Soft Skills in the Canadian Workplace

Are you are planning to move to Canada? Are you are looking for work? Do you have an up-to-date resume and have you practiced answering interview questions in front of your mirror? Great start! However, keep in mind that Canada is a very multicultural country. Because of that, you will also need to be aware of your interpersonal skills and have cultural competency to find work in Canada.

When I moved to Canada from Germany 11 years ago and started working, I noticed quickly how friendly everyone was at my workplace. Colleagues were checking in with me, asking about my weekend, or how my family was doing. I didn’t ask anyone about their free-time activities or where they went on vacation. Those conversations seemed awkward to me. When I was working in Germany, “chatting” with co-workers during work hours was not common. I thought my Canadian colleagues were just chatting with me because I was new, but after a few weeks, I realized that they did the same Small Talk with Canadians that they have worked with for years. Those conversations were often brief, but had a big impact on the mood and atmosphere in the office. I started to enjoy the social connections at my workplace and since then have learned to adapt to the many cultural differences I encountered.

Cultural competency is the ability to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures. Being a culturally competent individual will make it easier for you to develop the Soft Skills needed in Canadian Workplaces.

In Canada, eye contact, a firm handshake, appropriate use of personal space, a friendly smile and small talk are necessary to establish rapport and build relationships. However, during the Covid19 pandemic, you should remember to wave instead of a handshake to greet your colleagues, and personal space is more important than ever. Always keep 2 meters apart when possible. In times where masks are required at the workplace, eye contact is also very important, as many facial expressions are invisible behind the mask. It may also be hard to hear or to be heard when wearing a mask, keep in mind that it is ok to ask for clarifications. It may also be necessary to repeat or rephrase when you are speaking yourself. It may be difficult to navigate some of the things during these times, so asking questions and keeping an open mind is a way to go.

Canadian Employers have “Canadian Experience” high on their list of requirements. Many immigrants worry that lack of work experience in a Canadian workplace will hinder their success, but that is not what “Canadian Experience” means. It really is the question of “fit”, in other words your communication, attitude, teamwork and conflict management skills need to be up to Canadian standards. Those standards and expectations vary all over the world. Being culturally aware is the first step to adapt to Canadian ways. So you can ask yourself: “What does workplace culture look like in my home country?” After I realized the differences between German and Canadian Workplace Culture, it was easy to fit in.

If you are interested in learning more about ‘Canadian Workplace Culture’, contact us for information about our Soft Skills Courses. SOPA is offering four different 2-week-long Soft Skills Courses, for example ‘Working With Others’ or ‘Social Interactions’.


Written by: Anika Sweet, Cultural Communications Facilitator, SOPA Atlantic


Anika works with the SOPA team at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and facilitates SOPA Soft Skills Courses. With a background in teaching English as an Additional Language she has just the right tools to support clients in improving their communication skills for the Canadian Workplace.