Montréal is a city of diversity, and that is also apparent in its economy. It is the second largest economy in Canada in term of GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, and has strong financial, commercial, tourism, industrial, medical, technological, petrochemical, aerospace, entertainment, and political sectors. The GDP was $126 billion in 2008 and is only expected to grow in the following years. Several major companies call Montréal home: CGI Group, Desjardins Group, Bombardier, Inc. Saputo, Cirque du Soleil, Hydro-Quebec, National Bank of Canada, IBM Canada, and Bell Canada to name just a few.
A growing facet of Montréal’s economy is the video game industry. Ubisoft was the first developer to come to the city, and since then EA, Eidos Interactive, Strategy First, and Artificial Mind and Movement have followed. In addition, Montréal has a thriving film and television industry. Not only is a popular shooting location for film and television (it even doubles as European cities now and then), many big name studios are headquartered here, including five that are part of the National Film Board of Canada, which is an Academy Award-winning producer and distributor.
The festivals that celebrate Montréal’s heritage and culture also contribute to its economy. The Montréal Jazz Festival and the World Film Festival, for instance, are world renowned and draw large international and domestic crowds. Montréal received 14 million visitors in 2005 from Japan, Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and other parts of Canada. The tourism trade is responsible for tens of thousands of jobs in the city.
Montréal comes by its reputation as a “miniature” Europe quite honestly. You will see the same kind of attention to attire and personal appearance as Montréal is a fashion-conscious city. Even casual dress is dressier than their neighbors to the south. Visiting businesspeople should dress conservatively yet stylishly. A suit and tie is appropriate for men, and a suit with skirt or pants, is appropriate for women.
Even when you are going into restaurants or certain clubs in your free time, it is better to dress up rather than down. You won’t be overdressed. When in doubt, go with nice jeans and a collared shirt for men, and jeans and a nice blouse or dress for women. Some clubs have dress codes for men, requiring jacket and tie and prohibiting sandals or sneakers. This will be the rule for high end establishments, so make sure to dress accordingly.
Greeting Someone in Montréal
When meeting a business associate, shake hands firmly and introduce yourself using your first and last name. Address the other people by their title and last name unless they ask you to call them by their first name.
Business Hours and Banking
According to Montréal law, stores may stay open from 9:00am to 9:00pm Monday through Friday, and 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekends. You will find that many stores and shops are closed on Monday. Many shops that are open on Monday close earlier than 9:00pm that evening, as well as on Tuesday and Wednesday. Banks are typically open from 10:00am to 3:00pm Monday through Thursday and 10:00am to 5:00pm or 6:00pm Friday. You will find some in the city that offer extended afternoon hours, as well as limited Saturday morning hours. All banks close on national holidays.
Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, such as museums, schools, airports, and malls. While not universally banned, you will find that many businesses do not allow smoking on the premises at all. It is considered rude to smoke in front of non-smokers, especially children. If you see an area marked as a smoking zone or where other smokers are having a cigarette, then it is pretty safe to light up.
Many Montréal businesses use primarily English. It is helpful to know a little French before meeting with colleagues or business associate. At the very least you should know how to say, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak French” or “Je suis désolé. Je ne parle pas de français.” Avoid saying, “Do you speak English?” or “Vous faire parle l'anglais?” Why? This questions their knowledge. It is better to admit your own ignorance! If you have documents, providing a summary in French will be a nice gesture. If you know that the company is completely French speaking, make sure you have the appropriate documents translated.
The business atmosphere is less formal than you will find in many European cities and is more on par with American business etiquette. After you have been introduced, it is appropriate to use first names unless otherwise indicated, such as if someone makes the point to introduce himself as “Mr. Smith.” Typical business hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm or as late as 7:00pm. It is always appropriate to offer or exchange business cards either at the beginning or conclusion of your first meeting. It is also very common to have more informal breakfast or dinner meetings.
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