Working in Canada?
Expat Business Info Canada
What to Begin With: Social Security
In Canada expats enjoy a fairly comprehensive social security system, although not all existing benefits apply to non-permanent residents working in Canada. Canadian welfare policies consist of tax-financed measures, mandatory schemes as well as private savings.
Social security schemes include employment insurance, with mandatory contributions from both employer and employee. Some provinces also have a mandatory Worker’s Compensation scheme, to which only employers have to contribute.
Making Provisions: Your Pension Plan
Concerning retirement provisions, there is a public retirement plan, consisting of two separate components. The first part is the Old Age Security Pension (OAS), a basic, tax-financed pension intended to cover basic needs. Only Canadian nationals and legal residents who have lived and worked in Canada for a minimum of ten years receive this pension.
The second component, the so-called Canada Pension Plan (or Québec Pension Plan in the province of Québec), is financed with equal contributions from both employee and employer. It is supposed to cover around 25% of the former income during retirement. Private savings and additional company retirement plans account for the remaining funds.
Health Insurance — Are You Covered?
As opposed to its southern neighbor, the United States, Canada supplies its citizens with a state-funded health insurance plan, the so-called “Medicare”. This insurance covers basic medical care, and is financed by taxes, fees and monthly premiums.
Expats whose work permit is valid for more than six months are usually included in the public healthcare system. Most expat family members, however, are not covered under Medicare and need private health insurance. Canada has a number of social security agreements with other countries in order to eliminate dual social security taxation and fill gaps in benefit provisions for people who have worked abroad. Expats are advised to check the respective agreement with their home country.
English and French — Canada’s Two Official Languages
Canada has two official languages: English and French. While French is the official language in Québec, all other provinces use English as their main language. When moving to Canada, expats should speak the respective language of the province where they will be living. Although Canada is officially bilingual, the second language (French) plays virtually no role in daily life outside of Québec. Public services are available in English and French throughout the country, though.
In the business world, speaking both languages can be a huge advantage, as many companies operate in both Québec and the English-speaking provinces. Those planning to live and work in Québec should know that Québecois French may be very different from the variety of French spoken in France.
Business Etiquette — Behaving in a Proper Manner
As far as social etiquette is concerned, both in the business world and in everyday life, things are usually much more informal than in other countries. It is common to move to a first-name basis very quickly. If in doubt, though, you should always wait for the other person to invite you to do so. Honorific titles are usually not used at all.
Table manners are relatively relaxed too, even if you attend an official business dinner. One more thing to note: Canadians normally leave doors open. Therefore, if someone closes a door, it means that they do not want to be disturbed. It would be considered very rude to open the door without invitation, i.e. knocking first.
Again, It’s Slightly Different in Québec
As with so many other things, what holds true for the rest of Canada does not necessarily apply to Québec. Social etiquette tends to be slightly more formal here. Generally speaking, you should address everyone with a polite “Monsieur” or “Madame”. Academic titles are important and should always be used as well. Table manners are also more formal, and it is common to greet someone by lightly kissing them on the cheeks, instead of the usual handshake.
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