Culture Shock for French in Quebec



The relationship between Quebecers and the French people who live among them, has been described as that of the relationship between two peoples divided by a common language.

A couple of migrants from France, spoke to the New York Times about the culture shock they witness daily while living in Montréal.  Louis Myard, a politics student at the University of Montreal, quoted in the NY times article said the cultural difference was so great that “a Mexican and a Chinese person had more in common than a Frenchman and a Quebecer.”

“We play soccer, Quebecers play hockey,” he said. “We say “diner,” (dinner) they say “souper” (supper); we prefer wine, they prefer beer; we smoke cigarettes, they smoke pot.”

Twenty two year old Myard, saidthe difference was glaring in almost all aspects of their lives. Even in romance, Quebec was a more feminist region while France on the other hand, had a “machismo” culture.

“I have been glared at for opening the door for a Quebecois woman and once called a Quebecois girl I liked, ‘my little baby,’” he said. “She got very annoyed and said, ‘I am not your baby!’”

Speaking further on the issue, Salomé Zimmerlin, a part-time French model and student, who was also quoted in the article, admitted she was rather shocked when she noticed Quebecers use the informal pronoun “tu” rather than the more formal “vous” even when talking to strangers, even though she immediately adopted the informality.

Other Quebec expressions which surprised the model include “ma blonde” which means “my girlfriend” in Quebec but means “my blonde” to any listening French.

Zimmerlin however admitted that she loved the society which she said was far less rigid than hierarchical France, and was excited to be opening up a fashion label in Quebec.

“If I had tried to start a fashion label in Paris, people would’ve laughed in my face due to my lack of experience,” she said. “Here, the reaction was, ‘Show me what you can do!’”

There are a whole lot of French people just like Zimmerlin in Montréal, people who come in search of the American dream, and who obviously chose a region which they share the same language. Most of these migrants expected to also share a similar culture as the Quebec people, but this turned out to be untrue. However, this has not stopped the two regions from forging an amiable relationship.

Adeline Alleno, a 29-year-old from Paris, who was also interviewed, revealed that she had spent about $17,000 on her master’s degree program in France, and after graduation, the only job she could find was at a shoe store. She migrated to Montréal, and was able to land a senior marketing role in a few weeks.

“Here I can find a good job, buy a house, am close to nature and have quality of life, and I can still live in French,” she said, adding: “I am angry at France for failing me.”

This could be the reason why despite the numerous cultural misunderstandings witnessed by these migrants, the French invasion in Montréal shows no sign of ending.


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