Guide to Cultural Traits for Expats in Canada

Submitted: October 2013

In the late 19th Century the Canadian Government encouraged other nationalities to come and settle in Canada. This has resulted in a very diverse country which cannot be easily stereotyped. It is said that generally Canadians are tolerant and polite and place great emphasis on their community. This community spirit often manifests itself as a very strongly felt allegiance to the region in which a Canadian individual lives.

The tolerance so admired in Canadians can perhaps be explained by the influx of foreigners making their home in Canada over one hundred years ago and wishing to retain some of the traditions from their home country. Everyone is considered to have the individual freedom to hold on to and preserve some of the traditions and customs taught to them by their immigrant forebears. Nevertheless, individuals are expected to take their responsibility to the community they live in seriously and play their part in upholding and promoting the values everyone lives by.

When visiting the various regions of Canada, an observer will see some obvious differences between the inhabitants of these areas. Generally, individuals living in the Atlantic Provinces are considered to be old-fashioned due to their reserved and provincial nature. British Columbia is often seen as the Canada of the future as people living there are considered less conventional and more forward-thinking. Quebec is the French region of Canada and has a very strong cultural identity firmly based on its French roots. Here, people have a strong allegiance to their region and are fairly French when going about their daily lives. For example, while in the rest of Canada handshakes are the common form of greeting one another, French Canadians are more likely to greet each other by lightly kissing each cheek.

An expat visiting Quebec can expect to feel that he has been transported to France. This Canadian province is the only one where English is not an official language. Therefore, when in Quebec, an expat not only has to ensure that their French is sufficiently fluent, but the expat must also bear in mind to adopt behaviours that would normally be seen in France. For instance, sending flowers on the morning of the dinner party the expat has been invited to would be the expected course of action in Quebec. Table manners are more formal in the French part of Canada than elsewhere in the country.

Generally, Canadians expect a certain aspect of formality when dealing with strangers. It is common for people to address each other by their title and surname until invited to do otherwise. Great emphasis is placed on personal space and Canadian individuals can feel uncomfortable when they feel their personal space is being invaded. It is important to make frequent eye contact when engaged in a discussion or conversation with Canadians. Verbal communication for most Canadians involves informed discussions of a subject with considered responses to opposing views and an expat used to a more direct way of speaking would do well to adjust their tone accordingly as otherwise this could be interpreted as threatening.

So, while it is not easy to generalise to the extent that this is possible when looking at cultural traits in many other countries, it is possible to say that Canadians taken as a whole have mannerisms and traits that allow for each individual to express themselves freely. Canadians throughout the country have a strong sense of equality and feel that everyone is equal, regardless of ethnicity, gender, skin colour or sexual orientation and any expat coming to live in Canada should find it relatively easy to settle into their new life in the country.



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