northward to the islands of the Arctic Ocean. Its eastern and western boundaries are the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively. Its land area totals 3,851,809 square miles (9,976,185 square kilometers). The easternmost portion of the country is a riverine and maritime environment, consisting of the provinces of Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. The central portion of the country, in its southern areas, is primarily boreal forest (the provinces of Ontario and Quebec). This forest region extends across the entire country from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains through to the Atlantic coast, and is dominated by coniferous trees. A section of the country westward from the Great Lakes basin along the southern extent of this forest region is a prairie made up mostly of flat grasslands (in the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). The westernmost portion of the country is dominated by the Rocky Mountains, with a narrow riverine environment, made up of northern rain forests, west of the mountains (in the province of British Columbia). Between the southern Carolinian forest of the central regions of the country lies a region in Ontario and Quebec characterized by numerous lakes and expanses of exposed rock known as the Canadian Shield, an area left exposed after the most recent glacial retreat. Across the northernmost portion of the country from east to west lies a region dominated by tundra and finally at its most northern reach, an arctic eco-zone (in northern Ontario and Quebec and in the territories of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon).
The culture of Canada has been primarily influenced by the various European cultures and traditions of its constituent nationalities, particularly British and French culture. There are also influences from the cultures of its indigenous peoples, and from the neighboring USA. Core Canadian values include fairness, equality, inclusiveness, and social justice. This is evidenced by the country’s approach to governance, which includes public health care, higher taxation to promote the redistribution of wealth, the legalization of same-sex marriage, the abolition of capital punishment, and the suppression of far-right politics. Canada generally has a very open and accepting attitude towards other cultures and religions.
Business meeting advice (if doing business in Canada)
Business practices and culture vary across Canada from region to region, so make sure you read up on the area that you will be visiting before you go.
Shaking hands is the standard here. People may make judgments about you based on your handshake, so make sure that it is firm and that you maintain eye contact during the greeting. Business cards are usually exchanged, and it would be a good idea to have cards translated with both French and English information.
In Canada, the normal workday is from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. However, many people prefer meetings in the morning to in the afternoon. The dress code for business is usually formal, with suits and ties commonly expected.
Business communication in Canada as much as you would expect based on their national values. Great store is set by allowing everyone to be free to express their own opinion, and decisions will generally only be made once all facts and opinions have been taken into consideration. Both positive and negative comments will be presented in a straightforward way, and when communicating through email or over the phone, keep communication brief and factual.
Punctuality is important in Canada. Being slightly late in a social context may be considered acceptable, but in business being on time should be a priority.
When talking with Canadians, avoid referencing the USA or comparing your experience of Canada to any experience you may have of the States. Canadians often feel that they are overlooked by foreigners in favor of their more populous and more globally culturally dominant neighbors, and by talking about the USA you risk irritating them.
Language in Canada
The 2 official languages in Canada are English and French, with first language English having the vast majority of speakers at around 60%. Due to Canada’s historically welcoming attitude to immigrants, the overall language mix spoken in the country is very diverse, with reasonable populations speaking Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, German, and Italian, amongst others. Canada is also home to a selection of aboriginal languages, which are spoken by the relatively small populations of indigenous peoples who reside there. Unfortunately, due to the very low numbers of native speakers, the majority of these languages are not expected to be able to survive for more than a few generations.