Business customs in Canada are very similar to those in the United States. Initial meetings are generally formal and an exchange of business cards is expected. The use of a PowerPoint presentation or other technology during a sales presentation is common. In Canada, English and French are both official languages of business. However, all international business is conducted in English. Business culture varies somewhat throughout Canada depending on the region. Most Canadians identify themselves very strongly with their province. U.S. business travelers to Canada should keep this in mind and familiarize themselves with the culture, history and geography of the province when developing personal contacts in business dealings. The most important thing is to make a good first impression in any sales communication, and sell the reliability and honesty of yourself and your company before trying to sell your product or service.
The State Department posts the latest Country Specific Information for Canada with information on such matters as the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, any areas of instability, and the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country. In addition, the State Department issues travel warnings recommending that Americans avoid a certain country or area of a country. Americans living or traveling in Canada are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website to obtain updated information on travel and security within Canada. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
Entry into Canada is solely determined by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials in accordance with Canadian law. Please see the CBSA's website for details. Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card or NEXUS card (see below) satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. If U.S. citizen travelers to Canada do not have a passport, passport card or approved alternate document such as a NEXUS card, they must show a government-issued photo ID (e.g. Driver's License) and proof of U.S. citizenship such as a U.S. birth certificate or naturalization certificate. Children under 16 need only present proof of U.S. citizenship. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens to visit Canada for up to 180 days. Anyone seeking to enter Canada for any purpose other than a visit (e.g. to work, study or immigrate) must qualify for the appropriate entry status, and should contact the Canadian Embassy or nearest consulate.
When returning to the United States from Canada, all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport to enter or re-enter the United States via air. For entry into the United States via land and sea borders, U.S. citizens must present either a U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card, Enhanced Drivers License or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document. The only exception to this requirement is for U.S. citizens under the age of 16 (or under 19, if traveling with a school, religious, or other youth group) who need only present a birth certificate (original, photocopy or certified copy), Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or naturalization certificate. U.S. citizen travelers are urged to obtain WHTI-compliant documents before entering Canada well in advance of their planned travel. For the most recent information on WHTI and WHTI-compliant documents, please see the State Department's website, or either www.cbp.gov or www.uscis.gov.
Canadian citizens are exempt from needing visas in their passports to travel to the United States. U.S. companies that require travel of foreign business persons to the United States should be advised that visa processing times vary and administrative processing may be required. Visa applicants should go to the following links for information:
State Department Visa Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/
United States Visas: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Canada: http://canada.usembassy.gov/consular_services.html
Telecommunications networks are highly sophisticated in Canada and comparable with those of the United States. Canada is integrated with the U.S. direct-dial long-distance telephone system (dial 1, the area code and the number, just like making a long-distance call in the United States). Most if not all U.S. mobile phones work in Canada, although roaming and long-distance charges may apply. Some U.S. mobile phone plans allow for roaming within Canada. All forms of communication and transmission are possible, including voice, text, data, and video, over regular phone lines, broadband and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Canada possesses an advanced transportation system comparable to that of the United States. An excellent highway and free way system exists within 200 miles of the U.S. border that connects with major U.S. interstate highways at the border and supports heavy truck, bus and automobile traffic. While all cities have reasonably priced public transport systems, Canada is as much an "automobile society" as is the United States. Gasoline is sold in liters in Canada and Canadian safety standards for cars are similar to those in the United States. International highway symbols are used in Canada, and distances and speed limits are given in kilometers. Seat belts and infant/child seat restraints are mandatory in all Canadian provinces. Fines are imposed for non-use of seat belts and child restraints. Travelers renting cars in Canada in winter should make sure that they are equipped with winter tires (mandatory in Quebec) since all-season tires start losing traction in cold weather.
The Trans-Canada Highway is a federal-provincial highway system that joins the ten provinces of Canada. The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the world's longest national highways, with the main route spanning 8,030 km (4,990 mi). The system was enacted by the Trans-Canada Highway Act of 1948. It officially opened in 1962 and was finally completed in 1971. The highway system is recognizable by its distinctive white-on-green maple leaf route markers.
