Canadian cultural values and beliefs

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Canadians are known to be some of the most polite, tactful, and peace-loving human beings on the planet. In fact, a stereotypical Canadian is someone who apologizes despite not being at fault. To a certain extent, this is true. The society greatly values tolerance, humility as well as non-violence.

To be sure, Canadians have individual traits and quirks. However, the following are 10 cultural norms generally observed in Canadian society. Having an idea of these will lead you to a deeper understanding of Canadian culture and guide you in your adaptation:

Egalitarianism

People are seen as equal in an egalitarian society. This is why hierarchies are not very evident. Everyone is deserving of equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender, age, race or beliefs.

Informality

Most Canadians are casual in dress and language. There are no strict dress codes in the workplace (unless you work in a bank or law office). Clothes are casual to informal. Everyone is on a first-name basis. Even seniors (or superiors) are addressed by their first names. However, when meeting a person for the first time, it would be safe to address them by Mr./Mrs./Ms. (or a professional title like Dr.) and their last name. More often than not, they will tell you that you may address them by their first name later on.

Order and space

Canadians value order and their personal space. They also value personal privacy. This is why salary, family life, weight, age, religion and other personal topics are not discussed openly. It is also understood that a person has rights over their own property. It is expected that anyone should ask permission first before using anything that is not theirs. Disruptive behavior, such as cutting in line, speaking out of turn, shouting, talking loudly are frowned upon. Decorum is part of keeping order and respecting other people’s space.

Individualistic yet community-oriented

Canadians are serious about meeting their responsibility to the community. Despite being individualistic, community life is a priority. Canadians get involved by volunteering, donating, and by maintaining affinity to their community.

Punctuality

Being on time is highly valued in Canada. Punctuality is a sign of respect. Everyone is expected to arrive on time or at least five-10 minutes earlier. Similarly, deadlines are taken seriously. It is an indication of your integrity.

Respect

Respects is shown through politeness, punctuality, tolerance and social order. It is considered harassment to talk badly about a person’s looks, their beliefs, age, gender and status in life. Communication is indirect and diplomatic. Canadians can disagree, but tactfully. Communication is also practical, especially in the workplace. You are expected to be clear and direct, and speak up for yourself.

Multiculturalism and diversity

Canada developed into a strong nation by welcoming immigrants. It continues to value the diversity that various cultures contribute to society. In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adapt multiculturalism as an official policy. This affirmed people’s rights in maintaining their unique cultural identity. The policy also promotes cross-cultural understanding and harmony.

Political correctness

Political correctness means avoiding saying or doing things that exclude, insult or marginalize groups of people. Because Canada is diverse and multicultural, being politically correct is essential to living harmoniously with everyone.

Regionalism

Some say that Canadians have an affinity to their province or region, sometimes more than their country. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “regional identities were formed after Europeans settled across the continent among distinct First Nations tribes. Today, regionalism is expressed in various provincial identities, in our economy, and in the daily textures of life in different parts of the land.”

These may be generalizations but it is said that the Atlantic provinces (the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador) are reserved and old-fashioned; Ontario is business-like and conservative; people in Western Canada (Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan) are open and friendly; British Columbia is unconventional and progressive; Quebec is distinct and autonomous; and the North (Yukon, the Northern Territories and Nunavut) has a strong pioneering spirit.

Love for the environment

Canadians are proud of their rich natural resources. They have deep respect for the environment. They appreciate nature. They love camping. They also maintain their parks and open spaces, and adopt environment-friendly policies.
 
Article updated July 19, 2023.
 
Sources: Cultural Information-Canada; Commisceo Global, Canadian Cultures, University of Winnipeg; and Regionalism, The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed and updated November 6, 2018.

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