Customs and etiquette

Customs and ettiquetteThere is a certain set of etiquette expectations that Canadians have in any professional or social setting, from how you shake hands to your basic manners.

First, shake hands firmly. This gives the impression that you are genuine and confident. Hold the handshake for one or two seconds and shake steadily from your elbow. However, avoid an overly powerful handshake; in other words, do not crush the other person’s hand in yours.

Making eye contact is an important, and often neglected, sign of mutual acknowledgement and respect. Also continue to make natural eye contact with others, without staring uncomfortably. If you’re in a meeting or interview with several people, move your gaze between the people in the room.

General good manners are also very important. Do hold a door open for someone else, male or female, let your boss exit the elevator first and do not interrupt others while speaking.

Don’t be shy to say “I’m sorry,” “Please,” and “Thank you.” While in some cultures, it’s all important to “save face,” which makes apologizing difficult, but in Canada those words can smooth things over quickly, instead of allowing ill feelings to harbour. Also, say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me” when walking by a person too closely. Walking into somebody’s “personal space” is considered enough grounds for an apology.

If you did not hear something properly, do not say “What?”, but politely say, “I’m sorry, I did not hear what you said, can you please repeat it?” or “Pardon me?” Always make the other person feel confident and never bring them down.

Etiquette extends to your physical appearance as well. While Canada is a multicultural environment, there is something to be said for clean, crisp business attire. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring touches of your culture to your appearance, be it in colour or jewellery, etc., but subtle is best.

The same thing goes for grooming. Be aware of food smells clinging to your clothes, which can turn some people off. And personal hygiene. In other words, keep some breath mints on you!

Don’t forget to smile. It’s a sign that you’re a positive person, even in times of difficulty.  When speaking on a phone, smile into the phone as well. While the person you are speaking with cannot see you, they can feel your smile radiate positive energy!

A few words must be said about etiquette with neighbours. Often, when you move into your first house in the new community, your neighbours will knock on your door. Most of the time they want to present you with a card or a gift basket, to congratulate you on your new home. Be polite to your neighbours, always say hi when you see them on the street. If you do not wish, there is no need to engage in a lengthy conversation, but it is important to acknowledge them when you see them.

Canadians are often more uptight about inviting people into their home. It is unlikely that they will keep the door open for you to walk in any time of the day to have tea. People will schedule parties or coffee dates, but most of the time this will be somewhere outside the house. Many neighbours live side by side many years, and never see the inside of each other’s houses.

If you do happen to invite people over, remember, that in Canada, people gather to socialize, not to feast! In many cultures, it is very important to serve a huge table of food. For many it is taken as an offence if somebody comes to your house, but does not eat what you serve them. However, this is not the case in Canada. When inviting people, place snacks or finger food on the table.

Another interesting thing to note is that neighbours are often very vigilant about rules. Canadians are brought up with an understanding that they must report a crime or any suspicious activity. Do not be surprised that the neighbour who gave you a warm welcome when you just moved in is the same person who called the by-law officer because your car was not parked properly.

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