Business Etiquette in Canada (25+ Secrets to help you excel)19 min read

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Canada Business Etiquette

When people think of Canada, they usually think of the cold and Mounties. And while those two things are primarily true, Canada has a lot more to offer than just that. The one thing you’ll see in all Canadian businesses is etiquette. In this article, we help you learn the Business Etiquette in Canada.

This etiquette is different from what you’re used to back home, and what Canadian employees expect when they meet American or other international visitors.

This is part of our article in the business etiquette series. We have also discussed the business etiquette in Australia and the French Business Etiquette.

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Our Tips on Business Etiquette in Canada

1. Dress like the Canadians do

You will find that Canada is a business casual country, which means that you can pretty much show up in whatever you want so long as it fits the environment. This could mean a suit and tie in some cases or flip-flops in others, but as long as you look nice and respectable, it works.

When doing business in Canada, you might want to as your business partners what the meeting dress code is. This will help you understand how to dress up for the meeting or occasion while in Canada.

When meeting a client in Canada, you should always dress up. You don’t want to wear a tracksuit because it shows that you don’t care about the occasion. But you can still be casual and sensible, so wearing a nice shirt and tie is okay. Always wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident, but if you meet at the office, dress up in your work clothes.

2. A little courtesy will get you a long way

It goes without saying – courtesy is important in Canada. It might seem a little basic, but it’s what Canadians expect and respect. Be polite to your colleagues and customers if you want to earn their business.

That means offering good customer service, not being rude, and always saying please and thank you. People like people who are friendly, so smile!

If you’re meeting someone outside of the office, be respectful because they could be business partners or clients. Showing respect doesn’t take much, and it’s easy to do. Simply be polite and don’t forget to keep eye contact, as this is a sign of respect that is also essential in Canada. And if in doubt, simply say “thank you.

When greeting someone in your business, make sure you shake their hand or literally say “hello” or “congratulations.” Never be afraid to compliment an employee on their work.

3. Always watch Body Language

To understand how body language works in Canada, you have to look at the cultural differences between the US and Canada.

People tend to sit up straight in the US while working and stretching their arms out is generally considered rude. In Canada, people sit up straight but might also slouch to show their authority or greet someone important.

Handshakes are always hard and something you have to get comfortable with. Handshakes are a vital part of Canada business etiquette.

4. Follow the Canadian Rules

It’s always good to read through your company’s rules and regulations before you arrive. These might include things like cell phone rules or dress codes while working in the office. Some companies even have a dress code for meetings, so you have to be nice to your meeting host.

If there are any rules, always follow them and don’t test the limits – but if there are none, then be nice and respectful. Just because you’re in Canada doesn’t mean that everything is okay to do.

5. Handshakes in Canada

Handshakes in Canada are a bit different than the ones you’re used to. This is a crucial part of business etiquette in Canada.

You’ll probably have experienced a handshake with a fist bump at some point, but it’s a good chance that you’ve never experienced one with two hands. This is more polite and shows someone that you respect them. Sometimes people will shake your hands for absolutely no reason at all, which can be bothersome. If someone offers you their hand, then simply shake it.

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Photo by coldhamr on Pixabay

6. Say Hi/Goodbye to Everyone and Be Approachable

It’s crucial to your Canadian colleagues and business associates that they know who you are so they can help you if need be. Make sure that you say hi to everyone at your office. If you’re new and don’t know everyone, always let people know that you would like to meet them so they can tell you about themselves.

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In Canada, it’s not polite to turn away from someone when they are talking – keep eye contact. In Canada, it’s okay if someone doesn’t say hi back because it’s not like America, and everyone isn’t open and friendly. You have to earn their respect by working hard.

7. Reveal the Truth (whenever possible)

Canada is a small country, so if you’re from another country, then everyone will know. Don’t worry about it – embrace it! Whenever you tell someone where you’re from, they’ll probably ask you questions like what kind of food you have back home and what’s it like there?

