Canadian cultural values and beliefs

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Canadians are polite, tactful, and peace-loving. They value tolerance, humility and non-violence. These are called values or norms. Norms are patterns of behaviour (and values) shared by members of a group.

The following are 10 cultural norms you can observe in Canadian society. Understanding these will make it easier for you to adjust culturally.

  1. Egalitarianism

    All men are equal. Everyone deserves equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender, age, race or beliefs. Rank is not something people show off.

  2. Informality

    Canadians are casual in dress and language. There are no uniforms or dress codes in most workplaces. People call each other by their first names. Even bosses are called by their first names. You can use Mr./Mrs./Ms. (or a professional title like Dr.) and their last name when you meet a person for the first time. They may tell you to use their first name right away. Others will ask you to use their first name when they know you better.

  3. Order and space

    Order and personal privacy are important to Canadians. It’s not polite to ask about salary, weight, religion and other personal topics. People have rights over their own property. You are expected to ask before using anything that is not yours. Don’t cut in line, speak out of turn, shout and talk loudly. This is part of keeping order and respecting other people’s space.

  4. Individualistic yet community-oriented

    Canadians value independence but they contribute to the community. They believe that we must take care of each other. They volunteer, donate, and help the community.

  5. Punctuality

    Being on time means that you respect others. You value their time. In Canada, arriving 10-15 minutes early for an appointment is expected.

  6. Respect

    Canadians show this by:

    • being polite, punctual, tolerant and orderly.
    • not criticizing another person’s looks, beliefs, age, gender and status in life.
    • being tactful when disagreeing or giving negative feedback.
    • being clear and direct when you talk in the workplace.
    • speaking up for themselves.
  7. Multiculturalism and diversity

    Canada became a strong nation by welcoming immigrants. It is the first country in the world to have a policy of multiculturalism. It was enacted in 1971. This allowed immigrants to maintain their cultural identity. It also promoted cultural understanding and harmony.

  8. Political correctness

    Avoid words and actions that disrespect groups of people. This is important in Canada. It is the key to living harmoniously with everyone.

  9. Regionalism

    Canadians are proud to belong to their respective province or territory.

    • The Atlantic provinces (the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador) are known for being 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 edgy and progressive;
    • Quebec is distinct and independent; and
    • North (Yukon, the Northern Territories and Nunavut) has a strong pioneer spirit.
  10. Love for the environment

    Canadians are proud of their rich resources. They respect the environment and appreciate nature. They love camping. They take care of parks and open spaces. They are environment-friendly.

Article updated July 20, 2021.
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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