5 Canadian Work Culture Tips (9/10)

Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill

Cana­dian Flag on Par­lia­ment Hill

Wel­come to the “How To… Find A Job In Canada” series!

Say­ing that last year wasn’t great eco­nom­i­cally speak­ing is an under­state­ment. Pretty much all coun­tries world­wide suf­fered from the global eco­nomic down­turn and Canada was no excep­tion. Yet, a lot of peo­ple are still con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to Canada, while oth­ers are already in the process and are prob­a­bly wor­ried about whether they will get a job at all.

There is no easy answer when it comes to employ­ment. You know the story… a bit of patience, a bit of skills, a bit of luck.

I’m not a job coun­selor, and I’m not an expert. But I do know how it works in Canada and I’m hop­ing to pass along some infor­ma­tion that may not be obvi­ous to every­one. A post will be pub­lished every Sat­ur­day… enjoy!

The Cana­dian work cul­ture is, on many aspects, very dif­fer­ent from other coun­tries’. So, what do Cana­dian employ­ers value? What are the unspo­ken rules that help you fit in?

Work Hard, Play Hard

For many Euro­peans, the first shock is how hard peo­ple work in North Amer­ica. Indeed, there is a strong work ethic here and you will soon notice that peo­ple are every­thing but lazy. Not that I’m imply­ing Euro­peans are… but there are cer­tainly a lot of differences.

Hol­i­days, for exam­ple. Most employ­ees are enti­tled to two weeks of paid hol­i­days per year. Even in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, employ­ees typ­i­cally receive three, maybe four weeks after ten or twenty years of service.That’s it! If you need longer hol­i­days, you may nego­ti­ate unpaid time-off… or quit your job alto­gether.

There are also sev­eral statu­tory hol­i­days per year, which are basi­cally paid day-offs: for exam­ple, Canada Day or Christ­mas day. You can see this use­ful chart to see to see addi­tional days by province or by ter­ri­tory. Ah, long week-ends…!

Note that in many posi­tions, you can for­get about the con­cept of the 9 to 5 day work­day with week-ends off. The ser­vice indus­try, for exam­ple, has much longer work­ing hours and since a lot of shops (if not all) open on Sun­days, you may be work­ing these days too.

But hard work and long hours are usu­ally bal­ance with intense leisure activ­i­ties: watch­ing sports, par­tic­i­pat­ing in phys­i­cal activ­i­ties, gen­eral enter­tain­ment etc.

Wanted: Expe­ri­ence

Some cul­tures value edu­ca­tion and degrees, some cul­ture value work expe­ri­ence — and Canada is def­i­nitely part of the lat­est. While hav­ing a uni­ver­sity degree or some  equiv­a­lent post-secondary edu­ca­tion (or trade school etc.) is strongly rec­om­mended, it is not always nec­es­sary to hold a degree exactly match­ing your job title. A man­ager can have a degree in polit­i­cal sci­ence, a sales­per­son a degree in phi­los­o­phy etc.

What does mat­ter is to build some rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence, basic skills and to be will­ing to learn. A lot of peo­ple have sev­eral dif­fer­ent careers any­way and no one will be sur­prised by your choices, as long as you back them up.

Get Hired, Get Fired, Get Hired…

A lot of new­com­ers are sur­prised on how fast it is to be hired. Indeed, if you are not picky and just want to work, you can find a posi­tion extremely fast: it is not rare to be hired in a mat­ter of days… or hours.

In most indus­tries, rules of sup­ply and demand reg­u­late recruit­ment. In busy times, when the econ­omy is good or when a spe­cific sec­tor is boom­ing, to find a posi­tion will be quite easy and the salary will be com­pet­i­tive. How­ever, sup­ply and demand has its draw­backs: when there is no work, it’s extremely easy for an employer to lay you off.

If you are paid by the hour, there will be less and less work hours sched­uled, lead­ing to a much lower pay at the end of the month. This should be your clue to start look­ing for some­thing else… This is an impor­tant rule: update your resume fre­quently and be ready to find another posi­tion is needed!

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Teamwork

These two skilled are extremely impor­tant and can’t be empha­sized enough.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills include report writ­ing, speak­ing and pre­sent­ing. These skills are cru­cial in many sec­tors and many posi­tions. If Eng­lish isn’t your first lan­guage, fear not. Cana­di­ans are quite under­stand­ing and this is a mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try: no one expect you to speak or write per­fect U.K Eng­lish. Yet, you should be flu­ent enough and will­ing to improve and work on these skills. A lot of places offer Eng­lish classes of var­i­ous level to help new­com­ers fit into the work mar­ket bet­ter. Take advan­tage of them!

Team­work has become an impor­tant part of the work­ing cul­ture. You should expect to work with dif­fer­ent peo­ple, com­mu­ni­cate with them, solve prob­lems as a team and com­pro­mise. These skills are in demand and while there is no per­fect train­ing to acquire them, learn to be a team player!

Flex­i­bil­ity Is The Key

Finally, as a new­comer, the key word is to be flex­i­ble. This means that you may have to start at a junior level or that you may have to con­sider a lower salary if you want to work in a field in which you don’t have any Cana­dian experience.

Being flex­i­ble is also being ready to com­pro­mise, learn fast, being ready to change and to adapt.

Canada, and North Amer­ica in gen­eral, are soci­eties that change fast and where there are oppor­tu­ni­ties to be taken.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I’m not sure if India reflects North Amer­ica… it is quite hier­ar­chi­cal, you don’t get fired, lots of hol­i­days, etc. One thing I like here is flexi-timing. At all the places I worked, you could take 30 minute lunch or work 30 min­utes more every day and ‘save’ your hours to take a day off or leave early. :)
    .-= Final_Transit´s last blog ..Small town boys =-.

  2. Pingback: Are Canadians (North Turtle Islanders) Lazy? | sleeplessinturtleisland

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