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Canada - Business and Workplace Culture

When meeting Canadian business people you will find that they can be quite reserved at first until they get to know you. Once you have met them a few times you will find that they become much more friendly and open. Politeness is essential in all business situations. When you arrive you are expected to shake hands and do the same when you are leaving.

It depends where you are in the country as to the titles that you use. In most areas it is acceptable to use somebody’s first name when you meet them, although in Quebec they tend to follow the formality of the French and stick with surnames and any academic titles. It is normal to give somebody your business card when you first meet them and if you are handing out cards in Quebec, you should ensure that the card is in French or has a French translation on it. When you receive a business card do not simply put it away but ensure you read it first as this shows interest.

When you are attending a business meeting you will find that it usually starts with several minutes of small talk, particularly if the meeting is with somebody you have never met before. It is important to be punctual as this is a strong part of the business culture in Canada. If you are having a meeting in an English-speaking company you will find that everyone is encouraged to join in and voice an opinion. If your meeting is with a French speaking company then you will find that there is a hierarchy, with the senior members of staff doing most of the talking and decision making.

If you are asked to present information at a meeting in Canada then you should be sure that you have any facts and figures required to back up the statements that you make as going to a meeting well-prepared is expected of all staff.

Discrimination in the workplace does exist in Canada although there is legislation in place to deal with any problems that may occur. A recent survey estimated that more than a third of people feel as though they missed out on a new job opportunity as a direct result of discrimination in the workplace. This is not just discrimination against women, but older workers feel that they miss out due to their age and younger workers have also experienced the age discrimination. In addition, some workers feel that they have been discriminated against due to their race and some have experienced prejudice due to a disability. The survey did sample a small proportion of the population and also showed that discrimination levels are much lower than in other countries, with Canada ranked at number 20 on a list of 28 countries.

Women are managing to break through the glass ceilings which used to exist in many companies but the numbers of women that hold senior management positions is much lower than that for men. A large proportion of women do have a job and these levels are similar to those in the US or the UK. Sexism is stronger in industries which are traditionally male-dominated such as engineering.

Each province has its own legislation to deal with issues of discrimination in the workplace and if you are a member of a trade union you can also call upon them to help you with any problems that you may have. Part of the business culture in Canada is not to complain but simply get on with the work, but this does not mean that you cannot complain if there should be a problem.

As Canada is an officially bi-lingual country you will find that companies will use either French or English as their business language. In Quebec the vast majority of companies will use French, although some may use English on a daily basis. In other parts of the country a company that uses French is rare, although if you speak French you are sure to be working with people who can understand you. Likewise if you are working in Quebec and your first language is not French, you will have colleagues who can understand English very well.

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