In Canada, people are nice and won’t judge you for your nationality. So tell the truth – even if it’s embarrassing. Openness is key in Canada.

8. Don’t hog the conversation, but listen attentively

In Canada, it’s common for talks to go on for a while. Many meetings are in meetings, and many conversations are one-liners that last a few minutes. This is generally pretty normal in Canada.

But if you’re interrupting everyone or talking over them, then you might be doing something wrong. This is not present in American culture, where people tend to jump up and interrupt each other, which can be very distracting and annoying when meeting people in Canada.

In Canada business etiquette, people must be able to speak for themselves. The person who is speaking will usually be interrupted by everyone else in the conversation. This can be pretty frustrating, but you have to listen and make sure you don’t interrupt. It’s better to listen than talk and remember that Canada is a small country – you need to listen!

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9. Practice Graciousness

Canada is a very accepting country, but sometimes it’s unclear what is acceptable and what isn’t. In America, you might say or do something inappropriate without thinking about it. That doesn’t happen in Canada where people are just more uncomplicated and kind.

In America, you might say that someone looks fat in their clothes, but it’s rude to tell someone they look fat in their clothes in Canada. This is because the person will feel judged, and this is not okay in any culture. You have to be nice in Canadian culture because it’s a very accepting place.

Therefore when doing business in Canada, you need to be nice! An essential part of business etiquette in Canada is to remember to treat your peers with respect and don’t be a jerk.

10. When in Toronto, Be Aware of the Language

Toronto is home to one of Canada’s most important banks, Royal Bank of Canada. The city also has more than 130,000 employees.

When people attend these kinds of companies in Toronto, they often find that the language barrier is quite high, and the interaction between people who come from outside and work there is difficult.

This is because of the many cultures and nationalities in Toronto. This also means that the Canadian culture can be challenging to understand for those who don’t live there.

This might result in distancing between workers from a different country and those who work at the same company. It’s important for people who do business in Canada to learn a bit of the culture so that they can interact effectively with their colleagues.

11. Don’t Bring Up Politics in Canada

In Canada, people are generally uninterested in politics. If you’re trying to get their attention on a political issue, then you should probably stop talking about it. If you must speak about it, bring up the topic reasonably – it’s not good for anyone to argue over politics.

The reason for this is because Canada is very small, as well as the fact that they’ve seen a lot of change in the past few years, so it’s no wonder why people aren’t as interested in it.

It’s not polite to talk about politics in Canada, but if you must, then focus on local politics. This will be much more interesting to people, and you’ll get along better. Avoid talking about America’s political issues because this will come across as offensive or rude to Canadians.

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12. Share Knowledge

Canada is a great place to do business because it’s one of the best countries in the world. Therefore, if you want someone to like you, tell them something they don’t know about Canada. This will make them respect you and see that you’re not just another American trying to capitalize on Canada’s wealth.

The people of Canada have a lot of talent and resources, and they’re always looking for ways to learn. If you can share knowledge with them, then you’ll be respected by them even more.

13. Don’t Be Afraid to Admit when You’re Wrong

In Canada, it’s okay if you don’t know something or if you were wrong about something. Canadians are very accepting of others so there’s no need to hide the truth.

As part of business etiquette in Canada, if you find something you’re wrong about, make sure to be upfront and honest. The respect that comes from admitting mistakes is very strong in Canada, and it’s better to have respect than false pride.

14. Use Appropriate Language

This is especially important if you’re doing business in Toronto, Canada. It’s important to remember that English is the official language of Canada, and Canadians will understand it 99 percent of the time. If you don’t speak English well, it won’t be easy to get along with them, but that’s okay – they’re more forgiving than Americans, so try your best.

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There is an increasing immigrant population in Canada, which is great because it creates a more culturally rich environment. But it also means that the country will be more diverse and people will be speaking different languages.

If you do business in Canada, then remember to use appropriate language so that people will respect you and get along with you better. If you can speak French, then this will earn a lot of instant respect too!

