I've been invited to a zoom interview at UBC, Canada, for a tenure track job in physics. I'm more or less familiar with the US academic system and how either the phone/zoom interviews or campus visits go, but this is my first experience in Canada and I don't know if the do's and don'ts between the two cultures are similar or not. Any suggestions?

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I've worked in both countries, though I'm in the social sciences. Expect broad similarities - Canada and the U.S. act a lot more alike in terms of academia than the U.S. and the UK do, and the department will be accustomed to people from a range of backgrounds. Here are some subtle points of divergence.

  • There are some minor dialect differences in terminology about higher education, so don't be surprised by that (where Americans would use a generic "college" or "college students," Canadians almost always use "university" and "university students." In Canada a "college" is a trade school or community college or specialized postsecondary institution that does not legally have full "university" status).

  • Undergraduate education is generally far more affordable in Canada, at least for domestic students. American-style jokes about student loans may come across as exaggerated, unfortunately (though most of the largest cities in Canada are experiencing a cost-of-living crisis, and it's been hard on students).

  • Probably best to avoid talking about American/international politics unless someone else brings up the subject first. Canadians do very likely have opinions and these are often well-developed (Canadians watch the U.S. intensely and often critically, especially as the political center is farther left than that of the U.S.), but are overall culturally much quieter about discussing politics openly, especially among strangers. I've seen candidates occasionally blurt out the wrong thing and unwittingly alienate the onlookers. Even self-deprecation is a bad idea: I watched someone visit our campus from the U.S., joke about Americans being [personality-related stereotype], get severely frowned at by the chair of the search committee - who is American - and not be offered the job.

  • Sometimes people from the U.S. end up chatting about cross-border issues and unwittingly go overboard on insisting that Canadians count as Americans too, because (the reasoning goes) they are also from North America. I recommend not doing that. "American" on its own to Canadians very clearly means "from the United States," and insistence that things are otherwise can seem like weird semi-imperialism.

  • White folks in British Columbia have been reckoning in a very big way with the ghastly legacy of anti-Indigenous racism (among other things) since contact. Be aware, expect to see land acknowledgments and possibly more efforts everywhere, and don't joke about it. (This goes for most of Canada, but B.C. is farther ahead in its efforts than most of the rest of the country is.) It's very much a work in progress. Indigenous folks as a collective right now are probably best referred to as Indigenous (not "Native Canadians" and certainly not "Indian" unless a given Indigenous person states a preference for that). You might also hear "First Nations," though technically that's a subset. Avoid using phrases that suggest that Indigenous people somehow belong to Canada, because that kind of assumption is part of the problem.

  • Be aware that if anyone with Canadian citizenship is on the shortlist, they may have a minor advantage due to anti-"brain drain" measures - though this is not a guarantee of anything and many departments have people from the U.S. and abroad. I have an American colleague we hired over a Canadian competitor years ago.

Vancouver's a wonderful city - best of luck!

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    Feb 8, 2023 at 20:09

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