Understanding Canadian work culture was at the top of my to-do list as an international student — one that I thought I’d get to experience only after graduating. Getting work experience in different countries teaches you about the cultural nuances that make the workplace thrive, and that was something I was eager to learn.
I got the opportunity to experience it first-hand much sooner than I’d expected when I landed a part-time position at IGNITE shortly after arriving in the country (yes, I really lucked out.) Over the past nearly two years, I’ve learnt a lot about what working in Canada is like, right from conversations to coffee breaks to work outfits. This knowledge was invaluable during my co-op and helped me in networking and making an impact, something I’m very grateful for.
I asked IGNITE’s part-time staff to offer observations about things they learned about Canadian work and office culture at IGNITE that differs from their home countries. Safe to say, we got a bunch of interesting opinions that showcase what you might probably experience the first time you work for an organization in Canada. Let’s dive in and discover some of them!
First names are cool
You can address coworkers and your boss or manager by their first name, unlike many other countries where last names, titles or even “boss” is expected when addressing a supervisor. This holds true for most Canadian workplaces too. However, you should always observe what is followed at your place of work first because specific organizations may have different company cultures and expectations.
Small talk is good
At most workplaces in Canada, small talk or casual conversations are normal and appreciated. Chat over coffee and lunch breaks or catch up with colleagues for a few minutes when you arrive at work in the morning or leave for the day. Personally, learning how to make small talk or chat casually at IGNITE helped me immensely when I networked during my co-op. It gave me the chance to connect with senior managers and business leaders who I didn’t have the chance to work with directly, helping me make an impression.
Asking questions is FINE
You should freely ask questions if you don’t get instructions or need clarity. Whether it’s asking your manager follow-up questions to instructions or getting clarifications on a deliverable, it’s good to ask. In some work cultures, it can be considered rude to ask for clarifications, especially in group settings. Not being afraid to ask questions helped me immensely during my co-op. In fact, it gave me opportunities to learn a lot beyond just the task at hand.
Bonding over coffee runs
The collective and overwhelming love for coffee at the workplace surprised even me, a self-confessed coffee addict. When you go for a coffee run, ask your colleagues (the ones around you or that you work closely with) if they’d like a coffee too (you’ll be a fast favourite). Going on coffee breaks together to the closest Tim Hortons or Starbucks soon became one of my favourite morning rituals and actually helped me bond with a lot of colleagues.
Team building is serious business
Bringing teams closer with team-building activities is taken very seriously. You’ll bond at more than just year-end get togethers! Here, team lunches are very popular, as are frequent team games such as scavenger hunts, office trivia, BINGO and escape rooms. Managers do a lot to bring teams together and break the ice. For me, these activities presented important opportunities to get to know colleagues I didn’t closely work with and improved my network.
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