Doing Business in Canada
This enchanting part of the world is known for its innumerable lakes and the famous Niagara Falls. The second largest country in the world, Canada is a thriving federal democracy with a constitutional monarchy. Predominantly multicultural, majority of the population is British, French or native Aborigines.
A handshake is the common greeting used for introductions. In the case of women, wait for them to initiate the handshake. You can refer to persons by their first name basis, however it is best to wait until the person says you can. While interacting with French Canadians, use the prefix Monsieur (Mr.) or Madame (Ms.) followed by the last name.
Canada has two official languages- French and English. States like Quebec have strong ties with the French language and it used for all business transactions. Have brochures and important material printed in both French and English. Try to pronounce French names correctly.
Canadians are sticklers for punctuality, so be on time. If you are going to be late for a business appointment, call up. While conducting business, a practical, down-to-earth approach is appreciated. It is good to be formal and reserved, and avoid exaggeration.
Business cards are exchanged after the greeting. A French translation is necessary for business cards. Canadians are open to new business ideas but ask for facts and figures as proof before reaching a conclusion. They believe in making well- informed decisions with a specific action plan. Aggressive sales talk is not appreciated. Mild humour is welcome during conversations. Avoid topics that center around personal life and family while doing business.
Business luncheons are a common feature. However the duration is short.
A neat and dapper look is highly appreciated. Wear elegant and pleasing clothes. Wear clothing you are comfortable in. Though casual dressing may be permissible, it is advisable to dress formally at all times. A suit and tie for men and a business suit for women is acceptable. At all other times you can dress casually. If you are visiting during winter, it is wise to take warm clothing along. Loud cosmetics and strong perfumes should be avoided. It is often viewed as a ploy to cover up poor personal hygiene.
“How are you?” is the common greeting. Weather, sports (golf, hockey, football, baseball, basketball and tennis), geography, travel, movies, books and positive comments about Canadians are welcome topics of conversation. Golf is a popular sport and the golf course is often a venue for business.
Avoid conversations that compare Canada to USA. Also topics on the conflict between French and English and the Quebec separatism should be avoided. Maintain eye contact during conversations; however make sure that it is not intense. Don’t talk too loudly or brag about yourself. It is considered impolite. Confrontations, arguments and public display of emotions should be totally avoided. You need to be diplomatic and tactful during all interactions.
Pointing at people is considered rude. To express approval, you can use the “O.K” or a “thumbs-up” sign. Smoking in public is restricted. If you are invited to a Canadian home for a meal, the host partakes of the food first. During the meal, make it a point to offer the main dishes to others before you serve yourself.
If you want to abstain from certain foods, decline in a polite manner. Do not enter any of the rooms without being ushered in. Thank your host with a card or a telephone call, a day after the meal. A 15% tip is expected at restaurants.
Canadians are hospitable people. They also love to learn about different countries and cultures. It is considered an honour if you are invited to a Canadian home for a meal. Take a gift of flowers, sweets, wine or liquor. At such times you need to wait for your host to broach the topic of business. Flowers need to be chosen with care. Avoid giving lilies (associated with funerals) or red roses (for romantic occasions). A gift of perfume or clothing for women is considered inappropriate.
Gifts are given on arrival and after the close of a business deal. Gifts are also unwrapped in public and displayed to all present. Gifts from one’s country are highly appreciated. Taking someone out for a meal is also a popular gesture of hospitality.