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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There are innumerable reasons why you should probably be doing business in Canada and they are not all related to the fact that it borders the world’s largest economy – although in itself this is quite a compelling argument.

Canada boasts an enviable combination of strong basic macro-economic fundamentals, an abundance of key natural resources, top-quality human resources and an extremely pro-business climate – all of which make the country a ‘must-explore’ market. In addition, Canada has developed one of the world’s great transportation networks and attracts some of the globe’s top talent to live and work there.

So, if you aren’t already doing business in Canada, you should probably be asking yourself ‘why not?’

However, like all countries Canada has a unique business culture and you are well advised to do some research on this before starting to develop any business ideas. One thing you really need to be clear about is that Canada is not the USA. Just because you have worked successfully with Canada’s southern neighbour does not mean you understand how business is done in Canada. Geographic and linguistic proximity rarely equate to cultural similarity and this is definitely the case with regard to the USA and Canada.

Even such basic things as approach to communication differ considerably between the USA and Canada as do approaches to meetings and decision-making. Canada is basically an egalitarian society and a pushy, abrasive attitude tends to go down quite badly with people who are taught never to speak positively about themselves.

Canada is also proudly multi-cultural – people are not thrown into a melting pot and expected to leave their cultural identity behind. Diversity is encouraged and you need to recognise that Canada is not a homogenous entity. Do some research in advance because the rewards of doing business in Canada can be significant.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Canadian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

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