Calgary and Quebec City are sister cities. This great connection might link both cities together, but the status of Sister City might be stronger on paper than in reality. The workplace and the way to approach business in Alberta and in Quebec are definitely different. Any businessman wanting to make a successful connection should be aware of these cultural differences, especially from a sales/marketing perspective.
Shakespeare VERSUS Molière
The language is the obvious difference. Some Quebec Francophones are scared of having to deal for a full-day in English. Many Quebecers know that they should have taken their “ESL” class (English as a Second Language) more seriously in high-school, but the classes were so boring and often given by a Francophone with poor English… On the other hand, Western Canadians, who for the most part don’t need to know French, see the language barrier as being huge. Some are ready to jump in by hiring the right people to take care of the eastern market and others will just ignore this Canadian market.
Anglophones are straight forward: first name is used right away, sentences and emails are shorter. Francophones are more formal: Monsieur Lastname, with longer emails to show that you care and therefore, are willing to make an effort.
A Cowgirl Who Doesn’t Like Beef
Business lunches are popular in Alberta and Quebec; however, they are treated differently. In Quebec, it is common to go out for hours and come back at the office even after a drink or two. People from Quebec will talk about their personal life more quickly and sometimes give very personal information. Albertan lunches are straighter forward; they start at 12pm sharp; no alcohol (or less except during the Stampede) and of course, vegetarians will struggle with the beef menus. Lunches at the workplace are another notable difference. In Quebec, nobody will be left behind; cafeterias will be full and offices will be empty; in Western Canada, people take their lunch inside their offices. I have to admit, it gives me time to read the newspaper or go for a walk.
Because Family Matters…and Religion Too!
Did you know that Alberta has a statutory holiday dedicated to the family, which is called “The Family’s day” and that Quebec doesn’t? A hundred years ago, it was common to have families of 14 children in Quebec, but since then couples don’t get married so much, don’t have as many children and friends are become the new family. The family day was introduced in Alberta in 1990. It’s supposed to reflect values that were important to pioneers, and give the workers the opportunity to spend more time with their loved ones.
Religion is now marginal in Quebec and therefore religious weddings are rare and “thanking God for our meal” is anecdotal. A boyfriend or girlfriend can mean a long term relationship as much as husband or wife. In Alberta, I have to call my boyfriend “my husband,” since we’ve been together forever, but we aren’t married. In Alberta, I had a networking event where there was a prayer and we all sang the Canadian National Anthem before the meal; this doesn’t happen in Quebec, although I remember a meal at a Quebec City restaurant called “Le Saint Amour” that would have deserved a prayer and the Canadian National Anthem both in French and English.
How To guide
This post is way too short to be a How To guide, but I think knowing that the right adjustments are necessary when doing business with “the other solitude” is key, and the marketing plan needs to be tailored.
* Pictures from: Tourism Calgary & Tourism Quebec City