Polite but mostly direct: the communication behavior of Canadians
Like Germany, Canada is a so-called low-context culture when it comes to communication style. Canadians prefer a clear and precise way of communicating, in which you mean what you say. So there is no “hidden” information between the lines that can only be made clear through allusions, gestures or facial expressions. This of course facilitates communication between Germans and Canadians. But be careful: When it comes to criticism or negatives, Canadians are much less direct than in Germany.
Understatement and instinct are important elements in the Canadians’ communication style. Criticism that is too open can quickly come across as aggressive or even hurtful. Discussing loudly is preferred to avoid in order to maintain harmony. Especially when it comes to small talk, you shouldn’t get too deep.
Canadians value a harmonious conversation and small talk plays an extremely important role in everyday interaction. While Germans tend to get straight to the “heart of the matter” and are extremely factual, Canadians are first of all about a nice and personal atmosphere to accomplish. In general, they are therefore more open to personal issues than Germans, although Canadians actually only have a different perspective on what “personal” issues are. This openness and speaking about things that you as a German tend not to talk about when you first get to know each other should not be overestimated or even viewed as an invitation to friendship. This has nothing to do with superficiality, but rather with the need of the candies to create a personal and harmonious atmosphere through small talk.
The e-mail traffic stands in stark contrast to the personal contact. This is where Canadians waste no time and they get straight to the point. Often even the salutation is missing, which is perceived as impolite in Germany. Questions or phrases are also perceived as annoying and are left out.
The most popular small talk topic is the weather. Sure, the weather conditions in Canada are extreme and therefore offer good topics to talk about and some weather forecasters even enjoy celebrity status. Other good topics are work and career, travel and other countries, ice hockey as well as the Canadian nature and internationally known Canadian writers, actors or singers. This is what Kandiers are particularly proud of. Less good small talk topics: Politics (especially related to the tension between Anglo and French Canadians or regarding the indigenous people), religion and sex. These areas are extremely personal to Canadians and are among the topics that are only spoken about with closest friends, if at all. Illnesses and body weight are also not good small talk topics in Canada, a major country in North America listed on nexticle. On Political Correctness huge emphasis in Canada and people react accordingly sensitive to discussions of social classes or discrimination.
Behavioral tips for Canada
There may be a lot of cultural overlaps between Germany and Canada – but you can still slip into one or two faux pas during your studies in Canada (be it a semester abroad or a Bachelor or Master’s degree). That is certainly always a part of it and shouldn’t put anyone off. With a few behavioral tips in advance, you will certainly be able to avoid one or the other cultural slip !
The most common form of greeting is shaking hands. The handshake should be firm and accompanied by a friendly smile. In Québec, a kiss on the cheek (one on the left and one on the right) is a common greeting. Canadians tend to address each other by their first names, but you should wait until this is offered to you – especially to higher-ranking or older people. It is the same with the Duzen (tu instead of vous) in the French-speaking part of the country. “How are you” is the mandatory greeting and should not be misunderstood as an invitation to complain to the other person about his or her suffering.
Canadians like to invite you to the so-called potluck. These are parties to which everyone brings something to eat and drink. BYOB means “Bring Your Own Bottle” and is often written on a sign in the entrance area of smaller and cheap restaurants, as these usually do not have an alcohol license and therefore allow their guests to bring their own alcoholic drinks.
Dos and don’ts
|Courtesy and friendliness, e.g. thanking the driver after the bus ride||Questions about the “real” nationality of Canadians who do not look European|
|Don’t push and always queue at the back||Don’t tip|
|Smalltalking a lot and happily||Compare Canadians to Americans|
|Take off your shoes unsolicited before entering the house / apartment||Tell racist or sexist jokes|
|Pay attention to eye contact during the conversation||Criticism of the Canadian health system or environmental policy|
|Always express criticism in an indirect and nice way||Drink alcohol in public|
|Keep an arm’s length away and respect privacy||Unpunctuality|