Spotlight on Canada
Become a member of TranslationDirectory.com at just
$8 per month (paid per year)
Excerpted from the "Put Your Best Foot Forward" series by
Mary Murray Bosrock.
The vast majority of Canadians claim European ancestry. Four in nine
Canadians claim some British ancestry and a little less than one in three
have some French ancestry. Eighty percent of the residents in Quebec have
French ancestry. Eighty percent of native French speakers live in Quebec
(the others are mostly in New Brunswick, and parts of Ontario and
Manitoba). Other European groups include Italians, Germans and Ukrainians
(especially in the prairie states).
Broadly speaking, Canada has been divided into two distinct societies,
one French-speaking (see "Quebec" below) and one
English-speaking. Because they don't form as cohesive a group as
French-speaking Canadians, only very general observations can be made
about English-speaking Canadians; they are generally thought of (and
consider themselves) more reserved, less aggressive and less excitable
than their neighbors to the south.
Most Canadians identify themselves very strongly with their province.
Canadians continue to wrestle with the question, "What does it mean
to be Canadian?" and take pains to differentiate themselves from
citizens of the United States.
Atlantic Canada (includes the Maritimes -- Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
and Prince Edward Island -- and Newfoundland): Primarily of British
descent, the residents of the less prosperous Atlantic provinces of
eastern Canada are generally more reserved, stolid, provincial and
old-fashioned. Newfoundland is unique, with a dialect and culture that
draws comparisons with the Irish and the people of western England.
Ontario: Residents of Canada's most populous province -- the country's
economic, political and cultural colossus -- are generally thought of as
more business-like and conservative than other Canadians.
Western Canada (includes Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba):
Residents of Canada's western provinces are generally more open, relaxed,
friendly and direct than other Canadians (comparisons are often made with
inhabitants of the western United States).
British Columbia: Canada's unconventional westernmost province is seen
by Canadians as the land of the future, and has more in common with
Seattle than Toronto. Like many other western Canadians, many residents
of British Columbia feel somewhat estranged from "easterners"
(a general code word for those from Ontario and Quebec).
Quebec (and other areas of Francophone Canada): French Canadians, and
especially the Quйbйcois (or citizens of Quebec, pronounced "keh-beck-wah")
have a very strong sense of cultural identity and are very nationalistic.
The European influence is strongly felt in Quebec, whose people consider
themselves the "defenders of French civilization in North
America." Because of their animated good nature, Quйbйcois are
sometimes called the "Latins of the North."
The North: Residents of the sparsely populated north are seen as
rugged embodiments of the Canadian pioneer spirit.
Meeting and Greeting
- In general, Canadians are more reserved and polite than Americans,
and take matters of etiquette a little more seriously.
- Shake hands and introduce yourself when meeting Canadians for the
first time. Always shake hands firmly when meeting or departing. Eye
contact is important.
- When a woman enters or leaves a room, it is polite for men to rise.
Men normally offer their hands to women.
- In Quebec, kissing on the cheeks in the French manner is quite
common. When close friends and family meet in Quebec, they use first
names and kiss both cheeks.
- An older French Canadian man may kiss the hand of a woman. Accept
this gesture graciously. A foreign man shouldn't kiss the hand of a
French Canadian woman, who would be quite shocked.
- Canadians are somewhat more formal than Americans with regard to
names and titles. Use last names and appropriate titles until invited
by your Canadian hosts or colleagues to use their first names. First
names are normally used only by close friends and family. Western
Canadians may use first names more frequently than other Canadians.
- In Quebec, coworkers of similiar status generally use first names in
private, but always last names in public. The formal "you"
is almost always used in a business setting, even after 20 years.
- Academic titles and degrees are important to French Canadians. You
should know and use them properly.
- English and French are both official languages of business in
Canada. However, virtually all international business is conducted in
- Most French Canadians speak and understand English, but prefer to
use French. Check ahead of time to find out if an interpreter will be
- Generally speaking, Canadians are more reserved than Americans.
Canadians generally don't touch very much when conversing. Maintaining
a certain amount of personal space is important.
- French Canadians are generally more animated and expressive than
- Take off your hat or sunglasses when speaking with someone.
