Canada is culturally diverse. This goes back to the 1890s when it began inviting people from all over the world to settle in the country to help it develop and grow. Canadian immigration policy was historically open, welcoming and egalitarian in its philosophy. This has also manifest into the psyche of the nation where people are encouraged and to retain their cultural identities, traditions, languages and customs.
Canadians are generally a tolerant, polite and extremely community-oriented people. Although they are individualistic in terms of their basic cultural traits, they nevertheless place a great deal of emphasis on the individual's responsibility to the community. This is seen as giving balance and a good quality of life.
Most Canadians have a strong allegiance to their province or region, sometimes more so than to the country. There are some broad differences between regions, which can generally be summed up as follows:
Atlantic Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland): The people are somewhat reserved and provincial, to the point that they are seen as old-fashioned.
- Ontario: This is the business hub and the people tend to be business-like and conservative.
- Western Canada (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan): The people are open, friendly and relaxed.
- British Colombia: The people are less conventional. This province is often viewed as the Canada of the future.
- Quebec: The French region, has a distinct cultural identity. The people are extremely regionalistic/independent.
- North: The people have a strong pioneer spirit.
Customs and Etiquette in Canada
Meeting and Greeting
The most common greeting is the handshake. It should be firm and accompanied by direct eye contact and a sincere smile. French Canadian friends may greet each other by lightly kissing on the cheeks (once on the left cheek and once on the right).
In general, Canadians give gifts for birthdays and Christmas. If invited to someone's home for dinner, take a box of good chocolates, flowers or a bottle of wine. In Quebec, sending flowers in advance of the dinner party is proper protocol. Do not give cash or money as a present. Gifts are usually opened when received.
Table manners are relatively relaxed and informal in Canada. Quebec does see a little more formality. Table manners are generally Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. Do not rest your elbows on the table. Leaving a small amount at the end of the meal is generally acceptable. In formal situations, the host gives the first toast. An honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal. Women may give toasts.
Communication styles vary most between Anglophone and Francophone parts of the country. Francophones are generally more indirect than Anglophones, although less so than the French. They also tend to be more exuberant than Anglophones. Anglophones do not generally interrupt someone who is speaking. They consider it rude not to let a person complete their thought before entering the discussion. Francophones are more likely to interrupt another speaker.
Canadians communicate more by the spoken word rather than non-verbal expressions. Non-verbal expressions are only really used to add emphasis to a message or are part of an individualís personal communication style.
Canadians are reticent to discuss their personal lives with business associates. They expect people to speak in a straightforward manner and to be able to back up their claims with examples. They do not make exaggerated claims and are suspicious of something that sounds too good to be true.
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