Body Language in Canadaadmin2019-04-04T20:48:40+00:00
WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT BODY LANGUAGE IN CANADA
Body Language in Canada Quiz
Check your answers below
1. Easy Question:
Employers will look at your body language during a job interview.
a) True b) False
2. Easy Question:
The meaning of certain gestures and behaviours in Canada is different than in other countries.
a) True b) False
3. More Difficult:
In Canada, crossed arms could be interpreted as ‘I’m not interested’.
a) True b) False
4. More Difficult:
Touching a co-worker during a conversation is part of the Canadian culture.
a) True b) False
The size of the intimate zone of most Canadians is
a) 25 cm from the body b) 35 cm from the body c) 45 cm from the body
During a job interview, the most appropriate place for your hands is
a) on your lap or your stomach b) holding your resume with both hands c) crossed in front of you on the table d) open in front of you, one hand holding a pen
Check your answers below
Body Language in Canada
New immigrants who are going to a job interview or joining the workforce need to learn the meaning of certain gestures and behaviours in Canada in order to successfully find a job, pass the probation and get ahead in their careers in the future. The most important concept to learn is the difference between the Open and the Closed body language.
Open vs. Closed Body Language
Closed Body Language says: “I’m not friendly.” Let’s look at some examples:
a closed fist
Open Body Language says “I’m friendly.” For example:
open palms of your hands
arms along your sides
feet shoulder width apart
making eye contact
Personal Space and Touch in Canadian Culture
Canadians have a very large intimate zone – 45 cm – and only family members and close friends are allowed to be in that zone. So, do not come up to a Canadian and stand closer than 45 centimeters to them (unless you are on a crowded bus, in which case the rule does not apply).
It’s not a good idea to touch your Canadian co-workers during a conversation – it can make them very angry inside, even though most likely they will not show it. Only if a Canadian touches your first, then you can reciprocate the gesture because it means they are comfortable with it. However, majority of people born in Canada do not feel comfortable being touched by co-workers multiple times during a conversation.
If you come up to a person to talk and they suddenly step away from you, STOP!!! This means you came up too close. Stand where you are and talk from that distance.
If you see a person fall down, DO NOT rush to help them up. First, make eye contact and ask: “Do you need help getting up?” Only when they say ‘Yes’ it is okay to touch them! If you touch a person without their permission, you may be shocked at their angry reaction. Be careful. Always ask first.
Other points to keep in mind:
Do not touch other people’s children.
Teenagers (high school kids) will hug each other (girls can hug boys and boys can hug girls).
Holding hands is a romantic gesture – if you are walking down the street holding hands, people might think you are in love.
Body Language at a Job Interview
Hold out your hand and give a firm – but not bone-crushing – handshake. Your hand should be dry and warm. When you arrive at the job interview site, go to the washroom and run hot water on your hands and wrists if your hands tend to be cold. Keep a tissue in your hand so that your hand is not sweaty when it’s time to give a handshake. Remember: a limp (weak) and damp hand shake makes a very bad first impression.
Immigrants from certain countries, for example from Eastern Europe, tend to give a handshake that is too strong for Canadians, while immigrants from certain Asian countries make it too soft. Practice your handshake before the interview with someone who knows Canadians norms and will be able to give you feedback on what you’re doing wrong.
A good handshake is like a hug to a hand. It should be deep – web to web – and not just the fingers touching. Only touching a person’s fingers is considered a sign of a lack of confidence in Canada. Once your hands met, give two good pumps – up and down twice – and let go.
Two other important components of a good handshake are eye contact and smile. Look the person in the eye as you are shaking their hands – it’s a sign of honesty, friendliness and confidence.
How you sit during the job interview is really important. Your posture should show energy and enthusiasm. The way to do it is to sit closer to the edge of the chair (not all the way to the back). This will keep your back straight. A slouching posture means ‘I’m tired and I don’t care.’ Another trick is to lean slightly towards the interviewer. This shows interest in the conversation. Your hands should be visible – keep them on the table and not on your lap! Place a folder with a copy of your resume and references in front of you, hold a pen in one hand and gesture with your hands once in a while as you speak. Make sure the interviewer can sometimes see the open palm of your hand – this conveys honestly and openness in Canada.
