When you arrive in a new country you necessarily notice cultural differences between your new and your home country. And in Quebec, although French is spoken, there are lots of differences with France. In terms of language, for example, we can already see some changes – words and expressions that do not have the same meaning, adaptations in the grammar or in sentence structures, another accent – you may need a little bit of time to get used to it.
When I arrived in Canada I discovered another world with smiling, courteous, and honest people, who respect each other and who follow the rules. For those who follow the The Walking Dead series, Quebec is a bit like being in Alexandria, a prosperous area away from the Apocalypse and zombies. Or when you come from France, a country where scam and fraud are kings, you can naturally ask yourself if everything you discover in Quebec is real and also how it is possible. This is all the more surprising for someone like me who grew up in the ghetto, in the suburbs of Paris. In a world where conflict zones are growing, is it possible to live in a place where peace prevails, with model citizens who respect and follow the rules, far from war and violence? Welcome to my new world, Quebec! Some of my friends call it the Bisounours world (you know this cartoon with those small bears who are so cute!).
Today I offer you to discover 10 cultural differences between France and Quebec. This could be useful for people who wish to travel or to settle in Quebec.
1 – To say hello
In Quebec people say hello but avoid contacts at all costs! No kisses or handshakes. At first it was difficult for me to understand that. Indeed during my first days at work, I went around every morning to say hello to my colleagues and to shake their hands. Two weeks later people told me kindly that I did not have to do that, because it was not in the culture. In Quebec you only shake hands with someone when you meet this person for the first time!
2 – Queuing
Ah the famous line-up! It is a rather pleasant side especially when you’re used to the jungle and wild people. In Quebec people get in line nicely, without rushing and in the order of arrival. And in Quebec people are never getting ahead of you because it’s forbidden. Queuing is not a joke, it is a very serious matter, no one is joking with that. It is a matter of honor and almost like a religion! One day I had the misfortune to try get ahead of someone (an ordinary thing to do in France), and a few seconds later there were already dozens of people mad at me. It’s not as if I had committed a crime of anything, but still it was not far from the truth. Also you will notice that some places become popular thanks to their long queue.
3 – Taxes
In France diplayed prices are always with taxes. Whether you go shopping or to any store, they are always included. Even in restaurants the service is included. But in Quebec it is not the case. At first everything will seem cheap and affordable but then you will probably be surprised when it will be the time for you to pay.
Last summer my Parisians friends, M & M, came to visit me in Quebec. One night we were at the restaurant, and when the checks came, I told them that they had to add a minimum of 15% to the bill for the tip. One detail that did not appreciate my friend Don, who went totally crazy: “30$ for a tip, I have never paid so much in my life! It’s a robbery! Shameful ! Disgraceful!”.
And if you’re French and you go to a bar waiters will often ask you not to forget the tip: “You know that the service is not included?” The kind of comment not very professional nor pleasant to hear when you are a customer. It looks like those “omissions” are rather common for French people.
4 – The low density
One thing that stucked in my mind when I arrived last year: the low density. No one in the streets. So much so that during my first days in Quebec I felt like I was in a ghost town. Besides, when I go out with my friends, we are sometimes the only customers of the places where we go. That changes from a big city like Paris and its crowd, no matter where you go! My family and my friends visiting Quebec City from France had the same impressions, here are some examples of their reactions: “Are there more people in other places?” or “Are we downtown here?”.
5 – Trusting others
In the best of worlds people trust each other. That is not true in many countries, but in Canada you can trust others. Forget your wallet somewhere? No problem, simply go back to this place and you will find them for sure!
when you come from Paris you always have this reflex of always checking your things or to pay attention to everything around you, because you are never far from being robbed or something. In Quebec it’s completely different. The first time I went ice skating with a friend I was quite surprised about leaving my stuff in the middle of others, without using a locker. At the end there was really nothing to fear. Same thing on the bus if you want to pay a ticket in cash, you need to insert your coins into a machine (with no meter) and the driver is not even checking the amount you put it in.
6 – Avoid conflicts
In the Bisousours land you never fight, so that there are never conflicts. You just try to please everybody and you do not tell bad things about other people.
Besides, nobody will ever tell bad things to you. At least not in front of you.
Recently at work I had the bad idea of asking the opinion of my colleagues, through a survey, about something that bothered me. As a result I was called by my bosses and I was told kindly that it was not right to take such actions, and that it was better if I kept my mouth shut next time. People do not like rebels in Quebec. Maybe that is why people are giving drugs to children who are a little bit restless (i.e. running around), or people who get upset when they are driving. Well, I didn’t know that having emotions was a disease.
In the end people are silent, and even if they have things in their heart they will not dare to say a word because in Quebec the criticism is necessarily negative. A democracy? Rather a form of dictatorship of kindness, with no right to freedom of expression.
7 – Be on time
In France it is possible for people to arrive a few minutes late at an appointment. Nothing shocking there if you are French. Not in Quebec, because people are never late. Whether at work or if you go to a show, regardless of the hour people will never be late. Time is time. And after the time it is no more the time, which means roughly one minute after the time of your appointment: people won’t wait for you! It’s almost a question of honor, and those who arrive late are not seen in a positive way. At first I did not understand why people looked at me strangely when I was coming a little bit late to meetings at work or to appointments. Now I know. Besides my colleagues from Quebec often make this joke: “Oh yeah, it’s always the French people who are late.” Always with a smile that hides some sort of exasperation. So my advice to you guys: be on time!
8 – The male-female relationship
The province of Quebec is great for women for relationships with men. Respect, consideration and no sexist jokes at work. Moreover men never talk about women at work, except for their wife. It appears that people in Quebec are not messing with the harassment of women, so better not to talk about them I guess. I was also surprised by the number of women at important positions at work, something that would be impossible in France.
Also, it is often said that women in Quebec are more forward compared in France, and do not hesitate to seduce men. That may seems surprising, but not for Quebecers I met, who for most of them have been hit by their girl at the beginning of their relationship. That could be explained by this gender equality.
Yet it would seem that it is not enough for women, according to some articles I read on the newspapers sometimes. And that has the gift to irritate some radio channels where you can listen to debates on women, who apparently may be controlling everything in Quebec. Are men going to become soon the weaker sex in Quebec?
9 – An eye for an eye
In Quebec each person pays its share, either at a restaurant or in a bar for example. You want to pay your round in a bar, to invite your colleague to the restaurant for his last day at work or to make him an envelope so as to offer this person a present? Forget about all those ideas because it is not in Quebec’s culture! Everyone must pay its share even for weddings where guests pay for their meal. And if you are going to a party you have to bring what you plan on eating or drinking, because you won’t have anything else during the night. And at the end of the party each person leaves with the remains of what they brought.
10 – Denunciation
When I started work in Quebec, my company made me sign a paper which stated that I had to commit myself to denounce my colleagues if they had an unethical behavior. This was a little surprising for me because I never signed such a document at work. Never. Maybe this is the reason why someone reported me for the survey I recently made at work? It is possible.
Apparently in Quebec it is in the culture to denounce his neighbour, and you are taught to do that since your childhood. Children at school are encouraged to report those who do not follow the rules, such as those who play a little too brusquely with others, or who bring forbidden food, such as crisps, chocolate, candy, or sodas. In France we do not learn to do that, and if you do that you will not be seen well actually, especially when we think about our history. These people are called snitches. In France, during the Second World War, they were given another name.