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The art of « la Bise » (Kissing on the Cheek) – Part 1 (#295)

This will be a two-part post on the art of “La Bise”

When greeting someone in English Canada, there are generally three options for physical salutations:

  • Waving & hand gestures
  • Handshakes
  • A hug.

The above three salutations also exist for Francophones, but Francophones have one additional salutation:

  • “La Bise” — otherwise known as a kiss on the cheek (well, actually two).

I’ve noticed that more and more English Canadians are getting hot-and-heavy with this part of Canada’s Francophone culture… adopting it little-by-little as part of their own culture as the years pass.

Different circumstances dictate which of the above four gestures will be the one to use.

All of the above are acceptable as a salutation when saying hello and goodbye.

The word bise means kiss” or “peck”.   Faire la bisemeans to give a kiss or peck“.

The other day in Toronto I saw a royal “bise” muck-up.  Thus, a short kissing manual might be in order (never thought I’d be writing a manual on how to kiss).

I was with a group of Francophone friends.  One person in our group ran into an Anglophone they knew.   The Francophone went to give their Anglophone friend a quick “bise”, but the Anglophone was a bit taken aback.

The Anglophone took a step back at the moment of the actual “bise”, making it so the Grand Canyon suddenly grew between them.  Both women were therefore forced to bend at the waist and stretch their arms waaaay out to touch each other.

Worse yet, the Anglophone started to kiss on the wrong side of the cheek.  This caught the Francophone off-guard.  The Francophone was forced to to an awkward self-correcting to avoid a nose-to-nose collision (like the Titanic hitting an iceberg), or worse…  a full-on mouth-to-mouth kiss (these two ladies were friends, but I don’t think they were that kind of “friend”).

To add to the quickly growing pile of awkwardness, the Anglophone only intended to give one “bise”, and thus was caught off guard when the Francophone went for a second one (double-dips).   This made for a strange pause between both “bises”.  It also made it so the Anglophone didn’t know when to stop — and she went in for thirds.  This again caught the Francophone off guard.

Instinctively, after the third “bise” both women promptly pulled away from each other in a move which looked like they were trying to avoid being hit by a semi-truck at full highway speed.

And there was one last “no-no”:  The Anglophone’s “bise” involved kissing the Francophone on her cheek with “skin-to-“mouth” contact (instead of trying to pucker the clouds in the sky).

You could see that both women just wanted to get this awkward greeting over and done with as fast as possible.  Both were left a little red-faced.  No time was spared in changing subjects.

With that, here is my humble attempt at explaining how to “faire la bise” in CANADA and QUÉBEC.

The gender equation:

Point 1 In Canada, men do NOT give other men “bises”.

In France and some other places, you may see men giving other men “bises”, but we do not do this in Canada – so don’t try it.

I will say that I have seen gay men give other gay men “bises” (it is 2015 after all)… but this might be the only appropriate circumstance in Canada.

Point 2 Men and women can exchange “bises”, as can women with other women.

Acceptable circumstances in which to “faire la bises” (give a kiss)

Point 1:  Unlike in Francophone Europe, we do not “bise” our bosses, colleagues or business associates (even in Europe, this is dependent upon the nature of the workplace).

With that said, if your boss or work associate is also your friend, and if you socialize with your boss outside of the workplace, by all means, “bise-away” as much as you like… outside of work.

There are exceptions.  Let’s say you have been working with your colleagues very closely and very intimately for a long period of time.  You all get together for an event, a gala, or some other momentous reason.  Then yes, a “bise” is acceptable (a holiday event, a gathering for a signing of a major contract, two business delegations who know each other very well meet to seal-the-deal, etc.).    It’s a joyous occasion, and kisses are “joyous”, right??

As a general rule, unless you feel you are the “bise-God” of all “bises”, don’t initiate work-place “bises” yourself.  Follow what others do.  Otherwise, just stick to handshakes (handshakes are still the workplace norm 99% of the time in Canada).

Point 2  This brings me to the second point.   A “bise” in Canada and Québec is mostly a gesture between friends (and to a certain extent, family – which I’ll talk about further below).

Look at it this way:  Picture a scale of “formalness & intimacy” from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least formal but most intimate, and 10 being the most formal and lest intimate.

