How can each of us celebrate our heritage in Canada’s multicultural environment? This is the question that our speaker, Lorraine Graves, answered in the 5th IWIS event of the year on June 3rd. To put it simply: it is all about learning the expectations and the elements of the work culture.
Lorraine began her talk by naming the “Seven Pillars of Canadian Culture”, which are also the fundamental traits for building relationships. These traits are friendliness, modesty, hard work, honesty, respect, helpfulness and consideration for others. One’s demeanor is just as important. “Canadians value people who are confident and calm,” Lorraine emphasized that this is just as important as having clean teeth and tidy disposition.
She then moved on to talk about how to meet people in networking events. Instead of asking questions that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, start conversations with open-ended questions or talk about community issues or sports. She provided tip to generate and warm up conversations that is to think of potential questions that people may ask, and have some answers of your own for these questions.
If you are not sure how to act when you first meet someone, remember the power of echoing. This means that when people give you their names and business cards, give them yours. When people offer you their hands, give them a firm handshake. Don’t be afraid to politely ask someone to speak more slowly when needed.
Asking if you can seek advice from someone on a one-to-one basis is one of the great things to do to strengthen your network. Ask questions such as “where is this industry going” and “what courses should I take” and “what resources are helpful in order to get into this field” are good questions. To leave a strong impression, continue to keep in touch at three months intervals.
She then named unusual topics that are not preferred to talk about in the Canadian culture, including religion, politics, family and personal issues, money and price of things, etc.
She also introduced a comic called “Why I hate Canadians” written by Will Ferguson, as a well-rated reference for learning about different sides of the Canadian culture.
As for professional workplace behavior, she emphasized that hard work is one of the pillars. Other decent habits are not to leave the work promptly, and stay for at least 10 minutes to make sure everything is in place. It would be appropriate to provide a decent explanation when you have to leave early. Although the exact details strongly depend on the organization’s culture, follow these rules if you are not sure.
Other items mentioned include respecting human rights (specifically that of women, immigrants, LGBT, and first nations), knowing common Canadian idioms, taking care of one’s appearance (moderate use of make-up and perfume), not drinking too much at work-related parties, never rejecting home invitations by colleagues if possible, not giving expensive gifts at work, and not judging people based on their ethnicities.
Lorraine expressed her admiration for our participants and congratulated them for coming to the event, an excellent place to meet a group of supportive women. She ended the night with an inspiring line: “Keep your head and spirit up. You have gone this far in your journey. Your hard work will pay off.”
The event went on with great questions from the audience. They had such a great time that the networking continued longer than expected!