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Doing business in Canada


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If you are thinking of doing business in Canada, do not mention your expectations for success based on your experience in the United States - Canadian business people will not appreciate the comparison. Be careful not to bring lilies as a present as they are associated with death.

* Canada's motto is the Latin phrase "A Mari Usque Ad Mare", which is translated as "From Sea to Sea"
* The official languages are English and French.
* The capital is Ottawa; the largest city - Toronto.
* The population is approximately 34 million.

CLICK HERE: Professional Canadian French Translation Services

Business Mentality

– Business culture varies throughout Canada, depending on the region. Likewise, business structures are different, so make sure to do your homework on the contact organisation and the region before visiting. Detailed preparation prior to meetings will be expected and appreciated!

– Business communication is quite direct in Canada; there will be no need for you to decipher and read into messages. Emails and telephone calls should also be direct and succinct.

– Note that a great importance is given to respecting everyone's opinions. Regardless of rank and status, people expect the right to be heard and listened to.

– Decisions are not usually made until all the facts are at hand.

– Business hours are generally 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Mornings tend to be the preferred time for appointments.


– In business meetings, a handshake is the appropriate greeting. It should be accompanied by strong eye-contact.

– Pleasantries are exchanged very quickly.

The Art of Conversation

– Canada is officially bilingual in French and English - do not forget that and be prepared to use these languages in meetings. An interpreter might be required.

– Note that in the province of Québec, there are very stringent French-language requirements for all commercial endeavours.

– It is considered especially rude to speak in a foreign language in the presence of other people who do not understand what is being said.

Popular topics include sports - hockey, football, baseball, basketball, golf, and tennis. Generally, Canadians tend to be self-confident and open to discuss general topics.

– Try to avoid topics on conflicts between French and English Canada. Do not initiate a discussion on comparing Canada with the US. Also, do not get into personal issues.

Body Language

Eye-contact is important during business meetings in Canada. Not making eye-contact might make the other person think that you are shy, insecure, or even insincere!

– Canadians will also feel more comfortable talking when they can look you in the eyes.

– The usual distance between two people should be two feet. French Canadians, however, tend to stand slightly closer.

– Note that you should not wear any scent (perfume, strong after-shaves or hairsprays) at all! It can be a threat to people with asthma or allergies, which are common with Canadians.

– You can point using your index finger, but be careful not to do it at other people, as it is rude.

– Avoid using the "V" sign - it represents a serious offence. Express your joy for victory otherwise!

Business meetings and meals

– The dress code is a conservative, well-dressed appearance, which is very important.

– Canadians are very weather aware and dress according to it. It would be good to follow the weather yourself to avoid amused glances.

– At meetings, punctuality is a priority. For an evening social event, it is acceptable to arrive 15 minutes late, but not later than 30 minutes.

– Your business card should have both French and English translations.

– Traditionally, business gifts are offered after you close a deal. They are usually unwrapped immediately and shown to everyone. The best choice is a present from your home country or an invitation to a meal/other form of entertainment.

– Note - if you decide to offer flowers, be careful not to choose white lilies, as they are associated with funerals. Avoid red roses as well; they are dedicated for more romantic settings.

Business lunches are usually short: with lighter types of food and no alcohol.

– Standard table manners apply in Canada. Be careful though not to start eating until everyone at the table has been served.

– If you are invited out for drinks by your Canadian counterpart, it is wise to attend unless you have a very good reason for not being able to come. Refusals may be considered as rude or insulting. Plus, it is a good way of developing a more personal relationship!

Did you find this article useful? If so, you might also enjoy our guide to business etiquette in the USA.

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