Canadian Communication Styles

Canada is officially bilingual and this fact needs to be recognised in your dealings with the country.

Thus it is politic to provide French translations of any marketing and promotional literature to be used when trying to enter the market (especially in the area of Quebec.) It can sometimes be somewhat difficult to find exact translations for obscure technical terms, in which case using the English phrase would be acceptable.

One striking difference between the US and Canada is that Canadian communication patterns are much more low key. Reserve, understatement, diplomacy and tact are key attributes and contrast sharply with the more direct approach of many Americans.

However, it would be wrong to assume that Canadian communication patterns are more akin to, say the British approach, because although not as confrontational as some other cultures, Canadians still like to be direct and say what they mean. It is unusual to find Canadians using overtly coded language. ‘Yes’ will usually mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ will mean ‘no’. Canadians see evasive language as suspicious and would prefer any problems to be put onto the table for discussion.

An increasing reliance on technology means that much intra-company communication is solely email based with phones used in an emergency.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Canada

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Canada. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Canada and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips