Since my posts about the Canadian leg of the Great (North) American Road Trip have been a bit disjointed, I am going to write this post that will contain my overall impressions of the Great White North. While I’ve talked about the various things that Zac and I did when we were in Canada, there are a lot of interesting cultural things I also want to comment on.
First, I LOVED Canada. The people were so friendly, and it felt like everyone was really interested in getting to know us and learning more about where we were from. That being said, it was definitely really obvious that the people in Montreal were a lot more welcoming and interested in us than the people in Quebec City were. We noticed it for ourselves, but a lot of the people we spoke with in Montreal said that Quebec City has a reputation for being pretty “separatist.”
I kind of touched on this in an earlier post, but it is historically weird that there is a part of Canada where they speak primarily French. However, the people in Quebec consider their language to be a really important part of their history and culture. I also mentioned that people in this part of Canada seem to have a really strong pride in the history of their province. They definitely have a sense for how easy it would be for them to kind of default into speaking English since they are surrounded by it and the official language of their country is English. So, to counter this pressure, some people there are very defensive about speaking French. This is definitely far more true in Quebec City than in Montreal.
In Montreal, Zac and I would try to speak French to people we encountered, but most, if not all, of them would just respond in English if they could tell that that was our language. Most of them didn’t think twice about it and they didn’t seem rude or put out by it. In Quebec City, however, most of the people we spoke with honestly didn’t even speak English. I definitely thought this was notable because even when I’ve been in France, most people who you come into contact with at least understand a little bit of English. But we had a waitress at one of the restaurants where we ate dinner in Quebec City who literally could not understand any English whatsoever. A lot of other people who knew English would act pretty put out at the fact that we couldn’t communicate with them exclusively in French.
I don’t know why Montreal is so much more relaxed about this than Quebec City is. It probably has something to do with the fact that it’s just a bigger city. Most big cities tend to be more diverse and more liberal than smaller cities. McGill University is also located right in the heart of Montreal (close to Le Montagne). McGill is an English-speaking university and it’s one of the best in the world. I imagine that the influx of English speakers from McGill probably also has something to do with Montreal’s more laid-back approach to speaking French.
So, that is Canada in a very, very small nutshell. As I said, I really liked visiting Canada, and I definitely want to go back to Montreal at some point (maybe for Osheaga 2013?). Someone that Zac and I work with (with/for…whatevs) told us that to the north of Quebec City there is a really amazing place to go whale watching, and I would LOVE to go there for that. So who knows, if I have my way, I’ll even be back in the Q.C. at some point :)
Okay and now for the FINAL tidbit of info that I learned about Canada. As you know, Zac and I have a Newfoundland dog named Sasha. Since we got him, I’ve become kind of weirdly obsessed with finding out about Newfoundland Province in Canada, which is, as you may have guessed, where the breed originated. Well I asked someone in Montreal what Newfoundland was like, and she said that everyone from Newfoundland was made fun of and mocked! She said they were called “Newfies” (which is also what the dogs are called), and that they are known for being super weird. Newfoundland province is pretty isolated and not very densely populated, so apparently it’s just a weird place. So…that explains a lot. Not bashing my dog, but yeah…his crazy personality makes complete sense now ;)
I will say, Sasha was the only one who was glad to come back from vacation. And that’s because his “vacation” was at the kennel…