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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 (
- psychoticism (one’s aptitude to become
- one’s propensity to lie
- open-minded to new experiences
- conservatism (
- altruism (
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).
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.
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
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
- poor French / English language proficiency (on the part of both Anglophones and Francophones), and
- 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?).
There are a number of readers who have been following my blog for a few months. I’m happy to have been able to offer some insight, and I enjoy reading some of your emails.
It takes time to get a sense of another culture when there is a linguistic barrier or physical distance. However, for those of you who are regular readers, if you were to visit Québec, if you were to watch some Montréwood television, or even listen to some of the news, you would probably already notice that the pieces are now starting to fall into place, bit by tiny bit. Much of what you encounter should now be making much more sense.
I was recently in Montréal and I walked by Théatre St-Denis. It is one of the most famous stage theatres in Québec. It features acts of all types. Some of the biggest names in Québec’s pop-culture have seen their careers launched at Théatre St-Denis, and it continues to feature some of the biggest stars.
A quick glance at the sign made me realize just how much ground has been covered in just the few short months of blogging about Québec, its pop-culture, and many other topics related to Québec and Francophone culture in Canada.
For the regular readers of this blog, the signs (below) should give you an idea just how much you have already learned about Québec’s culture in the last few months. Give yourself a pat on the back for wanting taking the initiative to learn more, and for your desire to acquire a greater cultural context of what Québec and Canada are all about.
Simply from having regularly read the blog posts, a good number of you will certainly recognize some of these names. You now likely know who they are, what they’re about, and how they fit into Québec’s overall culture. Here are four which might jump out at you:
- Stéphane Rousseau
- Véronic DiCaire
- Lise Dion
- Rachid Badouri
The last time I was in Québec City, I also snapped a photo of the performance sign hanging in front of the Le Capitole (the most famous performance theatre in Québec city, and also one of the most famous stage theatres in Québec).
Again, some of the names you’ll likely recognize are
- Ginette Reno
- Véronic DiCaire
- Mario Pelchat
This could be proof that learning about Québec, its culture, and Canada’s Francophone culture in general is not an insurmountable task – even if you don’t speak French. I’m trying my best to cover topics which are relevant, and which pertain to what normal people see in the media, on the street, as well as what everyday common people talk about over meals, at work, and at home.
I would even venture to bet that should you travel to Québec, that you would already be in a position to begin to feel like you are in familiar territory (from a cultural standpoint) – regardless of your French language level. Regardless where you live in Canada, hopefully you’re even beginning to feel that aspects of Canada’s Francophone culture are part of your own culture, at a very personal level. That is a very commendable feat, and I’m quite humbled to know there is a good number of people who are regularly following my posts.
So to those who are faithfully reading this blog, thank-you. I’ll do my best to keep bringing you new topics as time allows. Let’s keep moving forward, and let’s keep building bridges! 🙂
The official websites for
- Théatre St-Denis is http://theatrestdenis.com/en/
- Le Capitole is http://www.lecapitole.com/en/index.php
Should you travel to Montréal or Québec City, these websites (in English & French) have performance information, showtimes, and tickets.
I’m writing this post in French since Rick Hansen is not as well known to Francophones in Québec & Francophones elsewhere in Eastern Canada, but who has nonetheless had a very large impact on the rights of accessibility services for disabled people in Québec and all over Canada.
The last few posts were related to Dolbeau-Mistassini and “Mario Pelchat” from the same city. The second last post was on the city of Port-Alberni. So let’s devote this post to Port-Alberni’s most famous son; Rick Hansen.
J’écris ce billet en français car il s’agit un individu très reconnu au Canada anglophone, mais j’avais toujours l’impression qu’il n’était pas aussi bien connu au Québec et ailleurs au Canada francophone. Pourtant, il s’agit d’une personne qui a marqué à jamais le Québec, et le Canada dans son ensemble; Rick Hansen.
Les derniers quelques billets parlaient de Dolbeau-Mistassini (QC) et Port-Alberni (C-B) — les deux villes qui étaient « jumelées », sous un prétexte assez injuste par le magazine MoneySense, comme les « pires » villes où vivre au Canada (un argument que j’ai tenté de déboulonner lors des billets précédents). Faisant partie de cette même série, j’ai écrit un billet sur Mario Pelchat, natif de Dolbeau-Mistassini. Et ce billet portera sur Rick Hansen, natif de Port-Alberni.