Bises

Lets use the above scale to compare various situations:

  • You might hug your mom. If you have not seen her for a long time, you might hug her and give here “bises” at the same time (remember, “bises” are kisses, and kisses are “joyous” — who doesn’t like a good “bising”!?!?).
  • If you’re sitting down with your boss for your annual work evaluation, you would shake her / his hand. (Formal, very very formal… unless it ends up being some sort of momentous joyous occasions, at which point you “maybe” could get away with a “bise”, and asking for a raise!!)
  • If you’re gathering with friends, you could use “bises” (or maybe hugs).
  • You may sometimes combine hugs & “bises” into one gesture if the people you are greeting are a 2 to 4 on the scale (would you call that a “bisug?”)
  • Lets say you met someone who you do not know, but over the course of a few hours, you come to know that person fairly well through the exchange of personal stories (over the course of a meal, a drink, an activity… or “an activity” [use your imagination]). You may have started out with a handshake or a wave, but by the time you part ways, you may very well be at the point of exchanging “bises”, “hugs”… or “other” (again use your imagination).
  • Case in point, I was invited by some very casual acquaintances to have brunch at their home with a group of people. After three hours I knew everyone in the room rather well.   We were all on “bises” terms by the time I left (just “bises” and handshakes; nothing else).

The next post will look at some of the physical rules of the “bise” (Oh la la !!)

Click HERE for the next post on gettin’ physical with your “bises”

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RELATED POSTS:  “TU” VERSUS “VOUS” (2 POSTS)

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Québec’s most trending YouTube video of the last couple of weeks (#294)

Here is a bit of an off-beat post.  It is about Québec’s most trending YouTube video of the last couple of weeks.

Ever since Le Petit petit gamin re-posted this Québec video a couple of weeks ago, I soooooo badly wanted to re-post it myself!  (A colleague walked in when I was watching it at work, and he must have seen the look on my face because his question to me was “Are you watching a hamster give birth to an elephant?”).

But in good consciousness I couldn’t re-post it here (…until today).  Why?  The video was obviously stolen from the person who made it, and was posted on YouTube without their permission.  There was a line under the original YouTube posting stating the person who posted it did not know who it belonged to, and that they were more than willing to take it down if the owner comes forward asking for its removal (not very ethical in my books).

In the couple of weeks since the video has been posted, the views are rapidly approaching a million across various internet sites — a number which is very large for Québec.

A couple of days ago the maker of the video (Octavie Côté) finally came forward and has begun to do interviews.  She just gave an interview to Monette on CHOI FM (Québec City).   So I can finally re-post the video with a clear conscience.

Octavie Côté actually made this video as a serious project with friends, with the sole purpose of seeing just how close they could make it to the original Jason Derulo video with a budget of, well… ZERO (Gee, I never would have guessed).

She filmed the video at a bar she works at named Savini on the Grande Allée in Québec City (Phew!!  I would have been concerned if she worked in and filmed it in an old folks home or the National Assembly).

All participants in the video were her friends.   The guy dancing with her in the video is Zachary, her friend and a local gym trainer in Québec City.

With both of them having become so well known, they now get approached whenever they walk down the street in Québec City (the power of YouTube) — and it has apparently been great for Zachary’s gym training business.

Today Octavie laughs about the video, but she didn’t at first.   The reason:  Their first (and only) draft filming was accidentally posted online without anyone (even Octavie) having first viewed it.

Her first reaction when seeing the video online was of sheer horror.  The rest of the group in the video also just about died when they saw it.

Her friend who posted it on to YouTube only did so because it was too large a file to email to Octavie for her to review for input on possible changes during subsequent takes.  He thought it would be easier to simply post it to YouTube for Octavie to vet (I guess this guy has never really understood what YouTube is actually for).   When Octavie saw it, her friend took it down immediately (I wonder if they’re still friends).

But it was too late.   Within just a few minutes of being posted, the world grabbed it, copied it, and the rest is history.  I mean, with those perfect notes, that perfect rhythm, and such an innate ability to put words to a beat, this is not a talent which comes easy (And the Grammy goes to… ??).  Octavie has shown us just what kind of a skill set is actually required.

(Kids, don’t try this at home with a budget of … ZERO!!!)

The video has been the subject of every insult and ridicule you can imagine.  Yet Octavie has been an incredibly great sport about it, laughing it off like the rest of us.  She simply says “It is what it is.”   That’s pretty big of her.

When asked what she believes was the funniest or most disgusting comment, she said it would have to be (my closest translation):  “It was so bad that it made me selfie-vomit back into my own mouth.”  :0  (C’était tellement mauvais, que je me suis autovomi dans la geule!! — Gotta love how French is such a versatile and beautiful language!).

