Canadians pride themselves on their sense of multiculturalism. Ethnic groups are encouraged to maintain their identity and to practice their customs within a Canadian context.
Ask almost anyone in the world what are Canadians like and the most likely answers you will get will be “friendly”, “peaceful”, “hospitable”, “civilized”, “open-minded”, “tolerant”, “polite”, “courteous” and “modest”, just to name a few of the qualities that make Canadians such a special people.
Canadians pride themselves on their sense of multiculturalism. Ethnic groups are encouraged to maintain their identity and to practice their customs within a Canadian context. They also pride themselves in being seen as separate individuals, rather than as representative of a family or community. Each person is seen as responsible for his or her own behavior.
As with any culture, it is difficult to make generalizations about social customs. The following information is presented as a guideline to assist visitors adapt to Canadian culture. Do not be surprised if you meet people who do not appear to follow these guidelines. Hopefully you will find the originality and the uniqueness of each person you meet as a positive aspect of Canadian culture.
Canadians come from many different racial and religious backgrounds. Consequently, it is not easy to define a typical Canadian family. Although the majority of Canadians are Catholic or Protestant, many belong to other religions. Some cultural characteristics, however, are shared by most Canadians.
Equality - Canada enjoys a society that is open and relatively free of class distinctions. Most Canadians take pride in the fact that all people deserve the same rights and respect, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or cultural background. People in Canada usually resent comments that seem disrespectful to anyone from a particular background.
Introductions In Canada - In Canada, people use their given name first and their surname (family name) last. If you meet someone older than you for the first time, you should probably not use the person's first name. It is safer to use the surname, preceded by a courtesy title such as: Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr.
Formal Greeting to a Stranger: "Hello Mr. Martin. I am very pleased to meet you. My name is Yuri."
Informal Greeting to a Friend: "Hi Thomas. How are you?"
Body Language - It is customary to shake hands when being introduced. It is not usually considered objectionable to lightly touch someone on the shoulder or elbow during a discussion. Most Canadians do not often kiss or hug when greeting friends.
In The Home - Canadians often behave quite casually at home. Some families do not put an emphasis on greetings and salutations, so do not be disappointed if your hosts do not show a lot of emotion when you arrive or leave. Many Canadians do not wear shoes or hats inside their homes.
Smoking In Canada - Smoking is becoming increasingly unpopular and is not permitted in most public buildings. Many people do not allow smoking in their homes.
Invitations - By accepting an invitation to a social event, you indicate your ability and willingness to attend. It is not impolite to say "no" to an invitation but try to give a reason as to why you cannot accept and if you would like, indicate your interest at getting together at another mutually convenient time. If you have accepted an invitation, you are expected to attend. If you must cancel, telephone your host/hostess as soon as possible to let him/her know that you are unable to come.
Time - Canadians tend to place a high priority on punctuality. You are expected to be ready at the time agreed upon. If you are invited to someone's home, you are expected to arrive within five to ten minutes after the scheduled time, but not prior to the time. Arriving late for social events or appointments is viewed as disrespectful. If you are going to be late, try to contact the other person to let them know.
Thank You’s - It is not necessary to take a gift when you are invited for a meal; however, it is appropriate to ask your host if you could bring something to contribute to the meal. You may wish to present a small, inexpensive gift to your host(s) on special occasions or when staying over night in his/her home. A written thank you note sent a few days after your visit is always appreciated, this could also be left in the room where you stayed. If you wish to extend an invitation to someone, do not feel that you have to go to a lot of expense. People will appreciate sampling a favorite ethnic dish that you have prepared and enjoy an evening of conversation.
Friendships - You will find Canadians generally easy to meet and talk to. Often, they will introduce themselves without the benefit of a third party and invite new acquaintances to get together "soon" or suggest that they will "see you later." An actual invitation based on these comments may not happen without further arrangements, however. This should not be interpreted as disinterest in pursuing the friendship, as often friends will not see each other for extended periods of time.
However, casual friendliness should not automatically be interpreted as friendship. Canadians tend to avoid deep involvement with more than one or two people and often "compartmentalize" their friendships. Having a "golf friend", or friends "at work" or "at school", is not uncommon. These remarks are not intended to discourage you from pursuing friendships, but rather to point out the ideas of "friendship" vary from culture to culture. Patience and time are often rewarded with close and lasting friendships.
Female/Male Role - In Canadian society, the roles of women and men are not as specifically defined as in some cultures. Women are increasingly participating in the work force, men are increasingly taking it upon themselves to share child and home care responsibilities with women.
It is highly unjust and disrespectful to treat a woman as being unequal to a man. Many women in Canada expect to share equally in decisions with male friends and acquaintances. Often, women may also wish to share equally in expenses (or "pay her own way") when going on dates, outings, or social events, whether it be with a date, friend, or acquaintance.
Dating - In Canada personal relationships between people vary widely in terms of the level of closeness or intimacy. Dating can mean anything from sharing time with a close friend to having a more romantic interaction.
First dates between people usually take place in public locations. Examples include going out for coffee, going to see a movie, or going for a walk. If the individuals involved do not know each other very well, it often takes some time before they start to meet in more romantic places. It is important to be aware that the places in which you meet, might give a different impression then you intend. It is not wise to meet in isolated areas or to publicly express physical affection that other people around you might not be comfortable with seeing.
People associate freely with members of the opposite gender without dating intentions. Many friendships exist between males and females. When inquiring into whether or not a person is interested in pursuing a more intimate relationship, a response of "no" MUST be respected. Pursuing the relationship after a person has indicated that s/he does not wish to do so may result in a sexual harassment charge.
Because relationships can take so many different forms, it is recommended that individuals openly discuss their intentions and expectations about the relationship. Open and honest discussion will help avoid miscommunication and hurt feelings.
Eating Customs - Potlucks are common practice for friendly gatherings. At a potluck, everyone brings one dish to eat and shares with others. This allows individuals to sample other people's cooking. This is also an extremely economical way of eating out, for neither the host nor the guest incurs the cost of preparing all the food.
If you accept a dinner invitation, it is not considered impolite to advise the host in advance of any dietary restrictions. She or he will want to plan a meal you will enjoy. Canadian meals are often informal. Some people "say grace" (give thanks) before meals. Others do not.
It is appropriate to say "no thank you" when you are offered a second serving of food if you are not hungry. However, you should accept more food if you want it, as the offer may not be repeated. Most Canadians think it is impolite to insist that people have more food after they have refused a second serving. If you do not accept something to eat or drink the first time it is offered, your host will probably assume you do not want anything.
Most Canadians eat the following three meals each day:
Breakfast - This meal is normally served between 7:00 A.M. and 8:30 A.M. For many families, breakfast is quick and casual. Coffee, cereal, toast, bacon, eggs, and pancakes are often found on Canadian breakfast tables.
Lunch - Most Canadians have lunch between 12:00 and 1:00 P.M. Lunch might consist of soup, salad, sandwiches, or a variety of other foods.
Supper - This is usually the largest and most formal meal of the day. In Canada, supper is normally between 5:00 and 6:30. Many people have soup or salad before the main course. A dessert, such as pie or ice cream, is often served after the main meal.
Hygiene - Finally, most Canadians place a high value on personal cleanliness and hygiene and will expect visitors to do the same. Most Canadians bathe or shower daily, wear underarm deodorant, and wash their clothing every week. In addition, Canadian dentists recommend brushing one’s teeth after every meal.