Lors du moment que j’ai entendu parler de Rick Hansen pour la première fois, Terry Fox (qui avait la jambe amputée), était déjà très célèbre au Canada Anglophone pour avoir tenté de parcourir le Canada à pied afin d’amasser de l’argent pour la recherche sur le cancer (malheureusement, il n’a pas pu finir son parcours car il est décédé en route, suite au cancer, dans le nord de l’Ontario).
Terry Fox était adoré par le Canada anglophone. En 1980, partout au pays, les Canadiens et les Canadiennes se sont unis pour l’encourager dans son parcours à travers le pays, et du même coup, c’était tout le pays (la partie anglophone du moins) qui était en deuil collectif lors de son décès.
La première fois que j’ai entendu parler de Rick Hansen, j’étais très jeune — dans la troisième année d’école primaire je crois – à l’époque que ma famille vivais dans le nord-ouest de l’Alberta (sur la périphérie de la région de Rivière-la-Paix, une des régions francophones de l’Alberta). Tout comme Terry Fox quelques années auparavant, Rick Hansen était en train de parcourir le Canada, mais en fauteuil roulant. Hansen est devenu paraplégique suite à un accident de voiture à l’âge de 15 ans, et quelques années plus tard, il a gagné quelques médailles d’or et d’argent aux Paralympiques de 1980 et 1984. Inspiré par le parcours et la détermination de Terry Fox, il voulait lui-même parcourir le Canada pour amasser des fonds pour la recherche sur les traumatismes médullaires.
Pour des millions de gens à travers le pays, ce parcours subséquent de Rick Hansen incarnait la flamme qui avait été illuminée quelques années avant par Terry Fox. Les gens du pays se sont mobilisés massivement, et ils ont pris en charge sa cause comme rien d’autre au monde, mur à mur, et pas à peu près!
Quelque part durant le trajet de Rick Hansen, une transformation inattendue s’est déroulée devant nos yeux. Le soutient qu’il a obtenu des citoyens ordinaires l’a incité à agrandir son trajet – et il s’est engagé à parcourir 34 pays à travers le monde. À l’époque, les yeux du Canada Anglophone étaient rivés sur lui – il était « le » héro du pays. Dans l’esprit des gens, son parcours constituait l’emblème de l’ère d’une nouvelle autonomie et intégration dans la société pour les personnes handicapées, tout autant qu’une levée de fonds pour les traumatismes médullaires. Ce changement de perceptions de société était une transformation majeure. Il faut se rappeler que le début, ainsi que le milieu des années 1980 étaient elles aussi des époques de changements sur plusieurs fronts; telles l’interdiction de fumer dans les bureaux et des lieux publiques, la nomination des premières femmes en tête des corporations majeures, et dans le cas relié à Terry Fox et Rick Hansen, il s’agissait de l’acceptation et l’inclusion des personnes handicapées comme membres complément fonctionnels de la société, normales et pleinement intégrés.
Partout au pays, y compris au Québec, des politiciens, des gouvernements, des organismes à but non lucratif, et des corporations ont relevé le défi. Le mouvement a pris des proportions épiques. Ils adoptaient des mesures législatives pour protéger les droits des personnes handicapées et ils ont pris des mesures pour s’assurer que les édifices partout étaient accessibles à ces personnes. Les corporations et institutions ont institué des campagnes d’équité en matière d’emplois, alors qu’avant, les personnes handicapées étaient souvent exclues de plusieurs postes de travail.
Alors, peu importe où vous êtes au Québec ou ailleurs au Canada, la prochaine fois que vous voyez une rampe pour fauteuil roulant, des portes automatiques pour personnes handicapées, des autobus avec accessibilité aisée, des panneaux en braille, ou même des coins de trottoir avec bordures déclinées pour accessibilité aux fauteuils roulants, vous pouvez en grande partie remercier Rick Hansen – car ces mesures n’étaient pas monnaie courante avant le mouvement des droits auquel il a grandement contribué.