Octavie has since been receiving many offers of professional help (for making a new video, that is).  She’s likely going to take up the offers of help (Yes Octavie… take the help!), and I have a feeling we’re all going to see more of her in the near future.

A star is born?  Well, she’s already known to everyone.  So now the question is “What will she be known for ?!?!”

Gotta love YouTube!

And Gotta love Octavie!   You’re a great sport Octavie!  We’re all waiting for your next project!  Hammer it!

P.S.  Oh!  And more thing… pay attention to the “other” guy in the video — the one in the blue shirt.  Apparently his dance moves have caught everyone’s attention, starting a new dance trend… La danse Longueuil, sans la coupe!   It’s all the rage in the bars now !  (bounce bounce…er, kinda).   Give’er man!!

P.P.S.  And one more thing… I hear the bar Savini has never been more packed following the spotlight gleaned from this work of magnificence.   Talk about publicity and the power of the net !!!  I swear the next time I pass through Q.City, I’m gonna stop in to Savini with some buddies, and we’re going to request “Take me to the other Side” by Jason Derulo (a little mood music never hurt anyone).  But I won’t dare film it!!  Bounce, Bounce… kinda… I say with an out of tune screech!

24 June: La Fête nationale du Québec / La Fête St-Jean Baptiste (#293)

June 24 is known as “La Fête nationale du Québec” (the Québec national holiday) or “La Fête St-Jean-Baptiste” (the national holiday of French Canadians and the Canadian Francophonie) in other parts of Canada.

Note:  When we use the word “national” in French, it does not always have the same connotation as English.  It has two meanings:  (1) Country, and (2) a people sharing a common heritage.   Both meanings exist in both languages, but in English, the latter meaning (a people sharing a common heritage) is rarely used.  Thus, many Anglophones are unaware that “nation” also carries the second meaning.

However, in Canadian French, the second meaning is used just as frequently as the first meaningI mention this because I have encountered numerous Anglophones who are only aware of the first meaning, and who become offended when they believe the word is only being used in the sense of a “country”.

It is a holiday celebrated across Canada, in all major cities, and in all provinces and territories.

The politicization of the event in Québec

La Fête nationale du Québec is a time when Francophones celebrate their shared heritage.  In Québec, it was made a statutory holiday in 1977, when it took on a much more “political” tone starting during the Quiet Revolution years of the 1960s (it is not very political elsewhere in Canada).   It was also during this time that it was named “La Fête nationale du Québec” by the PQ government.

The political nationalist aspect of the holiday in Québec peaked during the time surrounding both referendums.  However, the event’s political nature has slowly been eroding away, bit by tiny bit.

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(Above)  The main concert stage at the 2014 Fête nationale in MONTRÉAL.  

In both a move to (1) velcro the event more exclusively to Québec (basically wrestling it away from other Francophones elsewhere in Canada – a political move in and of itself), and (2) with the aim to make the event more “inclusive” feel for non-white and non-Francophone Québecois (again a political move to woo the “minority vote”), the Parti Québécois governments under Bernard Landry and Pauline Marois insisted that only the name “Fête nationale du Québec” be used in anything publicity related, or anything receiving government funding.

You can imagine how well this went over with Francophones outside of Québec.   The Canadian Francophone family was already left broken by what I call the “First night of the Long Knives” in 1967.   Refer to the following two posts for the context of what happened:

Nonetheless, La St-Jean-Baptiste has persevered across Canada.

The beginning of the depoliticization of the event

But the nature of the event across Canada, and in Québec has begun to change over the last four or so years.

In Québec, the former PQ Landry and Marois governments planned to use the event to “infuse” sovereignist sentiments into the hearts of all Québecois by opening the event to everyone and anyone.  Yet, it looks like their plans backfired.   By welcoming everyone into the fold (an all-inclusive event), larger and larger sectors of Québec’s society began to call for the depoliticization of the event.

Just to name a very few examples (among many others):

  • The last four or five years have seen calls to allow English-language music groups to be allowed to play at La fête nationale (and they have, mostly in smaller local neighbourhood parties).  Until now, English music has been banned by the organizers.
  • There have been calls for the main events on stage to have fewer political discourses (and you can easily get the feeling that some participants of the main events carry an awkwardness about them — as if they know they are walking on eggshells).
  • This year alone, there have been calls for the event to be wrestled away from the annual organizer and “trustee” of La Fête nationale; le Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois (MNQ).  The MNQ is a sovereignist organization which, bluntly put… is more than less than partial.   And boy, have they and their political allies (notably the PQ, and the Société St-Jean Baptiste) been fighting calls to take the party away from them (a move being championed by the CAQ provincial political party).

