Etiquette Tips For Foreign Workers In Canada

Canadians are famously polite. For a new citizen, permanent resident, or skilled foreign worker in Canada, this is not always a good thing.  You see, some Canadians are too polite to tell a foreign worker that they have made a misstep in the workplace. That’s why we are happy to share some points of basic Canadian workplace etiquette.

Most Canadians value personal space

Canada is a patchwork quilt of a nation. And with so many cultural influences, social etiquette can change from community to community. However, most Canadians understand that personal space is a prerequisite of Canadian life. This means that in the workplace, you should give your coworkers two to three feet of space between your body and theirs during conversations.

Kisses, hugs or handshakes?

You will often see Canadians giving one another light hugs upon greeting. This is a sign that these people are good friends or family. The basic greeting in Canada is a firm handshake with eye-to-eye contact. In Canada’s French-speaking areas, a kiss on the cheek is common among friends and family, but is not typical elsewhere. During your early days in Canada – unless you are specifically told otherwise – stick with an old fashioned handshake.

Saying “sorry” is a cornerstone of Canadian culture

In some cultures, such as India, apologies are fairly restricted. In other cultures, such as Hong Kong, they are so prevalent, they don’t signal regret at all. The Harvard Business Review notes that “Americans see an apology as an admission of wrongdoing, whereas Japanese see it as an expression of eagerness to repair a damaged relationship, with no culpability necessarily implied.” Therefore, you may have certain conception of when exactly a “sorry” is warranted. Canadians aren’t so restricted. “Sorry” is a bridge for many socially awkward situations, such as interrupting a conversation, bumping into someone, or even missing a phone call through no fault of your own. Remember, saying “sorry” does not necessarily mean you did anything wrong in Canada. It is an indication that you harbour no ill-feelings towards a person and that you hope they harbour none against you.

Punctuality is valued

Canadians value punctuality. Being five or ten minutes early for a job interview shows that you have a well-developed sense of punctuality. Any earlier than that and you may be painfully early. In such instances, having someone ‘hang around’ until the appointed time is socially awkward for some Canadians (but not nearly as bad as being late).

You will love working in Canada

Canada is a great place to work. The country values equal rights and workplace safety, so you can expect to be treated fairly and equitably here. In exchange, simply work on embracing Canada’s social norms and you will quickly enjoy being a part of this incredible nation!

If you would like to learn more about working in Canada, visit the Canadian Centre for Intercultural Learning.