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15. Avoid Oversharing, especially in a formal business setting

In America, it’s common to share everything about every single aspect of your life with everyone. In this way, you’re building a connection in these other people’s minds that isn’t there yet. You’re trying to create friendship, rapport, and trust before they even really know you.
However, in Canada, this is not the best idea and will make people feel uncomfortable around you.

People in Canada are concerned with privacy, and the fact that you’re sharing so much information with them, especially about yourself, will make them very insecure. If you share too much about yourself, it can come across as arrogant, which is not good for business.

Although some oversharing isn’t an issue in a social setting, it can cause issues when doing business – especially if you’re meeting someone who deals with a lot of money.

16. Practice Your Manners

When doing business in Canada, it’s essential to be on your best behavior and to keep your manners up. Canadians are a very polite country, so you need to make sure that you’re following their rules and being polite as well.

A few good things that you can do are:

  • Be on time for the conference or meeting, so you don’t appear disrespectful.
  • Make sure that your handshake is firm but not too strong, and avoid the limp fish handshakes.
  • Be respectful of other people and their time.

17. Extend Compliments, Canadians love Compliments

Sometimes, when you’re doing business in Canada, you might need to compliment someone on their appearance. This can be okay, but it can also be a sign of arrogance, so make sure you know the right way to compliment someone in Canada without judging them.

It would help if you complimented people by giving them compliments about what they do well or how well they did something. For example, if they asked a question, then tell them that their question was excellent and concise. They’ll appreciate this and will also respect you more for it.

18. Make Eye Contact, but Keep Eye Contact Professional

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to keep a professional environment. So make sure that you keep eye contact and don’t talk while you’re looking at them. Use your eyes to communicate with the people around you and even if they don’t respond, you can continue to look at them as a sign of respect.

When talking to someone, look directly into their eyes. Don’t look down or make eye contact for too long because this will come across as rude or disrespectful. In Canada, this is considered a sign of respect, making people feel more comfortable around you.

Remember to Be Polite

Even though being polite is important in any business situation, especially if you’re doing business in Canada, it’s even more important when doing business in Canada. Canadian culture is very polite, so you need to make sure that you are also courteous towards them. This will show that you have good manners and are considerate, which is what they’re looking for.

19. Read Facial Expressions of Other Person When Speaking to Them

In business, it’s very important to be able to read people’s reactions. When you’re doing business in Canada, this is even more important because of the cultural differences between Canada and America.

You can practice reading facial expressions by watching television shows where the people are constantly smiling. US sitcoms are great for this and with all your focus on the facial expressions, you’ll get much better at reading them.

20. Notice the Details of Your Surroundings and Those Around You

When doing business in Canada, it’s essential to understand the culture and not offend anyone. One way that you can do this is by paying attention to details and noticing people’s needs.

If you’re in a formal setting, such as a meeting or a boardroom, observe what your surroundings are. Are there comfortable chairs? If not then ask someone for a chair and they’ll be very impressed by your manners. It’s possible that they might even want to help you out with something else later on down the line.

For example, in a boardroom scenario, if someone is standing up to get something out of their bag then it’s appropriate to let them know that you’re taking your time. Don’t rush when other people are waiting for their turn.

21. Speak Slowly and in a Clear Voice

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to speak slowly and clearly. If you use too much slang, such as clichés or bad language, people will feel uncomfortable around you – especially if they’re meeting you for the first time.

As part of Canada business etiquette, when in a business setting, use terms appropriate for the moment and try to speak in a clear voice so that everyone can understand what you’re saying. For example, if the discussion is too technical for everyone to understand, try simplifying it or using some slang.

22. Smiling is Okay. Canadians welcome smiles

When doing business in Canada, you might find that you’re not used to being around people who smile all the time. However, it’s okay to smile when people are talking with you and even at a social setting so long as it’s appropriate.