Mais pour moi, j’étais trop jeune à l’époque pour reconnaître la signification et l’impact du « phénomène Rick Hansen ». Lorsqu’il faisait son parcours à travers le Canada et un peu partout au monde, je me rappelle que notre professeur au primaire a agrafé une grande carte du Canada au mur de la salle de classe. Chaque matin, sans exception à la même heure, elle rassemblait tous les élèves de la classe devant la carte, et chaque jour elle choisissait un(e) élève différent(e) qui devait apposer une punaise sur la carte pour indiquer l’endroit où Rick Hansen s’est rendu au cours de la journée précédente. On suivait son trajet jusqu’à la fin.
Rick Hansen était surnommé « L’homme en mouvement », et sa tournée épique était baptisée « la Tournée mondiale de L’homme en mouvement ». En été 1986, malgré mon jeune âge, j’ai pu finalement saisir le sens et l’ampleur de l’importance de Rick Hansen. C’était l’été de l’Expo 1986 à Vancouver (la seule autre fois que le Canada a accueilli l’Expo internationale depuis l’Expo 1967 de Montréal). Mes parents ont embarqué moi et mon petit frère dans la voiture pour conduire les 12 heures du nord de l’Alberta jusqu’au au sud de la Saskatchewan pour laisser mon frère à la garde de mes grands-parents, et mes parents ont repris la route, moi et eux seuls, à destination de Vancouver (20 heures de route de plus) pour assister l’Expo’86 pendant une semaine. Je me souviens clairement que partout où nous allions au terrain de l’Expo, tout ce qu’on voyait étaient des images de Rick Hansen, et on y entendait à répétition la chanson thème de sa tournée. « L’homme en mouvement » est devenu « le thème » de L’Expo’86.
Depuis les années 1980, la vie à Rick Hansen a connu bien de vicissitudes, parfois de façon très publique. Mais il a fait un retour en force durant les Olympiques de Vancouver en 2010. C’était un grand moment de fierté d’un océan à l’autre.
Tout comme Dolbeau-Mistassini serait très fier de Mario Pelchat, j’en suis persuadé que Port-Albani serait aussi fier de Rick Hansen.
SERIES: THE WORST CITIES?? SERIOUSLY?? DON’T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE!! ( 5 POSTS):
- The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 1: Introduction (#157)
- Dolbeau-Mistassini – The worst cities? — Don’t be so quick to judge! — Part 2 (#158)
- Port-Alberni – Les pires villes? — Ne soyez pas si prompt à « appuyer sur la détente » — Partie 3 (#159) (in French)
- Mario Pelchat – Dolbeau-Mistassini’s “native son” — Part 4 (#160)
- Rick Hansen – de Port-Alberni — Part 5 (#161) (in French)
This is an event I would encourage Anglophone Canadians, all across Canada, to consider marking on their calendar. Le Rendez-vous de la francophonie (currently in its 17th year) is an event which brings “our” (all of ours, Francophones & Anglophones alike) unique Francophone culture to the forefront.
Events are held across Canada for a short period of time in a festival-of-sorts atmosphere.
I would classify this event more than just an arts & cultural event – but rather a distinct moment in the calendar year to simply reconnect, or even forge new connections with an aspect of our common heritage which makes Canada the place it is today (I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to mark “Le Rendez-vous” on your calendar and to set aside an hour or two to check it out) 🙂 .
There will be 1,800 pan-Canadian activities, which include various events and National Film Board film screenings (1,800 events… that’s quite an undertaking!). Whether you attend any of the events by yourself, with friends or with family – I guarantee you’ll go home with a feeling of being a bit better connected to what makes us Canadian
This is a completely inclusive event for all Canadians, and it recognizes that you don’t have to be Francophone to have a feeling of ownership and participation in Canada’s Francophone fabric. So even if you don’t speak French, don’t be at all afraid to check this out. You will be more than welcome on equal footing along with everyone else (you’ll be surrounded by your own capatriots, after all).
The English version of the Rendez-vous’ website outlines events in your province and region.
The link is http:/rvf.ca/home.php.
Le Rendez-vous de la francophonie will run from March 6 to 22, 2015.
François Massicotte, a celebrity comedian, is one of the co-spokespersons of this years’ Rendez-vous and will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.