Saturday, November 14, 2009

Customs and Etiquette in Canada - Business Ettiquette and Protocol

Customs and Etiquette in Canada:
Business Ettiquette and Protocol
Meeting and Greeting

The most common greeting is the handshake. It should be firm and accompanied by direct eye contact and a sincere smile.

A firm handshake is the usual contact when first meeting a business associate. Both men and women greet with a handshake, although women may acknowledge you with a nod of the head rather than a handshake.
Shaking hands is also common for first meetings in social situations. Men and women often embrace and kiss lightly on the cheek when meeting if they are related or good friends. Men may formally embrace old friends or family.
In Quebec, friends or acquaintances will kiss on both cheeks when meeting and leaving. This happens between female friends and between men and women, but not between male friends.
Wait until invited before using someone's first name although Canadians tend to move to a first-name basis rapidly.
Canadian businesspeople often begin relationships in a reserved manner; once people get to know one another it becomes friendly and informal.
Canadians appreciate politeness and expect others to adhere to the proper protocol for any given situation.
  • Shake hands with everyone at the meeting upon arrival and departure.
  • Maintain eye contact while shaking hands.
  • Men may offer their hand to a woman without waiting for her to extend hers first.
  • Honorific titles and surnames are usually not used.
  • However, academic titles are important in Quebec and are used with the honorific Monsieur or Madame.
  • Business cards are exchanged after the initial introduction.
  • In Quebec, have one side of your business card translated into French. Hand the card so the French side faces the recipient.
  • Examine any card you receive before putting it in your card case.


Introduce people in business based on rank not gender.

In Canada, a person's authority is related to his or her position and responsibility. Women occupy the same range of positions as men and have the same kinds of authority. People do not have authority just because of their name, status, social class or sex.

Customs and Protocol

Canadian businesspeople are conservative in manner, speech, and dress. Business customs are similar to those in the U.S. or the U.K., but etiquette is very important. Excessive body contact, gestures in greeting, or loud conversation generally are frowned upon. To ease the way into Canadian favor, always be punctual for meetings and appointments; use titles in all correspondence; and take letters of introduction when meeting someone for the first time.


Businesspeople negotiating with Canadians should be well informed and knowledgeable about the details of their proposals. Thoroughness is appreciated and directness is also valued. Evasive answers are not viewed positively by Canadians. It is important for all businesspeople to avoid exaggerating the strengths of their company or the benefits of their product. Business Women

Women have earned high regard in business and government in Canada. While some sexism and subtle barriers still exist, women are found in powerful positions in all walks of life. Visiting female executives can expect to be taken seriously. Likewise, Canadian women receive respect from their Canadian male colleagues, and will expect the same from foreigners.

Business Meetings

Canadians begin meetings with a minimal amount of small talk although one should expect to spend a few minutes exchanging pleasantries and the like. In Quebec there may be more time spent on relationship-building.

Meetings are generally well-organized and adhere to time schedules. They tend to be informal and relaxed in manner even if the subjects being discussed are serious. When meeting with Anglophones, meetings may seem more democratic as all participants will engage and contribute. Meetings with Francophones, due to a greater respect for hierarchy and position, may revolve more around the most senior attendees.

Meetings in Canadian companies are used to review proposals, make plans, brain-storm and communicate decisions. Attendees will generally represent a variety of levels and experiences; all are expected to express opinions.

When presenting information, it is important to have facts and figures to substantiate claims and promises. Canadians are essentially rational and logical and thus they will not be convinced by emotions, passion or feelings.

More Tips

Behavior to consider for business transactions and life in general:

  • Eye contact is important when conducting business and should be held while speaking to someone. Lack of direct eye contact signifies boredom or disinterest.
  • There is little casual touching during conversation and most people will stand approximately half a meter apart when speaking.
  • People stand in line when waiting for the bus, to buy tickets, at the store or bank. It is considered very rude to jump the line or go ahead of someone who was there before you.
  • Smoking is not allowed in offices, most restaurants, and even bars (with the exception of Quebec). When out in a public space, ask your companion before lighting up. If visiting people in their home, always ask for permission to smoke.
  • Be on time. Canadians will not wait more than 10 to 15 minutes for someone who has arranged to meet them for business. Your supervisors and co-workers will be angry if you are always late for work. For social invitations, people expect that you will arrive within approximately half an hour of the stated time. If you are going to be late, phone and advise the person expecting you.
  • People usually set up meetings or arrange visits. It is not common to just arrive without an invitation.
  • Be approachable and accessible. Return phone calls and be polite and friendly in hallways.
  • Honor commitments. Do what you say you will do.
  • Be punctual for meetings and appointments, as promptness is valued. In French areas, time is more relaxed. However, you will be expected to arrive at the appointed time, even if the French attending the meeting don't.
  • Always maintain a reserved demeanor, and follow good rules of etiquette. Traditions and gracious manners are part of the culture, even in more rural areas. If travelling to different cities or areas, pay attention to local customs. By being observant, you will respect the pace and nuances of each area.
  • Do not eat while walking in public. Plan your time so you can stop in a cafĂ© or restaurant to enjoy your snack.
  • Gifts are not routinely given. If you do give a gift when you arrive or when you are leaving, make it a modest one. A lavish gift, though accepted, would be frowned upon.
  • Gifts are given to celebrate finalizing a negotiation, a contract, or a project. Gifts for the office, a nice bottle of wine or liquor would be appropriate.
  • Taking a business associate to a nice meal or an evening sporting event, play, or symphony is always a nice gesture.
  • Invitations to private homes are rare. Occasionally, in the western provinces, you may be invited to someone's home. If you are invited, you may take candy, flowers, or liquor to the host or hostess.
  • Wait for your host to start a business conversation during or following a meal.
  • Traditionally, business is not discussed during dinner; however, this is slowly changing.
  • Personal space and body movement or gestures differ between the English and the French provinces and cities. In English areas, body movement is minimal, there is rarely touching other than handshakes, and personal space - how close someone stands - is about two feet.
  • In French areas, people stand closer together, people will frequently touch, and gestures are more expressive.


  1. Regarding eating while walking: It is also frowned upon to take your own food in to cafe's or restaraunts, and most of these establishments will eject you if you do so.

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