Canada is a friendly place and you’ll find that applies to most people you meet while travelling around too. However, it’s important to make an effort to respect the little cultural nuances that make Canada such an interesting place to visit.
It can’t hurt to brush up on your Canadian etiquette before you depart, so we’ve pulled together a few handy hints that could help you on your next holiday to Canada!
Greeting others and language barriers
You should be aware that some regions in Canada are predominantly French in their cultural outlook, so naturally the majority speak French as their first language. In Francophone Quebec, 80% speak native French and it is the official language of the province. In cities such as Quebec City and Montréal, you will likely see signs, menus and other notices written in French.
Don’t worry though, most Canadians living in these places speak both French and English. It is however appreciated if you can make an effort to show your respect for their heritage. Try saying “bonjour” rather than “hello” and “je vous remercie” instead of “thank you” when ordering in a restaurant or bar. If you do need to speak in English, the polite way to let people know is to ask “Est-ce que je peux parler anglais?” – “May I speak in English?”.
While provinces such as Ontario and New Brunswick have been influenced by the early settlers to New France, the French language is not prominent and the majority speak English as their first language. If you’re travelling to Canada’s Maritimes you will discover that New Brunswick, and the other provinces that make up this region, have held on to cultural aspects of their French heritage and this is most evident in the warm Acadian welcome you’ll receive.
Different cultures within Canada
Canada is proud of its multiculturalism, which is not limited to the continental European connection. To better understand these different cultures, you may want to discover more about Canada’s indigenous peoples. The First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities have helped to shape much of the culture in places such as British Columbia, Manitoba and Yukon.
You’ll find museums and other attractions dedicated to celebrating aboriginal traditions and teaching people about their place in Canada today. For example, you can learn about Canada’s First Nations at a Powwow this summer – a lively event which features customary dances, drumming and craftsmanship.
Generally, it’s safe to follow the same guidelines to dining behaviour that you would in the UK. When you dine out at a restaurant or café in Canada, the waiter or hostess will usually show you to your table and return to take your order.
As a head’s up there are restrictions on smoking in Canada, similar to the UK, and most establishments will not have a designated smoking section. In fact, the country is becoming more intolerant of this habit in public places.
In Canada, tipping in restaurants according to service received is considered correct etiquette. The standard amount varies, but usually ranges between 15% and 20% of the bill. In larger cities, tips reaching 18% are commonplace and anything below 15% would suggest that the service has been poor. Be aware that some restaurants will automatically apply a gratuity charge of 18% or more for bigger parties.
There are other situations where it is considered the norm to tip. You would tip in taxis for example, and some professionals offering services, such as hairdressers or beauticians, may expect to be tipped for a good job. In hotels you might tip for ‘additional’ services, for instance if you receive bag handling or if you use the concierge or valet during your stay. Although not strictly universal, some guests will tip housekeepers. It isn’t necessary to tip other staff such as those working on reception for routine services like checking in and out.
The best advice is to be mindful of the same manners you would naturally apply to situations in the UK. For the most part, what we consider polite over here mirrors Canadian etiquette.
On another note, there will be some mannerisms that seem unfamiliar to us. Some Canadians have a habit of adding “eh?” to their sentences and this is usually used to suggest that what they are saying requires a response. There’s also the Canadian stereotype of apologising about everything, but in reality, this is normally meant to be a polite way of saying “excuse me”.