The last two years in particular (and especially this year) has seen private French-language media outlets call for outright depoliticization of the event, period.   We have never seen this happen before in Québec — not on such as scale as we have seen this year.

Such changes in public sentiment in Québec clearly has people in the sovereignist camp worried.  They’re on the defensive in the media.

This year, prominent sovereignists have been appearing on program after program on both television and on the radio to argue that they have never highjacked the event (a charge being thrown at them from all directions).  They therefore argue that changes to the event are not necessary.  They are also trying to argue that the current format is a “natural fit” for Québec.  (hmmmm….)

Adding to sovereignists worries, all Federalist politicians (both at provincial and federal levels) have fully embraced La Fête nationale as their event as well (I don’t think that Landry or Marois envisaged that would happen when they “welcomed” everyone and anyone to join in the party and call it their own).  Federalists (both Francophone, and more and more Anglophones) have begun to flock to the event.

A couple of years ago I attended daytime Fête nationale celebrations in the far East-End of Montréal (the most Francophone and nationalist region of Montréal).  Even in the East Island, there were a good number of Anglophones in attendance (contrast this with other Fête nationale celebrations which I attended in Montréal and elsewhere in Québec only just a decade ago, when I heard Anglophones being jeered at for just speaking English in public).  What a difference only a few years has made!

The true inclusive nature, hospitality, sincere openness and genuine good cheer of Québec’s people are radiating with the all-inclusiveness and depoliticization of La Fête nationale.

I am sure sovereignists must be finding these changes more than awkward.

But I think it is a great thing if everyone can take pride in La Fête nationale in Québec, and La St-Jean across Canada and throughout Canada’s Francophonie.  Our French language and culture is something very special about our country from coast to coast.  It  belongs to all of us in Canada – regardless if we are Francophone or Anglophone.  This is precisely what these events should be about — and what they are finally becoming.

The NDP in Ottawa even once tabled a bill to make it La St-Jean Baptiste a national holiday across Canada (in the next few years we may see this happen yet).   And say what you will about Stephen Harper, but he has attended every single Fête nationale in Québec since becoming Prime Minister 10 years ago.

Traditionally, the media in Québec has stayed pro-status quo (even when the event had a much stronger sovereignst feel).   But the media is slowly starting to take a stance towards depoliticization.

Two cases in point:

  • The nationalist French-language magazine L’Actualité (a rough equivalent of Maclean’s in English Canada) published an article yesterday named (translation) “5 Ways to Depoliticize La Fête Nationale”Wow !!  Such an article in this type of magazine would have been truly inconceivable even a couple of years ago.  The cracks in the impregnable wall are showing.   Times are changing – and La Fête nationale du Québec may be a bellwether of changing public sentiment.
  • (example in addendum) The morning of June 24, RDI Matin gave a televised report regarding the main stage festivities.  The report was pre-recorded.  It discussed Gilles Vigneault’s singing of Gens du pays on stage.  The reporter wanted to state “Gens du pays est devenu l’Hymne national lors de la fête” (“Gens du pays has become the national anthem during the holidays”).  However, in a move rarely seen by the public, Radio-Canada edited the reporter’s statement by cutting out the word “national”.  The edit was very deliberate and quite obvious because they did a poor editing job by missing the “na”.  The statement thus became “Gens du pays est devenu l’hymne na-(cut/coupe) lors de la fête”.   Regardless, it is more than obvious that main stream French-language media in Québec are themselves making efforts to depoliticize the event.  And again, we never would have seen this even two or three years ago.

Outside Québec, as the rest of Canada has secularized over the past 50 years, the former religious nature of the St-Jean Baptiste event has subsided with time.  La St-Jean has now become a giant community music and BBQ festival for Francophones, and now Anglophones too want to celebrate their Francophone compatriot’s and Canada’s francophone heritage.  It has become an “everyone-is-welcome” event.

Each provincial Francophone organization holds their own events across Canada.   Events are as diverse as the Albertan St-Jean, Manitoban St-Jean, and Acadian St-Jean (just to mention a few).

