Located throughout this french Canadian region are a thriving people that have fought for their culture. The french Canadians are truly one of Canada’s brighter shades of colours, with decadent food, a thriving arts scene, a passion for history, and all things fun. While tensions between the french and the english have seen waves in their numbers, including several demands for independence, one thing is for certain – Canada would not be the diverse and unique country we know today without Quebec.
I am absolutely in love with Quebec. While I’ve shared many a heated debates with english Canadians about their position on the bilinguality of Canada, I maintain that the french canadians are an essential part of this magnificent country. They are the chicken stock to our mosaic flavoured soup. The eggs to our omelette. The cheese to our poutine! I urge every english Canadian to spend at least a week in this province to truly understand its significance to not only the population of Canada, but to the ideals which make Canada what it is. I traveled by VIA Rail to Quebec and traveled around the province for 3 weeks exploring this amazing culture.
These are the reasons I love Quebec:
The French-Canadian Food & Drink
While it’s hard not to speak of the seducing allure of poutine, there is more to french canadian cuisine than fries & cheese curds covered in a whopping helping of gravy. Between the artisan cheese, the old country style breads, or the insatiable beauty of french canadian beer, Quebec has no shortage of mouth watering tastes. Try Unibroues “La Fin du Monde“, a 9% golden belgian style ale with fruity hints and a strong punch that will keep you practicing your french with healthy amount of liquid confidence. Don’t forget to watch for local bakeries where you can pick up some of the best Montreal styled bagels along with some of the best tasting bread you will find in Canada.
The French Canadian History
Canadian history is hardly as glamorized as our american neighbours, but looking into the annals of time, an interesting story of settlers, natives, fishermen, farmers, soldiers and wars unravels into the birth of Canada. Stepping foot onto the Plains of Abraham to picture a war that lasted 15 minutes and resulted in the death of both English & French Commanders (James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm), or explore the Ramparts of Quebec, the only remaining walled city in North America besides Mexico City – had it not been for the preservation efforts of Lord Dufferin the Old Quebec landscape might have been lost to a sea of similarity. Don’t forget to check out the “Lieu historique national des Forts-et-Chateaux-Saint-Louis” below Quebec City, a unique look into the past of Old Quebec. The new interactive exhibits and friendly staff of Parks Canada will be sure to bring life to the stories of yesteryear.
The Quebec Arts
I’m always surprised how well the french stand behind their artists. It’s a culture that promotes creativity in a way that is hard to find in western Canada. Between the music, the painting, the sculpting, or the street performing, art can be found throughout this city. It’s not merely tucked away into a corner; rather, it’s promoted and encouraged. From big acts like Cirque du Soleil, to the artists on Rue du Trésor, it’ doesn’t take long to find somebody who is creating something unique and beautiful.
The French Language
While unbeknownst to most english speakers, Quebecois french is much more different than what is spoken in France. Having had the opportunity to share a few drinks with french speakers from France and Quebec, it took less than half a beer before they were arguing over the proper way to say something. Each claims to be more proper french while the other is more influenced by english, and while I’m hard pressed to say who is right, it’s clear they have their differences. Despite their heated debates, Les Quebecois are all but too happy to encourage english speakers to get out of their comfort zone and use whatever french they’ve retained from high school classes. It took me about 2 days before I threw caution to the wind and started fully immersing myself in the french language. After a full week of immersion, my french came back, not completely, but enough that I’m not afraid to start using it again!
The Warm Smiles of Les Quebecois
Perhaps it’s the way english speaking Canadians butcher their beautiful language, but I’ve never seen more smiles in my life than when traipsing through the streets of Quebec City and Montreal. The ability to warm someones day with a genuine smile appears to be engrained in each and every french individual. From the patio waitresses, to the street performers, to the shopkeepers selling t-shirts that read “Oui Oui”, a smile from a French Canadian is like a hug from an old friend. Introducing yourself in french (even the butchered variety) is not only socially proper, but also shows that you acknowledge the rights of french Canadians to live as they please, without forcing english upon them. In this beautiful mosaic that is Canada, I think that’s the least we can do.
The Educational Experience
Having taken french immersion for the majority of my primary and secondary education, I can honestly say that diving into the deep end and experiencing Quebec for a few weeks or longer will give you not only a greater appreciation for the language, but a greater understanding of local expressions, proper connotations of words, and an increased vocabulary. Language is very much a “use it or lose it” skill, and immersing yourself in french language and culture forces those skills to build, to develop and grow upon the foundation that the education system provided you with. While Montreal is a beautifully french metropolis, it has a surprising amount of english speakers, which is why I recommend getting to Quebec City, or further north to Charlevoix and get the opportunity to practice your skills in complete immersion, without any safety net to fall back on. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile is!
It’s been my experience that many western Canadians don’t understand life in Quebec. Stereotypes mixed with preconceived notions of what the french Canadians are like tend to keep most from ever visiting this unique basket of culture and language. Travel has an astounding way of tearing down the walls of peoples assumption. I truly believe that if more english Canadians would leave their bubble to experience Quebec – Peace, happiness and friendship would replace the stereotypes many Canadians possess about this beautiful province, which in turn could help solve the politically sensitive situation that Canada has faced for so many years.