Cultural Differences – Canada

Canadian companies have a relatively flat hierarchy. The corporate culture is democratic, therefore meetings are interactive in that everyone participates and expresses their opinion. However, individual points are usually not discussed too extensively, because Canadians prefer a targeted, agenda-driven meeting that leads to a concrete action plan. Expansive conversations and marathon sessions are therefore neither common nor welcome.

Presentation content tends to lean towards the general rather than delve into too much detail. Best practices for presentations include short PowerPoints using a simple, straightforward design with a maximum of five bullet points per slide, with very little time spent on background information.

This practice is reflected in the Canadian communication style, which is clear, precise, direct and factual. Harmony and restraint are key to successful communication. Objective criticism is possible, but in spite of all openness Canadians will always endeavor a certain level of courtesy. Unlike US-Americans, Canadians tend not to be rigid or demanding, even in negotiation.

Small talk and relationship management while maintaining professional distance
Despite their love for punctuality and factual communication, Canadians always make time for relationship management and small talk. For example, they are comfortable talking about personal topics at a business lunch. Canadians wish to create a pleasant atmosphere, and try to establish a trusting relationship with their conversation partners.

In particular, they are openly curious about the world. This is most likely due to the natural multiculturalism of a nation of immigrants with a strong emphasis on political correctness. Canada is a liberal and social country that is distinctly different from its mighty neighbor, the USA. In this regard, Canadians compare their country rather with Europe, especially the United Kingdom. One should always keep this in mind during casual conversation and small talk.

Business languages

Canada is bilingual. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have materials in both English and French available. Be sure to note that in the province of Quebec, French is the sole official language, especially in small towns or in rural areas English is not spoken at a business fluent level (at a proficient level).

For all other regions, English is the preferred language for business. Colleagues will generally use Christian names in greeting, which lends an informal atmosphere, but do not mistake that for an invitation to a personal relationship as you might in some other countries where a switch to first-name basis signals a more intimate relationship or interaction. You should still address a person of authority as Mr. or Ms. until you are invited to use their first names.

Katrin Koll Prakoonwit

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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