Social Customs In Canada

Many social practices govern behavior in Canada. These are not laws, but they are well-established traditions that Canadians expect of one another.

canadiansocialcustoms_mediumCanada's people, landscape, climate, and way of life are diverse. Despite these differences, Canada is a country based on the values of equality, diversity, and respect for all individuals in society. Women, men, children, and seniors are all equally respected under the law in Canada. These values make the country a secure society in which to live.

Canadian Ways - Many social practices govern behavior in Canada. These are not laws, but they are well-established traditions that Canadians expect of one another. Here are some examples:

Lining up or queuing

  • People normally form a line when waiting.
  • The person who arrives first takes the first position in the line.
  • Other arrivals line up behind this person in the order they arrive.
  • Others may be angry if you move ahead of someone who was there before you.

Not smoking in private homes

  • You should always ask permission if you want to smoke in someone's home.
  • Do not be surprised if they ask you to smoke outisde.

Being on time

  • You should always arrive for appointments at the scheduled time, or a little early.
  • You could lose your job or be suspended from school if you are often late.
  • You are not expected to wait more than 10 to 15 minutes for someone with whom you have a business meeting.
  • For social events, people expect that you will arrive within half an hour of the scheduled time.


  • Bargaining or haggling is not common in Canada. When you shop in stores, the price on the item is the cost for that item.
  • There are a few places where Canadians do bargain. For example, almost everyone bargains for a better price when buying a car or a house or other expensive items such as furniture.
  • People who buy or sell things privately may also bargain.

Strangers Talk To You In Canada - Don't be surprised when strangers talk to you in Canada! You will find that many Canadians will smile at you as they pass in the street, or say something to you like 'Hi' or 'How's it going?' Just reply with something similar. In the UK the reply would be "I'm fine"' but in Canada they say, "I'm good", which means the same thing.

In Company - In company when someone is offering you a second helping of food or more wine or something like that, then if you don't want any more use the same expression - "I'm good" - in that case it means no thank you, I've had enough. You will find that most Canadians don't press you to eat more than you want.

In A Restaurant - In a restaurant your plate will be cleared away almost immediately you look like you have finished eating. If there is a lot of food still on your plate then the server will usually ask you 'Are you still working on this' or 'Is this done with' before taking your plate. If you have not finished then say something like "I am still working on it".

In Shops And Supermarkets - When you go into a shop or store, do not be put off when the staff ask you how you are, or if they can help you. It is their way of being friendly and making conversation with the customers. If you don't want to be bothered then reply that you are 'just browsing' and that will be enough.

You will also find the same thing in supermarkets. The staff who are stacking the shelves will ask you if they can help you find things, or if you have found everything you are looking for. At the supermarket checkout or in other stores the staff may invite you to a different checkout or till by saying, "I can help next in line here" or "I can help someone here". In this case the word 'help' is being used in the same sense that 'serve' would be used in the UK, and 'line' means queue.

Going To Someone's House Or Apartment - Canadians eat early and go home early. When you are invited to a Canadian's home you may be asked to arrive at 5.30pm or 6pm, by European standards that is very early. Guests in Europe do not expect to arrive until 7.30pm or 8pm. The most important thing to remember is that you take off your shoes and leave them inside the door without being asked.

Don't be offended if your host asks you to take off your shoes, it's not a religious custom or something like that, it's just practical. In the winter there can be a lot of snow and dirt on your shoes, once you are in the warm house it melts and falls off, making a mess. Canadians tend to have light colored carpets or hardwood floors. It's really just simple consideration for your host.

If you're invited for supper, it means the same as dinner or an evening meal. It will be a full sit-down meal. Probably meat. Meat is usually barbequed even in the freezing cold of winter. You will also find barbeques on small balconies of apartments, Canadians love them.

When you go, take something with you, like a bottle of wine. Arrive on time, and don't overstay your welcome. 10 O'clock is quite late here, after that is late.

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