Please note that due to Covid-19,
some circumstances in this country may be inaccurate.

Canadian business is characterised by a high degree of professionalism. Starting conservatively is a sound approach. For example, it’s a good idea to use titles to begin with, but your hosts are likely to move on quickly to first-name terms.

Punctuality is valued and Canadians will appreciate good time-keeping. Expect meetings to be well organised, with schedules adhered to.


# 12

for digital competitiveness (in a survey of 63 countries by the IMD World Competitiveness Center)


A firm handshake is the standard business greeting in Canada. Maintaining good eye contact with your business counterparts is also important.

Dress code

The business dress code in Canada is generally conservative: men should wear a suit and tie, women a smart suit or dress. In smaller companies, or sectors such as technology, attire may be more informal.


Business communication is direct and courteous, so it’s best to avoid evasive answers. Equally, exaggerated claims or aggressive sales tactics are unlikely to meet favour.

Thoroughness is appreciated. Decision-making tends to be based on verifiable facts rather than hunches, so presentations should be soundly based on data.

Canadians place importance on ensuring that everyone’s opinion is heard, regardless of hierarchy. Interruptions are frowned on but you may encounter more deference to senior figures in the Francophone areas.

Business cards

Exchange of business cards is common. There’s no formal ritual. Cards can be swapped either at the beginning or end of a meeting and it’s a good idea to print them in English on one side and French on the other.

Sealing the deal

Agreements are often sealed with a handshake and a written order. Confirm the details in writing, setting out the terms and conditions already discussed.

Gifts are generally not expected, however small tokens may be exchanged when an agreement is reached. This could be a traditional item from your country, or perhaps an invitation to a meal or event.

However, be wary of any suggestion that a gift is being offered in return for favourable treatment, which can be viewed as corruption. The public sector has implemented a code of conduct prohibiting this practice; some private companies have adopted it, too.


It’s common for business acquaintances to offer meals or entertainment in Canada, though the emphasis usually remains professional and business-like. The party extending the invitation is expected to pay.

As in business meetings, punctuality is important. However, arriving too early is as discourteous as a late appearance. It’s safe to arrive up to 15 minutes after the official start time.

Golden rules

  1. 1

    Don’t necessarily use the US as a reference point

    While there are certainly many similarities, Canadian culture and practices are different from those of the US. Canadians don’t always appreciate the suggestion that they are being compared with their neighbours – or any perceived assumption that a business record in the US is a foundation for a trading relationship in Canada.

  2. 2

    Learn, or polish up, your French language

    French knowledge is critical if your business is based in, or serving, Quebec. But remember that English and French have equal legal status throughout Canada. Enquire before meetings about your counterparts’ favoured language and be prepared to use either, with an interpreter if necessary.

  3. 3

    Avoid sensitive topics

    Canadians generally avoid personal discussion in business talks. It’s also wise to steer clear of contentious political topics, including conflicts between French and English Canada and the status of Aboriginal Canadians. General topics, such as sport, are usually safe.

  4. 4

    Stick to the facts

    Decisions tend to be based on facts and verified data, so avoid making any unsubstantiated claims in meetings and, particularly, when presenting.

  5. 5

    Respect all opinions

    It is important to Canadians that everyone’s opinion is heard in business meetings. Respecting this etiquette, and avoiding interruptions, will be appreciated.

  6. 6

    Keep good time

    Business meetings in Canada are well organised and follow schedules wherever possible, so it’s always best to ensure punctuality.

Useful phrases for Francophone areas

Canadian French


Hello Mr Peters and Mrs Jacob


Bonjour Monsieur Peters et Madame Jacob


My name is Steven Martin and I am the CFO of White Pharmaceuticals


Je m’appelle Steven Martin et je suis le directeur financier de White Pharmaceuticals


Pleased to meet you both / Nice to meet you


Je suis ravi de faire votre connaissance / Enchanté


Thank you for meeting me today


Merci d’avoir accepté de me rencontrer aujourd’hui


I look forward to doing business with you


J’espère pouvoir bientôt travailler avec vous