The appropriate length of eye contact in Canada is 2-3 seconds, after which you are expected break the eye contact and look at the person’s hands, shoulders, hair or other part of their face. You don’t want to stare though because it shows aggression. Also, do not constantly look around the room while you’re talking as it will be interpreted as lack of confidence, discomfort with what is being discussed, or even lying.
Canadians listen with their eyes. If you are not making eye contact (your eyes are down), Canadians will assume you are not listening to them. This can be also interpreted as disrespect. Remember: it is a sign of RESPECT to make eye contact with a person who is speaking to you.
As we have already mentioned, keep your hands visible – don’t hide them on your lap. Gesturing (moving your hands) will show that you are enthusiastic about the job and what you’re discussing. However, you have to be careful not to gesture with your fingers. Pointing at someone or something with a finger is considered an aggressive gesture so always point with the whole hand. Another thing to remember is not to touch your mouth while you’re talking. The interviewer might think you are lying!
While gesturing, your arms and hands should stay within the triangle the top of which is your head and the bottom points are your elbows at the level of your chest.
Consider your background. People from certain Asian countries are taught to keep their hands immobile during business interactions which will be perceived as ‘uninterested’ in Canada, while people from some other countries, for example from Italy, tend to gesture too much from a Canadian point of view which will be interpreted as lack of control and being disorganized.
Body Language at Work
Body language plays a critical role at work. The first impression people have of you is largely achieved through your body language as people did not yet have time to get to know you otherwise. The problem with the first impression is that it is very hard to change later. When you first meet your manager, supervisor and co-workers, you want to make a positive first impression on them. Later, as you meet new clients/customers on a daily basis, you also want to make a positive first impression. This will be a solid beginning of each new relationship you’re trying to build and will help you in the future when you need to get good references, recommendations, apply for a better position or ask for a raise. It will also help you to build relationships with customers or clients to ensure they are happy with a service so that they keep coming back.
What people notice:
how you are dressed
the expression on your face
how you shake hands
eye contact or lack of it
tone of your voice
how close your stand to them
Behaviours and their Meaning
Hands on hips = I want to argue
Arms crossed = I’m not interested
Slumping in chair = I’m tired and/or bored
Hands in pockets = I’m preoccupied (busy thinking about something else)
Fingers tapping = I’m nervous
Leaning on one hip = I’m smarter than you
Eyes wondering = I’m distracted or bored
Eyebrows raised = I’m surprised
Stern expression = I’m angry
Hands clenched = I’m angry
Shaking foot while sitting = I’m nervous, I want to leave
Leaning on a desk with elbows = I’m tired
Eyes fixed (staring) = I’m dazed or I’m trying to assert myself
Harsh or strong tone of voice = I’m angry
Soft tone of voice = I’m upset or I’m shy
To make a positive impression on people you meet and interact with, the following behaviours would be a good alternative:
Stand tall with feet planted squarely, arms loosely at your sides
Sit up straight, slightly leaning towards the person in front of you
Focus your eyes on the speaker, breaking the eye contact every 2 seconds but keep looking in their direction
The following behaviours are considered unprofessional in Canada:
dragging one’s feet while walking (tired, lazy, lack of confidence)
chewing gum while speaking (disrespectful)
checking text messages (not listening, not paying attention)
eating / drinking in front of customers (disrespectful)
combing hair, putting on make-up (self-centered, unprofessional)
Important point to remember:
Canada is a multicultural country. Not all the people you meet here were born in this country. Also, the children of immigrants are bi-cultural which means they will exhibit behaviours from both their parents’ culture and the Canadian culture. Whenever you meet a person, observe them and their body language. You will notice a lot of variations. The safe way to go about it is to make ‘Canadian body language’ your default behaviour and later modify it based on what each individual person is comfortable with.