Canada is often overshadowed by the neighboring USA. Yet Canada has been playing an increasingly more important role in international politics and economy for some time. We would therefore like to use this blog post to address the characteristics of the Canadian business world in more depth.
In terms of surface area, Canada is the second-largest country in the world, but its population density is extremely low. Canada is also one of the most affluent nations in the world as measured by GDP, which can be ascribed to its service sector and rich deposits of natural resources [e.g., oil and nickel], among other things. To maintain this high standard of living, Canada is heavily dependent on imports and exports, for which Great Britain and the USA are its most important trading partners.
The country’s relationship with its southerly neighbor brings us to the first important point of our article. Don’t equate Canadians with Americans! Appropriate distinction is very important to Canadians’ cultural identity. Even if, from a European or other global perspective, these differences seem rather minor in actuality, their preference for distinction should be respected.
Extensive planning? No, thanks!
Something that can easily cause irritation in collaborations between Canada and other nations is the different ways time is handled. While some people like to compile schedules and analyze a multitude of details in order to avoid potential mistakes, Canadians behave differently. Their focus is less on elaborate plans and analyses and more on results and the quickest possible execution of an activity. That’s why it’s often customary in Canada to make decisions faster and initiate activities earlier. The occurrence of obstacles and the execution of adjustments are simply part of the deal.
So if you’re working with a Canadian colleague on a project, for instance, and you witness this approach, please don’t take it as unprofessionalism. Always keep in mind that many roads lead to Rome, demonstrate flexibility and try to steer a middle course.
On that note, we should also mention that room for independent action [e.g., when handling a task or allotting work time] and harmonic, respectful relationships with colleagues, employees and managers are very important to Canadians in a professional context. On top of that, professional and private spheres are not as strictly separated in Canada as they are in some other countries. You should consequently be open to invitations to have a meal or do activities together [e.g., play golf]. Use these opportunities to get to know each other better and strengthen your relationships!
Three short tips
We would like to give you three valuable tips regarding communication with your Canadian partners:
- Because Canada is a typical immigration country, politically correct modes of expression and tolerant behavior are particularly important. Always be mindful of this!
- It’s also possible, due to the country’s immigration history, that your Canadian business partners or their forebears hail from Europe or somewhere else in the world. If they come from your home country, this could be a good small-talk topic or a springboard for future collaboration.
- Moreover, keep in mind that Canada has been historically shaped by English and French influences – in terms of language and culture. There can consequently be corresponding differences within the country, depending on the region.
As you can see, there are certain things that need to be kept in mind when it comes to contact with Canadians. But that’s by no means everything. We’d be happy to help you with your specific situation. Are you managing a Canadian team, for instance? Or are you being sent there for an international assignment? You can find all information about our cross-cultural trainings at this link.