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Lit in blue tonight for the St-Jean-Baptiste in Toronto.

Photos (above and below) of the Bloor Viaduct in TORONTO, Ontario tonight (one of Toronto’s most iconic bridges).

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Yet some regions of the country wish to reignite a much more grandiose feel to the festival season.   Therefore Ontario has broken from tradition and has enlarged the St-Jean Baptiste.  In addition to the St-Jean Baptiste, there are now two other major events:  The 4-day long Fête Franco-Ontarian the beginning of June, and the week-long Franco-Fête in July.   Both events attract crowds of tens of thousands of people in as diverse of places as Toronto and Ottawa, as well as many other towns and cities.

Where is this heading?

I don’t know, but I have some guesses.

It is obvious that there is no longer as strong a sovereignist grip on La Fête Nationale in Québec.   Indications are that the sovereignist grip will continue to become loser with time (unless Canada hits some sort of constitutional or national crisis spurred by messy politics provoked by one side or the other).

It is also obvious that other areas of Francophone Canada are asserting a greater regional ownership over similar events.

As all such events across Canada become more an more neutral (first religious, and now political) we may one day see a convergence of like minds among event organizer across Canada.  The legacy of the original St-Jean may one day become a unifying event cross the country, involving Francophones and Anglophones alike – with Francophones as the bridge (regardless of politics).

A future pan-Canadian reunification of the event may also become the catalyst for an official reunification of the Francophone Canadian family across Canada (take a moment to read the two posts I mentioned earlier above if you have not already done so).

It may be a while before we get there… but nothing is impossible.  Surprises come in small doses.   And if you have been reading this blog for some time, you will have noticed that there have been a number of pleasant surprises during the last while.

The main event is the 24th of June.  But regardless of where you are in Canada, you can watch the live concert on television on Tuesday, June 23rd, at 9:00pm.   It is broadcast live in French, and everyone in Canada has Radio-Canada.  

There usually is a re-broadcast.   It should be re-broadcast on 24 June both on Radio-Canada, and across the world in 200 countries on TV5.   

Check it out.

If it is your first Fête nationale / St-Jean, I wish you a happy holiday & festival !!

Peu importe où vous êtes ou qui vous êtes, bonne Fête Nationale, et bonne St-Jean!!

Sometimes you just have to laugh… (#292)

… I certainly did !

(If the above link doesn’t work in your country, you can also watch it here:  http://ici.tou.tv/en-audition-avec-simon/S02E25?autoplay=true)

Is there a “personality difference” between Francophones and Anglophones? (#291)

Is there a “personality difference” between Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones?

That is a loaded question if I have ever heard one.

Take note that I am referring to “personality” (psychological) differences, and not “cultural” differences.

Over the years I have often heard Québec Francophones say they sense there are personality differences which distinguish Francophones from Anglophones.  It is an argument that I have heard more from Québec Francophones than I have from Canadian Anglophones.

I suppose I am perhaps not the best person to objectively evaluate such a statement.  I have always had Québec Francophone friends from childhood into adulthood, and a sizable portion of my colleagues, former bosses, and teachers at school and university have been Francophones from Québec.

Thus, any personality lines which do exist are likely more blurred for me than they would be from others.

But I have given the question a bit more thought lately.  A very good Québec francophone friend of mine resides in a small town in Anglophone Ontario (in the Loyalist belt of Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario).  From his experience in Prince Edward Country, he feels the personality differences between Canadian Anglophones and Francophones are to such an extent that he no longer feels comfortable living in small-town Ontario.

He is already starting to plan his move back to Québec.

His feelings of being “dépaysé” (a Canadian French word meaning one feels out of one’s skin owing to living in a new environment from what one is used to) has led me to pose some questions.

He is a good friend who tends to view the world quite objectively (in fact, a large part of his career involves crisis intervention and mediation).  I suppose this is why I’m left asking several questions.

They are questions which leaves me somewhat perplexed because I have lived in six provinces (including Québec), and I have rarely had a feeling that the personality differences between Anglophones and Francophones would be so large that they would warrant “retreating” back to Québec.

In a cultural sense, I admit it makes me somewhat uneasy (on the unity front, more than anything) whenever I hear that Québec Francophones feel they cannot comfortably live in other areas of Canada.

But such feelings of unease are easily mitigated by the knowledge that I know far more Québec Francophones who are happily living across across Anglophone Canada than who are not happy.  I know far more Québec Francophones would  not consider personality differences to be so large that it would be disruptive to their lifestyles.