Canada's truck, air and rail services are fully integrated with U.S. networks, providing efficient access to consumers and suppliers throughout North America. Canada is ranked number one for road provision among all G7 countries. The Trans-Canada Highway is the longest highway in the world at 7,821 km, linking all 10 provinces
Canada's railway system is the third largest among OECD countries at 73,000 km, with significant links to the United States. There is also easy access to Canada's major ports and to interior communities through truck-rail intermodal service.
Canada has the world's longest inland waterway open to ocean shipping, the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System. The Seaway provides a direct route to the industrial heart of North America. Major ports include Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Port Cartier, Sept Iles/Pointe Noire, Saint John and Quebec City. Modern container facilities at major ports connect with inland container trains to ensure rapid movement of goods throughout North America.
Canada's air transportation system includes 10 major international airports and over 300 smaller ones. Toronto's Pearson Airport is the busiest airport in the country, handling almost one-third of all traffic.
Canada, as a country, has two official languages: English and French. All Government of Canada services and documents are available in these two languages. English, however, is the official and most commonly spoken language of most provinces, except Quebec. In Quebec, French is the official work and most commonly spoken language. New Brunswick, home to many French-speaking people, is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Knowledge of and appreciation of French and of the history of the Birth Place of French America will be greatly beneficial in helping build relationships with Canadian business partners especially in Quebec.
Canada has attracted a huge influx of immigrants in recent years, many of whom speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and a variety of Arabic dialects. According to Canada's 2006 census, the following are the top ten languages spoken by Canadians as a home language and the relative importance in percentage of the country's total population: English 20,584,775 (67.1 percent), French 6,608,125 (21.5 percent), Chinese 790,035 (2.6 percent), Punjabi 500,000 (1.0 percent), Spanish 209,955 (0.7 percent), Italian 170,330 (0.6 percent), Dutch 159,440 (0.6 percent), Ukrainian 148,090 (0.5 percent), Arabic 144,745 (0.5 percent) and German 128,350 (0.4 percent).
The level of public health and sanitation in Canada is high. Canada's medical care is of a high standard but is government-controlled and rationed. Quick and easy access to ongoing medical care is difficult for temporary visitors who are not members of each province's government-run health care plans. Many physicians will not take new patients. Access to a specialist is only by referral and may take months to obtain. Emergency room waits can be very long. Some health care professionals in the province of Quebec may speak only French. No Canadian health care provider accepts U.S. domestic health insurance, and Medicare coverage does not extend outside the United States. Visitors who seek any medical attention in Canada should expect to pay in cash or by credit card, obtain a receipt and description of the treatment, and file their own insurance claims. Traveler's medical insurance is highly recommended even for brief visits.
Most food and other consumables available in the United States can be found in Canada.
Canada has six time zones. Newfoundland time is 4 1/2 hours ahead of Pacific Time. Local business hours are Monday to Friday, with the workday generally starting between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
Canadian federal and provincial holidays overlap with some, but not all, U.S. holidays, and differ by province.
1. In Canada, if a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is observed the following Monday.
2. Most of Canada, like the United States implement daylight savings time established in 2007.
3. The province of Quebec observes January 2 as a statutory holiday.
Business visitors to Canada may bring certain personal goods into Canada duty and tax-free, provided that all such items are declared to the Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival and are not subject to restriction. Further information on Canadian entry requirements for business travelers is available from the U.S. State Department webpage "Tips for Travelers to Canada” and Canada Border Services Agency Memorandum D2-1-1 "Temporary Importation of Baggage and Conveyances by Non-Residents."
For information on temporary entry of commercial goods and equipment, see the subchapter on Temporary Entry.
Business travelers to Canada may also be eligible for a refund of the GST/HST sales taxes paid for certain expenses in Canada such as hotel accommodations.