Americans and Canadians have a lot in common. In fact, most Canadians and Americans would likely say their cultures are very similar, if not almost identical. After all, Canadians watch American TV shows, go to the theatre to see American films, and listen to American pop music.
The commonalities between Canada and the US are probably why many US businesses have a misperception that Canadians and Americans will have the same work cultures. People may cross the border assuming they’ll find the same workplace expectations and ethics north of the 49th parallel.
Almost nothing could be further from the truth. US and Canadian work cultures are actually quite different, although the differences may not be apparent from the surface. If you’re thinking about expanding into Canada or hiring Canadian employees, be mindful of these six differences.
1. Canadians Work Less than Americans
Canadians enjoy their time off, and they’re a bit more protective of it than their American counterparts. Some studies have suggested American employees work, on average, somewhere in the vicinity of 45 to 50 hours per week.
Canadians, on the other hand, tend to average about 40 hours at the top end. This is considered full-time employment for most Canadians. When their shift is over, they’re going home.
2. Canadians Also Get More Breaks
The laws vary from province to province, but generally speaking, Canadians tend to be entitled to more breaks. Labour laws in some areas of Canada suggest employees must have a 24-hour break or a day off at least once per week. While they’re working, Canadians are also entitled to lunch breaks of 30 minutes per every five hours of working time.
3. Canada Offers More Leaves for Workers
Again, the law varies from place to place, but Canadian workers are generally entitled to more leave than their American counterparts. A great example is parental leave. In Canada, new parents can take up to one year off, while most US companies offer just a few weeks of maternity leave at best.
4. An Old Stereotype Might Be True in Communications
The stereotype about the overly polite Canadian might be true, especially when it comes to business communications. Americans tend to prefer blunt, straightforward speech. Canadians, on the other hand, might find this too forward or even rude.
Canadians tend to prefer more indirect speech, and they may even use subtle, self-depreciating humour. This difference has the potential for misinterpretation, so be sure to keep it in mind when your Canadian workers send you an email.
5. Americans Are More Willing to Challenge Authority
Here’s a point in favour of the US business culture. Everyone is encouraged to speak up, especially during meetings. Challenging higher-ups to defend their ideas and their positions is seen as a good thing.
Canadians tend to be more reserved, so don’t expect them to speak up quite as much during meetings. They may see it as rude, and they often prefer to discuss things more privately, especially if they think there may be a confrontation. This tendency to avoid confrontation can be problematic for businesses.
6. Management Is More Informal in Canada
Although the US may pride itself on an egalitarian culture, the business culture tends to maintain stricter hierarchies. In Canada, management tends to be more relaxed and informal.
Canadians tend to prefer building consensus, so managers will often seek input from many different parties. This may be confusing to American managers who are used to being decisive and held responsible for individual decisions.
As noted, some of these differences are subtle. You may not pick up on them at first, but keep them in mind and you’ll find it easier and easier to work with your Canadian employees.