I searched the internet to see if there are scientific studies which might explain what personality differences could exist between Anglophones and Francophones.  I was only able to find one study from 2008 conducted by Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, Québec).  It was a small study involving 50 Francophones and 50 Anglophones, split 50/50 between men and women.   It evaluated

  • extroversion (how extrovert one is towards others)
  • neuroticism (anxiety or indecision, and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment around others)
  • psychoticism (one’s aptitude to become upset, anxious, or angry)
  • one’s propensity to lie
  • open-minded to new experiences
  • conscientiousness
  • agreeableness
  • conservatism (traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness; more apt to advocate preservation of existing conditions or institutions)
  • altruism (unselfish concern for others, or devotion to the welfare of others)

The study found that Québec Francophones ranked higher degrees of extroversion, and psychoticism (thus they would be more vocal and engaging in public on a range of issues, including emotional issues).

Anglophones ranked higher on Conservatism (thus they would be less likely to “rock the boat”).  I would guess that such personality traits would be more internalized than externalized, and when externalized, they would be manifested through a greater degree of reserve (not as extrovert with a lesser outward display of public emotion).

The study found that Québec Francophones and Canadian Anglophones did not differ regarding the remaining personality traits.

I found the study to be very interesting because it reflects several observations I have made myself over the course of my life.

  • I can recall at school that when mixed with Anglophone Canadian students, Québec Francophone students would be more apt to speak in class, and and to comment on, ask or argue questions or ideas in class.
  • Anglophone colleagues would be less apt to advocate for change in the workplace or voice their views at work with superiors.
  • Francophone colleagues would be more apt to take vocal socializing and jokes into the workplace, and to likewise take the workplace outside of work (with drinks with colleagues after work, or week-end activities with colleagues).
  • Anglophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle changes are more often manifested through a “live and let live” standpoint;  meaning that they more than welcome societal / lifestyle changes (which they view as healthy for society), but that they believe such changes come about as a matter of natural societal evolution in the course of time.
  • This contrasts with Francophone friends’ openness to societal or lifestyle change.  With respect to changes they too believe are healthy for society, they often harbour a “make-it-happen” standpoint with respect to societal or personal lifestyles.   This means they believe in more direct intervention (through direct government intervention or direct changes in the established order).

The above are simply a question of approaches, and they are not insurmountable differences.  In fact, these are mixes which can add a nice touch of variety to any equation.

My own observations are my own personal inferences from my own experiences, and of course everyone is different.   Despite the above generalities (and they are just that; generalities), I can think of many individuals who I consider are exceptions to the above (both Anglophones and Francophones).

When I try to relate the above back to my friend’s unique situation in Ontario’s Loyalist regions (Prince Edward County), I tend to think the reasons for my friend’s uncomfortable adjustment tend to be more situation-specific than inherent.

Personally, I tend to think that his own conclusions are misplaced; in the sense that he believes his feeling of being “dépaysé” are related to personality differences between Francophones and Anglophones.  Yet, I tend to believe his feelings have more to do with a conflict between what he is used to from his own upbringing, and what lifestyle is lived by the inhabitants of Prince Edward County.

Prince Edward County has a unique culture, even from the rest of Ontario (I have spend a good deal of time in Prince Edward County over the past few months.  I know people there, and I have also been tracing a branch of my own roots in the region back to the 1700s).
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Prince Edward County is a 2 hour drive East of Toronto, a 2 hour drive from Ottawa, and a 4 hour drive West of Montréal.

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Prince Edward County is Ontario’s second largest wine-growing region (after the Niagara Region), dotted with wine-estates, artisan works, fine-food gourmet shops, restored B&Bs in period housing, and hobby farms — a very laid-back lifestyle

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A photo of the beaches I took a few days ago when getting my feet wet at one of the many beaches in Prince Edward County.

Some factoids which I feel do play a direct in how newcomers to the region (both Francophone and Anglophone) may view Prince Edward County:

  • Prince Edward County was settled by Loyalists in the end of the 1700s / beginning of the 1800s.
  • The population is largely comprised of the descendants of those original settlers, and thus it has developed a lifestyle and culture which differs from other regions of Ontario.
  • People are perhaps less apt to leave the region, and there are fewer people who move to the region than other parts of Ontario.  People in Prince Edward County are thus more likely to know each other, to have grown up with each other, and to have many shared common experiences (which people from other parts of Ontario may even have difficulty relating to).
  • It is a wine-growing region, with many beaches, slow-paced outdoor activities, and hobby farms.
  • This leads to a slower pace of life and “let-it-be” lifestyle and attitude.

