What are the social norms in Canada?

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Updated on
Jun 27, 2019
Last published on
May 7, 2021
What are the social norms in Canada? | Canada Talents - Blog

Moving to Canada means entering into a new country with an entirely new set of norms and behaviours. Learning proper manners and understanding cultural differences between what is considered “polite” in Canada compared to Europe will help you get accustomed to the country faster - and hopefully, find work easier. Canadian manners are based on the Canadian values outlined in our article, with a focus on politeness and mutual respect. Like every country, social behaviours will vary across regions and some people are bound to be rude, but this article will give you a head start on becoming the perfect example of a polite Canadian!

Hold the door!

Holding the door open for people is a fundamental part of good manners in Canada. Holding the door open doesn’t necessarily mean holding it open as people walk past you, it can be as simple as pushing the door open for the next person as you walk through - it’s common courtesy. If there is an old or disabled person coming through the door behind or in front of you, always hold the door!

Saying Hi!

Socializing can be awkward, and starting a discussion with a stranger can be weird, but it’s encouraged to make an attempt at small talk with people around you! The easiest way to make connections with neighbours and community is just to talk to everyone & introduce yourself!

Talk in a reasonable range with people

In North America, personal boundaries are essential, and respecting them is even more critical. Talking too close to people can throw off the person who isn’t used to it; some people view it as intimidating, while others just find it awkward. Standing too close isn’t that big of an issue - usually, people will back up to a comfortable distance if they feel you’re too close - but it can contribute to leaving a wrong impression overall when meeting someone for the first time or networking.

Be on time (or early!)

Timeliness is important! If you’ve set a date or meeting for 5:30, or more importantly if someone else sets a specific time with, you better be there on time! A habit that many Canadians get into is arriving 15 minutes early to a scheduled event, showing up early shows professionalism - you’re prepared and ready to work.

Say sorry

It may be a stereotype, but it’s true! Canadians say sorry all the time, to everyone, even if it’s not their fault, even if nothing a person does might be considered worthy of saying “sorry” - Canadians will say sorry!

Be courteous on the bus

Being kind and self-aware on public transit is of the utmost importance. Here's the fundamentals of bus etiquette: say thank you to the bus driver when getting off the bus, when possible (especially when crowded) move to the back of the bus, respect the line when waiting for transit,  take off backpacks and put them beneath your seat or on your lap (never on another seat), & ALWAYS offer your seat to a person who is elderly, disabled, or pregnant. If you do not follow these rules, nothing bad will happen because Canadians are too nice to say anything, but they will glare at you behind your back.

Do NOT kiss on the cheek

Kissing on the cheek is a BIG faux pas overseas - it simply isn't something we do or are used to. Canadians (and North Americans broadly) find an unsolicited kiss when first meeting to be an invasion of personal space and a violation of consent. Whenever you meet anyone for the first time, just put your hand out to shake. If you do accidentally kiss someone, just apologize, they will understand you are still adjusting.

Be inclusive!

Canada is a very diverse place, with many different viewpoints and cultures mixed together. In Canada, though we may disagree with each other's opinions or lifestyles, it is important to respect everyone regardless of your views. Discrimination or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation will likely be met with hostility - Canadians strive for politeness.

Join us at our next event to practice and share your experience. If you have more questions regarding your situation, book a Face-to-Face.

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What are the social norms in Canada?

Carson is a Saskatchewan-born Political Science major and Canadian Studies minor studying at the University of British Columbia. He’s passionate about Canadian history and is trying his hardest to learn French. He is a young activist for the Queer community.