What to Expect When Working in Canada

Canada has long been a prime destination for emigration and with good reason. A thriving economy, stunning scenery and fascinating history are just some of the reasons that so many foreigners make the move to start new lives in this vast and unique country. 

A significant part of making the move to any new country is adapting to the changes in your working life. It’s important to be aware of what to expect and what is likely to be expected of you.

Canadian working culture

A work ethic dictating that the way to achieve success is by your own doing ensures that Canadians are a hardworking people. You will find that in many parts of Canada and in many industry sectors, employees will work long hours and in some cases, will work on more days than the normal Monday to Friday stretch. However, this way of working cannot be put down to professionalism alone. Canada is not a country that boasts good job security, especially in the current global climate, and workers strive to ensure that they are an indispensable part of a company. This lack of job security is most prolific in the private sector.

‘Equal opportunities’ in Canada works well to remove, to a greater degree, any favouritism that might usually occur in the workplace. In general, workers in Canada have a strong sense of ‘doing the right thing’; a trait that most certainly contributes to Canada being recognised as of the most business-friendly countries in the world. Another contributor is the low level of corruption that the country boasts.

Canadians, on the whole, enjoy a high level of job satisfaction. Business culture is such that workers take a lot of pride in their work and accomplishments. Though work hours may be long, most are able to maintain a healthy work/life balance, ensuring that free time is well spent with friends and family.

Labour Laws

Laws pertaining to labour and employment are divided between both the federal and provincial governments. Federal authority concerns interprovincial economic sectors, whilst everything else, such as the service, health and education industries is regulated provincially.

Thirty per cent of the workforce in Canada in unionised, with Quebec leading as the most unionised of the provinces. What is interesting to note with regard to the way unions are run in Canada, is the rather unique ‘delay of work stoppage’ rule in instances where a potential strike may occur. This rule dictates that before the strike can be called, certain steps must be completed. In effect, what this does is avoid a lot of industrial action as both parties are given a cooling off period before coming to an agreement.

Office Culture

Canadians tend to be jovial, but quite conservative at work. Brash clothing or an overly loud and aggressive communication style will not go over well. Canadians generally aim to dress and act appropriate to the industry they are in. If you are going to err on the side of caution, dressing conservatively is a good idea.

Canadians are good timekeepers so taking care not to be late to work or to meetings is crucial for ensuring a harmonious working life. If you are running late, you are expected to notify all relevant parties.


Greetings and addresses are generally formal in meetings. It is normal to shake hands (both men and women) at the start and end of a meeting and to use titles like Mr. and Ms. unless otherwise asked.

Being a bilingual country, it is prudent to enquire as to what language a meeting will be conducted in, regardless of the ‘lingua franca’ of the corporate world being English. Respect for the French-speaking contingent is expected and appreciated. Indeed, it is worth having French versions of any printed materials made. If you are a non-French speaker, it is a nice gesture to learn a word or two of French for the beginnings of meetings to ensure a relaxed atmosphere.

The warm and welcoming nature of the Canadian people extends the business world, making adapting to Canadian working life a relatively easy and enjoyable experience.

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