In France, you used to shake hands with your coworkers every morning, maybe even kiss them on the cheeks sometimes? Be prepared for a change in your habits! Here in Canada, you can shake hands; usually only the first time you meet someone. The significant difference is about hugging because yes, hugging can happen in the workplace and you may have a hard time understanding what it is all about.
First thing’s first: what is a hug?
Let's focus here on the ones that you can encounter in the workplace. Still, there are several types of hugs.
The simplest will usually be called the one-armed hug, when someone hugs you with one arm, sideways. Then comes the most normal hug, generally relatively short, with two arms, called the 1-second hug.
The most complicated one comes with many names like "middle school dance," "London Bridge" or "A-frame hug." In this hug, people will hug with their arms and be close at shoulder-height but keep their legs apart, thus creating the shape of the capital letter A. This one happens in different situations. Indeed, they can occur when people want to hug but keep their distance at the same time. In fact, Canadians tend to be quite protective of their personal space. Another moment for this special hug is when someone will want to hug someone else who is unwilling to hug them back.
Not entirely sure what all these hugs look like? Check out this short video made by the Wall Street Journal.
When will you give or receive a hug?
If people around you are not into hugs, you may never be hugged in the workplace, but it would be a missing part of your Canadian experience! In fact, Canadians are notorious for hugging. It can happen in different situations. For example, if a co-worker who thinks you are someone nice sees you again after a while, he could be willing to hug you to express his happiness. Some people are also known as "huggers," because they like to hug other people more than average.
But in fact, the truth is that, to make it short: there is no rule. Canada is a vast and multicultural country: everyone comes to the workplace with their habits, from their home or their previous jobs and, most importantly, with their preferences.
The best thing you can do is be yourself! Since there is no rule, your rule can work too, as long as you are clear about it. If you don't feel right about hugging, you must mention this to your colleagues and they will understand.
How about harassment?
This is a difficult question: since there is no exact rule, where are the limits? First of all, be sure to know your boundaries, and let your coworkers know what they are. As stated before, if you don't feel comfortable with hugging, say so! If you like to hug, so keep it short and straightforward. The one-armed hug is also called HR hug for a good reason: it is "HR-approved" because it doesn't involve too much physical contact.
You can also use the other types of hugs as long as you are sure that your colleagues are on board, which you can deduce by looking at what they do themselves!
And of course, all this experience is only possible after you have found your first job!