- Some gestures have different meanings in Quebec. For example,
"thumbs down" is considered offensive in Quebec, as is
slapping an open palm over a closed fist. Like the rest of their
countrymen and women, French Canadians use the "thumbs up"
sign to mean "okay. "The "okay" sign made with the
index finger and thumb means "zero" in Quebec.
- In Quebec, sit straight with your legs crossed at the knee, or with
your knees together. Don't sit with your legs apart, or with your feet
propped up on tables or chairs.
- It's considered bad form by many in Quebec to talk with your hands
in your pockets.
- Sneeze or blow your nose as quietly as possible using a handkerchief
or tissue. If possible, leave the room. Do not yawn or scratch in
public. Toothpicks, nail clippers, and combs are never used in public.
- Punctuality is demanded for business meetings and social occasions.
If a conflict arises, you are expected to let your Canadian
counterpart know immediately. That said, Canadians are not as obsessed
with time as Americans.
- Business cards are commonly exchanged in Canada.
- For Quebec, print your business cards in English or French,
including your academic degree(s) and/or title. A double-sided
business card (one side in English, one side in French) is best.
- Canadians get down to business quickly. Meetings are well-organized,
and extraneous discussion is kept to a minimum. A premium is placed on
- Business communication is quite direct in Canada, but more reserved
than in the United States. Letters and telephone calls should be
direct and succinct. Pleasantries are dispensed with very quickly.
- Business culture varies somewhat throughout Canada, depending on the
- Although the relationship between Canada and the United States is
generally quite good, some Canadians may be wary about the intentions
of American businesses and put off by what they perceive as American
arrogance. Some Canadians may dislike the American "hard
Dining and Entertainment
- To beckon a waiter in Quebec, quietly say "Monsieur"
or "S'il vous plait." Say "Mademoiselle" to
beckon a waitress. Never beckon a waiter or waitress by snapping your
fingers or shouting.
- The host normally offers first toast. Wait until everyone is served
wine and a toast is proposed before drinking. It is acceptable for
women to propose a toast.
- Wine is normally served with meals in Quebec.
- In Quebec, it's considered bad form to ask for a martini or scotch
before dinner — French Canadians consider them "palate
numbing." Typical before-dinner drinks include Pernod, kir,
champagne, and vermouth. Cognac, Grand Marnier and/or other liqueurs
are served after dinner.
- Business entertainment is common, but the focus usually remains on
business. The person who invites is normally expected to pay.
- Etiquette and formalities are more important in Canada than in the
- While continental-style table manners are employed in Quebec,
American-style table manners are seen in other parts of the country.
- Eating while walking or standing on the street in Quebec is
considered bad form.
- Never arrive early for a social occasion. Opt, instead, for being
"fashionably late." Showing up early at a bar or disco in
Quebec (at, say, 10 o'clock) immediately marks you as an
- Generally speaking, Canadians dress more conservatively (and more
formally when going out) than their American neighbors, although
practices vary by region. Dress in Vancouver, for example, is somewhat
more casual; in Toronto, more British. French Canadians dress in a more
relaxed European style than their fellow Canadians.
- For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties; women should
wear conservative suits or dresses.
- Bring flowers, fine wine or chocolates for the hostess when invited
to a Canadian home. Avoid red roses (associated with romantic love)
and white lilies (associated with funerals).
- Do your homework about Canada. Most Americans are appallingly
ignorant of Canadian history, culture and geography.
- Recognize that important regional differences exist in Canada and
prepare to adapt.
- When in Quebec, learn a little French; Quйbйcois greatly
appreciate it when you take the effort to talk to them in their native
- Do not compare Canada with the United States.
- Do not use the term "Native Americans" to refer to
indigenous peoples. Many Canadians find the term offensive. Canadians
refer to members of these groups as "people of the First
- Do not take sides in debates about contentious national issues
(especially when they concern issues such as the status of Quebec, the
place of the French and English languages in Canadian society, etc.).
International Education Systems
1814 Hillcrest Avenue, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55116
Visit our web sites at
Submit your article!
Read more articles - free!
Read sense of life articles!
this article to your colleague!
more translation jobs? Click here!
agencies are welcome to register here - Free!
translators are welcome to register here - Free!
Please see some ads as well as other content from TranslationDirectory.com: