Many companies decide to venture out and test the waters of international business in Canada. This shouldn’t be a surprise since Canada may not seem like such a jump from the domestic market. If we had to pick a country most similar to the United States, it would be Canada. Knowing this, do not assume that Canadian culture is exactly the same as the United States.
Canada is home to about 34 million people, where 59% speak English, and 22% speak French. Both are official languages of Canada. Their economy is similar to the United States, in that it is a market-oriented economy. The United States is Canada’s primary trading partner, helped first by the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1989, then in 1994 with the North America Free Trade Agreement. While the United States accounts for three-fourths of Canada’s exports, Canada also supplies the majority of the United States foreign energy, with oil, gas and uranium due to its rich natural resources.
So what could be that different about conducting business in Canada? Well, don’t drop the niceties with Canadians just because you have formed a relationship with them. They are extremely polite and tolerant people so make sure you show them the same respect. Canadians are generally place more emphasis on the individual, like Americans, but they do have a strong feeling of responsibility to their community. Shake hands to greet someone, and to say goodbye.
The main differences in cultures are seen in Quebec, where they speak French and have cultural influences from France. A greeting may be a kiss on both cheeks, you should send flowers before a dinner party, and if you decide to send wine, it better be the finest you can find. To respect the French culture, have business cards printed in English on one side and French on the other when doing business in Quebec.
Canada is a great way to break into international business. The customs are similar to the US, in that they have the same personal space bubbles as Americans, are strict on setting meeting times, make decisions based on facts and logic, greet with handshakes and jump into negotiations after small pleasantries. Two things to take away are to always be polite, and research the differences in the French Canadian customs before doing business in Quebec. Subscribe to my blog to learn more about international business.