Traditional Canada

The experience you have in Canada will vary greatly depending on whether you are in Anglophone (English-speaking) or Francophone (French-speaking) Canada. Understanding these differences and the way the history colors work-culture today is an important first step when working with Canada.


Self-reliance, control, opportunity, responsible for conduct of own life; independence


Brings out best in individual; need challenges to produce best possible

Balance of Task and Relationship Orientation

Time is a commodity not to be wasted and people tend to be result-oriented; yet, quality of life is very important.

Slight Tolerance for Ambiguity

Comfortable with ambiguous situation; taking unfamiliar risks is somewhat encouraged. Québec less individualistic and less tolerant of ambiguity


Minimizes differences in class, rules; democratic ideal; initiative valued; informal


Eschews reference to context; in general, no exception to the rule

Short-Term Orientation

Immediate results more important than future, long range relationship building and market position

Cultural Assumptions

  • Emotional sensitivity valued, initially reserved
  • Accommodating
  • Decision making slow paced
  • Some degree of face-saving
  • Social interaction primarily cost/benefit driven
  • Negotiation is cautious, adaptable
  • Punctuality is important

Canadian Communication Style


Explicit communication, say what you mean and mean what you say, succinct.


Reserved initially, emotional displays avoided at first, relaxed and casual


Respect for courtesy, agreement in business meetings is sought and a “give” and take”, open expression of opinion is encouraged


Reserved demeanor, good manners, and following rules of social etiquette important

Non-Verbal Dynamics

Firm handshakes and direct eye contact in meeting creates impression of sincerity. Men will wait for a woman to extend her hand for a handshake. French Canadians are more expressive generally.

The first time Francophone women meet, they shake hands.  After a few meetings or encounters, women often kiss on both cheeks—even in the work place.  Francophones are generally more expressive and frequently touch.  Anglophones rarely touch other than handshakes.

Anglophones use minimal body movement and personal space—how close someone stands—is about two feet.  Francophones stand closer together.

Business Practices

PROBLEM SOLVING Structured, detailed and complex.
MOTIVATING PEOPLE Recognition very important, individuals, relationships, and performance are important.
APPRAISING PERFORMANCE Recognition very important, individuals, relationships, and performance are important.
NEGOTIATING, PERSUADING Cautious, stretch out process using language, time, distance, not very susceptible to advertising gimmicks.
DECISION MAKING PROCESS Slow, involvement of committees.
PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS Structured approach, important to adhere to timed schedule.
Comfortable with hierarchy and authority, supervisor not part of group, not enthusiastic about matrix reporting.
HIRING Experience, education, achievement.