As part of business etiquette in Canada, its important to smile at others when they are around, especially in professional settings. This is because people will feel more comfortable around you, which can open the door for future conversations.

For example, if someone says something funny, then smile at them. However, make sure that your smile is subtle and not too over the top. You don’t want to be seen as someone who is laughing at others or making jokes.

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23. Limit Your Use of Negatives

When dealing with other people in Canada, it’s important to avoid talking in the negatives as much as possible. For example, instead of saying “I can’t do that” or “It wasn’t my fault,” say things like “Sure I can do that” or “I apologize.”

The Canadian culture is very understanding so being respectful and apologizing for mistakes is important. This makes people feel more comfortable around you and like that you have good manners.

24. Use Body Language and Gestures Correctly

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to use gestures correctly so that people can understand what you’re trying to say. One way of doing this is by using the “OK” signal when making a point or asking a question.

This is a sign that people will understand what you’re saying because they’ve seen it on television shows before or because they’ve seen it in other countries.

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Photo by Kurious on Pixabay

25. Don’t Forget to Ask

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to ask for help if you need it. Many of the people living in Canada have spent many years living in the country and have connections with other people. So asking them to ask a favor can be an excellent way to open up communication and build relationships with others.

It’s important to be polite when asking your questions, and it’s also appropriate to give compliments. This is because the Canadians like this gesture, and they’ll appreciate it.

26. Arrive on Time for Meetings – always! And Be Prompt Generally!

Especially when doing business in Canada, it’s essential to ensure that you’re punctual. This will show that you respect the people around you and that you’re a considerate person. If there are any problems with travel arrangements, then it’s better to cancel your plans rather than be late for a meeting.

It’s also important to remember that people will be coming to meetings from different parts of the country so make sure that you have enough time to arrive on time.

27. Share Leadership Responsibility with Others Around You (no one person should be in sole charge)

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to share leadership roles with others. For example, in a meeting, it’s okay for one person to take charge of a portion of the meeting and then share this responsibility with other people as well.

Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities because everyone will be able to do their job better if they have various tasks. Also, this will show that you respect your team so you should also respect their roles when delegating responsibilities.

28. Have a Personal Relationship with Those You Work With (they will respect you for this)

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to have a personal relationship with those around you. This is because they’ll respect you more if you take the time to get to know them first.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that everyone knows each other so that there isn’t any competition between coworkers and people will be willing to work with others if they know each other personally.

You can create this personal relationship by making it a habit to always chat with anyone who works with you or even talk to the receptionist and take a moment to say hello.

29. Treat Everyone with Respect (be inclusive in your business dealings)

When doing business in Canada, it’s important to treat everyone with respect. This is because the culture is inclusive and people are willing to work with others interested in working with them.

If you show that you respect others, you’ll be able to build better relationships, making things easier for the future. Also, if someone is following directions, then make sure that you acknowledge them to see that their efforts were worthwhile.

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Looking to do great business cards or designs for your business?

Canva is a great place to get your business cards ready. With Canva, you get more than 250,000 templates that you can customize (logos, presentations, graphics, social media designs, invoices, letterheads, and much more).

The best thing is that you can get started for FREE without any restrictions. Then you can upgrade to the PRO plan at any point you are ready.

You also don’t need to have any technical design skills to use it, it works great for everyone!

Click here to learn more about Canva.

Final thoughts on business etiquette in Canada

Canada is a great place to do business. Don’t let the cultural differences between your home country and Canada intimidate you too much. Understanding how things work in Canada and knowing what to expect makes doing business there a lot easier. Furthermore, it will help you find success in your business ventures.

Remember, be professional – Canadians take business seriously and are less likely to trust those they don’t know, so make sure that you fit into their culture by dressing well, being punctual, and following established business norms and protocol.

Canadians like to get things done faster than the average person from other countries. When you’re doing business in Canada, it’s essential to try and keep up the pace of others.

Have fun doing business in Canada and follow the business etiquette!

All the best!


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