Canada: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Canada

Usual courtesies are observed in Canada, including exchanging business cards and making appointments. Formal business attire is expected and handshakes are common when first meeting someone.

Entertaining others is usually confined to restaurants and bars, rarely in private homes. You might be taken to an ice hockey match if the company has box seats.

Toronto has often been ridiculed as an uptight city - Toronto the Good, as its detractors say. But while this perception is out of date, its legacy survives in the city's approach to business. A little chit chat here and there is welcome but generally, people like getting to the point. The giving of gifts in business situations is unusual and might be treated suspiciously. In the workplace, it is common to answer the telephone by stating one's first and last name. Around the office, however, people (both superiors and co-workers) are usually addressed by first name.

Office hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1700.


Canada is one of the world's leading trading nations and a member of the G7. The country has immense natural resources and a high standard of living.

Agriculture and fisheries are particularly important; Canada exports much of its agricultural produce (principally grain and oilseeds) and is one of the world's largest exporters of fish. Timber is another important sector, given that more than 40% of the land area is forest.

As a mineral producer, Canada exports crude oil and natural gas, copper ore, iron ore, coal and peat. Energy requirements are met by a mixture of hydroelectric, nuclear, coal, oil-fired generating stations and non-hydro renewables. Manufacturing covers a wide range of industries from heavy engineering and chemicals to vehicle production and agro-business to office automation and commercial printing.

Regarding exports, almost 75% of the country's trade is with the USA. Other trading partners include China, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

The 1988 Free Trade Agreement signed with the USA formed the basis for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Mexico joined as the third signatory in 1994. The future of NAFTA remains uncertain as US President Donald Trump seeks to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.

Canada’s prudent economic policies have allowed it to weather the worst of the global economic downturn, with growth recovering to 3.1% in 2010 after being impacted by the 2008 financial crisis. In 2018, growth was at 1.9 percent.


US$1.65 trillion (2017).

Main exports

Motor vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, crude and refined petroleum and petroleum gas.

Main imports

Machinery and technical equipment, industrial goods, motor vehicles and parts, fuels and oils, and medicines.

Main trading partners

China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, UK and USA.

Keeping in Touch in Canada


Most public telephones charge 50 cents per local call, which can be paid with any combination of five-, 10- and 25-cent coins. Public telephones are becoming harder to find, due to the popularity of mobile phones. For long-distance calls, telephone cards are available. You can find credit card telephones in larger centres. If you’re near an internet café, you can use Skype too.

Mobile phone

Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good in major urban areas, but spotty in remote locations. Roaming rates can be high, so you should check with your provider before leaving home.


Available throughout Canada, as are internet cafes (although the latter are not as common as they are in many other countries). You can often find pay-per-use Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, fast-food outlets and airports; in some cases, it’s free as long as you buy a drink or something to eat. Free public Wi-Fi is easiest to find in public libraries. Some hotels provide free Wi-Fi too, but others continue to charge for Wi-Fi usage.


Stamps are available at post offices and in many hotels, pharmacies and convenience stores, among other locations. Letters sent by regular mail take four to six working days to reach the USA and four to seven working days to reach other countries.

Post office hours

Generally, Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0900-1200, but times vary according to province and location; city offices will have longer hours. Canada Post ( has a full list of locations and hours.


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is Canada’s national broadcaster. It was set up in the 1930s and broadcasts in both French and English via TV, radio, internet and satellite. The main national daily newspapers are The Globe and Mail and The National Post. French-language daily newspapers are published in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. Regional English-language daily newspapers are also published in individual provinces.


The national radio broadcaster is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). They have localised radio stations for cities such as the CBC Radio 1 Calgary and CBF-FM (Montreal).

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.