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A practical guide for starting a small business

Canada Culture

What is Canada Culture?

Canada Culture has been interpreted differently by different nationalities around the world.  Ask a foreigner to describe Canada and you will get some interesting answers.

Ask the Chinese and they might tell you that Canada is "Gold Mountain" due to their Chinese ancestors who were part of the Canadian gold rush in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Ask another nationality, and they might tell you that "Canada is cold with Eskimos" or "Canada speaks French" or "Canada is just like the United States" or "Canada, they all play hockey".

While none of the comments are one hundred percent true by itself, the aggregation of all those comments accurately describes Canada and Canada Culture.

Photo Credits: Goal Saves 2 -  Adam Klepsteen

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The Composition of Canada Culture

Culture from the World’s Second Largest Nation

As a nation Canada is huge stretching over 3,000 miles from coast to coast, but it only has approximately 1/10 of the population of the United States or 30 million.  Unlike the U.S. which is a cultural melting pot, Canada prides itself as a cultural mosaic with diverse ethnic groups from the influx of immigrants over the past century.  The European influence is quite evident as both English and French are the official languages of the country.  

Regional Cultural Differences

Regionally, there are also cultural and political differences.  The Atlantic Provinces on the eastern part of the country are full of tiny local towns heavily influenced by the fishing industry.  The French and their culture dominate the province of Quebec.  The vast majority of English speaking Canadians live in Ontario which is the industrial heartland of Canada. Toronto, Ontario often considered as Canada's New York City is arguably the most cosmopolitan center in Canada.

West Versus the East

The western provinces also claim to have their uniqueness due to its agricultural influence.  British Columbia on the most western part of Canada is considered the California of Canada.  Due to its geographic location, British Columbia has the warmest weather of all of Canada.  It also has a heavy Asia Pacific influence due to immigration.

Canada Culture:  Beliefs and Values

Cultural Mosaic

Due Canada's ethnic composition, it is one of the nations which demonstrates significant tolerance and acceptance of ethnic differences. Unlike the U.S., Canada encourages its immigrants to retain their ethnic background as they settle in this vast land.  It is the composition of the many cultures that makes up Canada's cultural mosaic.

Respect & Tolerance

Canadians work best when someone shows respect and tolerance.  It is no wonder that the Canadian culture clashes with the more aggressive, competitive nature of American culture.

Canadian Conservatism

Canadians as a society are more conservative than their American counterparts.  In business, Canadians tend to take longer to make a decision than their American neighbors.  They prefer to have all the detail information before a decision is made.  Canadians will also appear to be more reserved in nature.  They will appear to be more reserved and formal in their business dealings.  There is no yelling or other signs of emotional outbursts.  As a foreigner doing business with Canadians, you are advised to behave the same.

Business Greetings - Kiss or No Kiss

Business greetings are typically conducted with a hello and a firm hand shake.  However, the European tradition of kissing on the cheek can be seen with the French speaking Canadians especially in the province of Quebec.  The English tend to stand farther away from each other than the French.  The French tend to speak more with gestures.

It is all these characteristics which blend together to form a cultural mosaic for Canada.  Keep these beliefs, values and behaviors in mind as you are dealing with the Canadians in business.