Canadian Tipping Protocol, Canadian Gratuities, & Canadian Culture
- DO dress according to your destination. You can golf year-round in Victoria and it may surprise visitors that Southwestern Ontario is on the same latitude as Northern California. The weather in Alberta and the Rocky Mountains can be cold (with snow) even in the summer, but it can also be very hot.
- DON'T expect to smoke in restaurants or bars in Canada. In an increasing number of Canadian communities, there are by-laws in effect prohibiting smoking in restaurants and even bars. With the exception of the streets, you will find that smoking is restricted in most public places.
- DO expect beer to be good. Canadian beers are typically 5-8% alcohol and stronger than American beers. Microbreweries are very popular, especially in Western Canada.
Visting Someone's Home
- DO expect to remove your shoes as soon as you enter most Canadian homes. If you're unsure about this, or uncomfortable, simply ask your host if you should take your shoes off.
- DON'T reach for items on the dinner table, especially across someone else's plate. Instead request items be passed to you.
- DO bring a small gift or contribution to the evening if you are invited to a Canadian home for dinner. Flowers, a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates are typical gifts.
- DO use a handshake during greetings or introductions. Men usually wait for women to offer their hand before shaking.
- DO understand that an open, cordial manner is usually necessary when dealing with Canadian businesspeople.
- DO listen for Canadians saying "please" and "thank you" readily.
- DON'T be too loud or forward. Canadians are by nature more reserved and quieter than American neighbours, Do not hesitate to ask for directions or help in situations as Canadians are more than willing to give assistance.
- DO keep direct, but not too intense eye contact during conversations, especially when you want to convey interest and sincerity.
- DO listen for greetings are English expressions similar to those in Great Britian and the United States, such as "good morning", "good afternoon", "good evening", "hi", and "hello." Some young people have recently adopted "hey" as an informal greeting; it is used the same way as "hi", and is not meant to be disrespectful.
- DO expect to hear "How are you?". This question does not require a literal-minded, detailed answer; a simple "Fine, thank you" will suffice. When parting, common expressions are "goodbye", "bye", "have a nice day", "good night", and "see you later".
- DON'T express too much emotion in public. Most Canadians try to be tactful when dealing with other people. For the most part, they will try to avoid arguing or causing scenes in public.
- DON'T use the American expression "you all" or "y'all". It is not found in Canadian English and will immediately label you as an American.
- DO understand that Canada is proud of its multiculturalism. This multiculturalism manifests itself in part in a great acceptance of differing languages. Canadians are accustomed to speaking with people on a daily basis whose first language is not English, however, a visitor may need to be prepared to be patient and accommodating at times.
- DO understand that Francophone (French-speaking) Canadians can be very patient with visitors' poor French skills, but it is still best to make the effort to try to speak French. This is more out of courtesy or respect than effeciency. However, most bilingual people will switch to the language in which you seem to be most comfortable -- especially if they feel respected.
- DO learn a little Canadian geography. There are ten provinces which are roughly analogous to states; and three territories. The capital of Canada is Ottawa, not Toronto as many visitors may think.
- DO try and learn the metric system. 50 km/h (30 mph) is typical city speeds; highways are usually 80-110 km/h (50-70 mph). Canadians over 40 will understand the imperial system, but younger Canadians never learned it in school. Produce and meat is still sold in pounds, although on the bill it is given in grams.
- DO use the index finger to point at objects, but never at people. If you need to point at a person in public, wave your whole hand in their general direction or nod your head toward them.
- DON'T throw money or credit cards on the counter for an employee in a shop, hotel or restaurant as it is considered insulting.
- DON'T stand too close to people using Automated Bank Machines (ABMs or ATMs). 1.5-2metres or 5' is an acceptable distance.
- DO queue up in lines in stores, movie theatres, and to board public transportation. Even without a formal line, expect to be served on a "first come, first served" basis.
- DON'T barge you way into a queue or merge too late into a lane when there is a lineup -- Canadians deeply resent people who push ahead in line!
- DON'T confuse Canadians with Americans
Tipping in Canada is similar to that in the United States due to the close cultural nature of the two countries. Waiters in Canada typically receive about 15% on the after-tax total, although anywhere from 10-20% is within the average range.
Quebec and Ontario allow employers to pay lower minimum wages to workers who would reasonably be expected to be receiving tips. In Ontario, the minimum wage is $8.75 per hour, with exceptions for: Students under 18 years old and employed for not more than 28 hours a week, who are paid $8.20 per hour; and liquor servers, who are paid $7.60 per hour.
Workers who receive tips are legally required to report the income to the Canada Revenue Agency and pay income tax on it. However, many workers have been known to report no income from tips at all or, perhaps more commonly, to "lowball" the figure. In response, the CRA has vowed that it will closely check the tax returns of individuals that it would reasonably expect to be receiving tips to ensure that the tips are reported, and that the amount reported on the returns is realistic.
Our Canadian Tipping Recommendations
- Taxis and Limos: Tipping recommended, 10%
- Airport Shuttles: Tipping optional, CAD 2
- Hotel Shuttles and Carpark Shuttles: Tipping optional, CAD 1-2