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How to Master Business Etiquette in Canada

If you're thinking about doing business in Canada, it's crucial that you don't offend or turn off the local professionals. This can impact whether you're able to conduct business in the region. But fortunately, adjusting to local business customs is easier than you might think. 

Here is what you need to know when working alongside professionals in Canada. 

Communication Style

Canadian business people are extremely laid-back and easygoing. The communication style during meetings is moderately indirect; therefore, you might soften your tone if your home culture is direct and abrupt during meetings. It's okay to disagree with your business counterparts. However, you should do so with tact and respect.

It is appropriate to use titles and surnames. However, regardless of status or rank, it is customary to listen to everyone's opinion at meetings and during appointments. In addition, although normal business hours are between 9 AM and 5 PM, the majority of meetings are scheduled for the morning hours.

Canadians are very leery of claims that seem "too good to be true." With that said, if you're giving a presentation, be sure to back up your information with concrete facts or statistics.


Dark conservative business suits are the norm for men, with many Canadian men choosing suits that are navy, gray or black. Business suits and dresses are typical for women. Navy, gray, white or ivory are commonly worn by business women. 

Meetings and Greetings

A firm handshake is the customary greeting in Canada when attending a business meeting. It is also customary to shake hands when departing a meeting. Men typically wait for a woman to extend her hand first. While greeting your counterparts, maintain strong eye contact and smile. Small talk is kept to a minimum at business events. Canadian business owners typically do not discuss personal matters at meetings. Additionally, it is also customary to introduce business people based on rank.

Respect the local language

English and French are spoken throughout Canada. When attending a business meeting, it is customary to have written material in both languages. It is also rude to speak a foreign language if others in the room do not understand the language. If you're giving a presentation, and you plan to conduct this presentation in English, it might be necessary to have an interpreter with you. Inquire about this need before the meeting.

Business Cards

Canadians exchange business cards after the initial introduction. If you're meeting with a French-speaking Canadian, it's appropriate to have your business card translated in French. In cases where a business card has English printed on one side and French on the other, present the business card with the French side facing upwards. Typically, Canadians exam business cards before putting them in their wallet or pocket. 

Personal Space

Canadians prefer personal space. Therefore, it's appropriate to maintain a distance of about two feet between yourself and those you speak with.


Canadian business people do not tolerate late arrivals at meetings or appointments. It's not unusual for a business person to cancel a meeting if the other party is more than 10 minutes late. However, if you're getting together with a few professionals after hours for a social event, it's okay to arrive 15 minutes late.

Gift Giving

After closing a deal, it is acceptable to exchange gifts. And if you receive a gift, you should unwrap it immediately and offer thanks. Acceptable gifts might include a small souvenir from your home country. In addition, many Canadian business people invite guests to their homes for a meal. If you choose to give a local professional flowers as a gift, be aware that white lilies are usually associated with death, and roses are more appropriate in romantic settings. 

Social Invitations

After getting to know your colleague, he or she may invite you out for drinks. Turning down an invitation is a sign of rudeness. Even if you do not drink alcohol, you might accept the invitation and choose a non-alcoholic beverage.

What other tips can you offer those traveling to Canada for business?

Image Credit: Flickr



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