Yet my friend grew up in face-paced Montréal — a very different city.  He has always been surrounded by highly cosmopolitan environments.  In the past, he was spoiled by also having lived in Québec City with world-class outdoor activities and mountains within a 40 minute dive away (something which Prince Edward County does not have).

Just as important a factor, my friend does not have the best command of English (which prevents him from effectively being able to communicate with the locals in Prince Edward County).

I therefore tend to think that he has encountered a clash of personal-interests, in addition to a very “localized” cultural clash with the residents of Prince Edward County.  Despite his interpretations, I am not sure his unhappiness is related to a personality / cultural clash between Francophone Québec and Anglophone Canada.   Other Anglophones from elsewhere in Canada may also have the same difficulties in adjusting to Prince Edward County (I know several people Anglophone from Toronto who say they too would not be happy living in a rural setting like Prince Edward County).

On the reverse, through my friend, I have met other other Francophones in Prince Edward County who have specifically moved there for the slow-paced lifestyle and relaxed outdoor environment.  They have opened local businesses and have become highly involved in their communities.  Those people love it, and are very comfortable and happy with their decision.

Unfortunately, my friend’s own limited interactions with Anglophone Canada does not allow him to see it this way, and he has come to believe there are irreconcilable differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.

This is not the first time that I have seen people on either side of the linguistic divide (Francophone or Anglophone) confuse specific “local conditions” with a macro-cultural or personality divide (ie: the incorrect assumption that if this village is like this, then all of Canada and all Anglophones must be like this… or if these three people were rude to me or could not relate to what is being discussed, then all Francophones and all of Québec must be like this).

In the case of my friend, he was forceably transferred to Prince Edward County from his work for 3 to 4 years.  It was not by his own choosing.  I firmly believe that had he chosen to go there for its laid-back lifestyle, had he chosen to go there for its gastronomic character or its outdoor activities. his experience would have been completely different.

Likewise, knowing his personality and cultural preferences, I have a feeling he would be equally unhappy if he were transferred to the Beauce or very isolated Abitibi Francophone regions of Québec, simply because they do not fit his lifestyle.   To make the point, I know an Anglophone from Toronto who moved to Abitibi in Québec and loves it like nothing else, and I know three Francophones from Québec who moved to the small rural farming town of Vegreville in Alberta who absolutely love it and will never leave.  In these latter cases, they “chose” to move there for reasons offered by these regions, they founded business or integrated within the communities based on mutual interests, and they fit their lifestyles.

This is why is it so important to NOT confuse a very few minor personality differences on either side of the linguistic line with irreconcilable cultural or personality differences between Anglophone Canada and Francophone Québec.  

Even more unfortunate, I caught my friend telling other Québecois out of frustration, based on his Prince Edward County experiences, how Anglophone Canadians and Québec Francohpones are two completely different worlds and completely incompatible.  Sad… very very sad.   When I heard this, I took it upon myself to give him a few stern words and to force him to take a good hard look at himself in the mirror.  But hey, I could get away with doing so — we’re actually very very good friends.   I Have been forcing him to try to view his circumstances a bit differently, and I think he is finally beginning to see the problem is with how his personal interests diverge from the immediate region in which he is living, rather than any problem with Anglophone Canada as a whole.

The ironic thing is that if my friend’s English language competencies were greater, and if he were to have lived in other parts, cities or provinces of Anglophone Canada which better match his personal interests, I do not believe he would feel there would be irreconcilable personality differences between Anglophone Canadians and Francophone Québécois.

I suppose it goes to show that

  1. poor French / English language proficiency (on the part of both Anglophones and Francophones), and
  2. a lack of travel / living in other regions / life-experiences from which to form reference points and knowledge…

still remain the two largest challenges to bridging the Two Solitudes.

(And if you’re wondering… I happen to really like Prince Edward County.  If I were hypothetically asked to move there, I don’t believe it would work for me either because my career and current lifestyle would not make a good fit under present circumstances.  But that doesn’t mean I feel it is irreconcilable with other parts of the country.  It simply means that it wouldn’t suit my current situation to move there at this point in my life.  Point made?).