Cultural Differences between Vancouver & London UK

cultural differences between the UK and CanadaIf you're moving from London to Vancouver for work, ditch the tie and put down that pint.

You won't need to learn a new language or take a crash course in Vancouver business etiquette but you'll definitely need to loosen up and leave some of those big city habits behind.

Eat, meet & greet

Vancouver is a laid back city and in general, there's less of the driven long-hours work culture than there is in London.

Going to a bar for a leaving do or birthday celebration is standard practice but you won't find many takers for the regular pint after work that is so prevalent in London.

However lunch is a little more extravagant with more people going out to eat rather than sitting at their desk with the ubiquitous sandwich. But think sushi bar, café or restaurant rather than a beer-sozzled pub lunch.

If you want to have a one-on-one business meeting, head for a coffee shop. There's almost one on every corner in Vancouver.

Career development

If you haven't already done it, your CV should now be called your resume. It's common practice to leave the accent off the é.

When looking for work, don't just rely on online and newspaper job postings. Informal networks will be an important part of your professional life so start doing your research before you arrive. Networking groups in Vancouver are available for everyone from tech professionals and small business entrepreneurs to immigrant engineers and human resource specialists.

If you don't have any work lined up and want to immerse yourself in the community, consider volunteering. Voluntary work is much more common in Canada and lots of organizations need more than just fund-raisers. It's a good way to get to know people, get that "Canadian experience" employers keep talking about and keep your skills sharp. Voluntary work also looks good on your resume.

It doesn't have to be traditional charity work. There may be a conference or event related to your area of work or expertise. Sign up to help out behind-the-scenes and you will get free access to speakers, seminars etc.


French may be an official language but you won't hear too much of it in Vancouver. However, you'll need to make minor adjustments with your written and spoken English if you don't want to become the butt of jokes.

Canadian English

If writing is an important part of your job, brush up on Canadian English which is a bit of a mash up between British and American English. Like the Brits they write colour, labour, centre and metre. But they follow the Americans with the zed when they want to organize, sympathize and prioritize.

Canadians follow the Americans and write tire (tyre) but they prefer the Brit spellings of travelled, counselling and cheque.

There's no obvious set pattern, so set your spell check to Canadian English to avoid mistakes.

British English Canadian English
Toilet / loo Bathroom / washroom
Bog / loo roll Bathroom tissue
Redundant / sacked Fired / Terminated
Soft / fizzy drink Pop
Mobile phone Cell
Skiver Slacker

Loonie is not a derogative term for someone with mental illness but the informal name of the $1 coin which has a picture of a loon on the back. Hydro is short for hydro-electricity and BC Hydro is the electric company not the water company. Water bills are usually paid through the local property tax.


You'll probably get away with using words and phrases like naff, wanker, tosser, prat, shag, snog, shit-faced, arse and bollocks in the office. Many Canadians will not understand the true meaning of the words but will appreciate being given the low down on slightly rude English slang.

When people from BC mention cougars they are probably talking about the wild cats that occasionally run off with pet dogs and small children rather than women of a certain age who run around with younger men.


In terms of spoken English, slow down when you first start speaking. Your colleagues will be trying to make sense of the accent and may miss the first half of what you say. After a few month the rhythm of your speech will probably change even though you'll still have a recognizably English, Scottish, Welsh accent.

Be prepared to be mistaken for South African, a Kiwi or an Aussie. To the North American ear it apparently all sounds the same.


It's much more casual here and there is a lot less suit wearing. Even guys who wear suits often don't bother with the tie. Get ready to rock the smart but casual look.


Don't use the word trousers if you don't want to be the source of amusement. And if a colleague says "your pants look nice", don't blush. They are not talking about your underwear but your slacks, jeans etc. Also avoid the word jumper if you don't want any quizzical looks. The term sweater is the best alternative.

Water cooler talk

No one will be interested in the Premiership, the World Cup or the European Championship. If you start talking about football, they'll assume you're talking about the NFL or even worse the CFL, not soccer.

Save your footie talk for your pals back in the UK or your ex-pat mates. In Vancouver, it's all about hockey - and note that it's hockey and not ice hockey. Vancouver is filled with rabid Canuck fans (that's the Vancouver Canucks to you) that can get particularly hysterical if the team make it to the play-offs in the spring.

Good to know

You'll be getting a lot more pay cheques, even though you may be earning less money as most places pay salaries twice a month.

Annual holiday entitlement is less generous than the UK but many companies will be prepared to negotiate their advertised entitlement.

Easter Monday is not a statutory holiday in British Columbia so you might have to get used to a 3-day Easter weekend.

As a Brit, you won't be some exotic creature in the Vancouver office but you'll need to get used to the subtle changes in work culture to make sure that you fit right in.

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