5 Canadian Work Culture Tips (9/10)

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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. Hmm… I am a bit surprised that Canadian employers value work experience. I think in the US aptitude is given more weight.

    Here in Malaysia, the employers value work experience, plus young age. Now that’s the irony.
    .-= Khengsiong´s last blog ..廣州無美女 =-.

  2. @Lizz – France value education a lot too. People spend a lot of time studying theories…

    @Sidney – I wish! 😆

    @Khengsiong – You are right, aptitude is also a factor. But from my own experience, relevant experience was a key factor, as well as experience in Canada.

    @Shantanu – Does it? China are France share more similar value, I noticed. I don’t know India at all.

  3. 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 =-.

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