Canadian Meeting Etiquette

In comparison with meetings in the US, meetings in Canada are relatively more formal. Thus punctuality is expected and meetings often start with some type of polite small talk. Body language tends to be quite reserved with few visible shows of emotion or anger.

Meetings procedures usually follow the Anglo-Saxon approach of one at a time speaking and interruptions are generally frowned upon and considered to be rude. Everybody expects a democratic right to be allowed to have their say within the meeting and for their opinions and views to be respected, regardless of position within the organisation.

It is unusual for meetings to become aggressive or heated as great emphasis is placed upon being courteous and polite. If a meeting seems to be heading for overt confrontation, most Canadians would prefer to calm things down.

Attendees at meetings are expected to be well prepared as decisions tend to be taken on the basis of empirical facts rather than on hunches or gut reactions. Inability to provide the relevant level of detail could be viewed as suspicious and evasive behaviour.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

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