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French culture versus Québec culture

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Here is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed of late.

Why is it that when English Canadian journalists (and most anglophones for that matter) refer to Québec, they invariably talk about the French culture and the French people?

Excuse me, but what French culture? Which French people?

The last time I looked we were in Québec, not France. This is Québec culture. The people here are Québecois.

Yet it’s a common and persistent mistake made by the press. Over and over again.

What gives?

In Québec the official language is French, therefore the people are French? The culture is French?

Going by this rationale, then, all English Canadians speak English, therefore their culture is English?

If you suggested such a thing to a Canadian, they would, I’m sure, be outraged and appalled.

Am I missing something here? Are journalists trying to dumb it down for their readers? Simplify things a bit?

Or are they being deliberately obtuse?

Frankly, I find it bizarre.

Imagine the outcry in New Zealand if some journalist wrote, “Gosh, you English are clever, aren’t you? And isn’t your culture quaint?” Or worse: “Gee, you Australians are quite something…”

They would be hounded out of the country so fast, they wouldn’t know if they were coming or going.

How is it any different here?

It seems to me to be something of a cultural blindspot for English Canadians.

And an ignorance that is both peculiar and disappointing, from a country that is commonly held up to the rest of the world as an exemplar of tolerance and sensitivity.

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About Kirsten Cameron

  • jack moriarty

    I have to kindly interject my humble opinion to your interesting article. I know I have an Irish name but I was born and raised in France of an American father. The difference, to me, is that most Quebecois are direct descendants of French immigrants and seem less permeatted with other cultures than the US or New Zealand or Australia. Plus the fact that there are a lot more English speakers in the world than French speakers! Whenever I travel to Quebec I cannot help but feel the French culture in the air. It is everywhere. Starting with physical appearance to mannerisms to a sentimental romantic approach to life that is uniquely French. I think we should always accentuate what we have in common instead of our differences! I love both countries and see them as independent entities, but the subtle ties transcend time and politics. Take care Jack

  • Sammi Q

    well thats mostly true, i am an English Canadian but i would not be so up-setted if some one had refrd to me as english, becase that us part of where canada started to form, as well as france and many other countries. the fact is we, (the people) are made to belive that we have to be called by just one name, why cann’t we just take what come as you get it and dont take it so hardly, like the world wont end because i called you a french person would it? the world is full of porbles so cant we take the easyer ones and just stop think to how worng they were and start thinkin of what they made a MISTAKE on , its no big deal, EVERY one makes them just try not to make a big deal about it ok? kisses sam
    e-mail, SammyClarke.com

  • Nancy

    I’m American, but my ethnic heritage (and until lately, the general US cultural heritage) was considered to be English, as opposed to Spanish (as in the US Southwest or Florida) or various cultural enclaves like the MidWest (Swedish, Polish) or NYC (Italian, Jewish, Chinese). I certainly wouldn’t be offended if, as a Quebecois, someone called me “French”: ’tis a noble source from which the general Quebecois culture and language sprung. Be flattered.

  • http://mrbounce.blogspot.com/ Mistress La Spliffe

    The reason they get referred to as French in Anglo media so much is because there are psychological and political problems, which our prime minister has lately run into, about calling them what they are: a distinct, Quebecois nation.

    I have to disagree with Jack for this reason. Most Quebecois are descendents of the French, it’s true, but most Quebecois families have been in the New World for hundreds of years. Their cuisine is different, their architecture is different, their accent is different (which they’re damn aware of when they go to France and get mocked and condescended to for the ‘childishness’ of their accent and expressions) and they have sophisticated musical, cinematic, literary and social traditions that are completely different from those of France. Their history is also completely different in terms of their tensions with neighbouring nations.

    And finally, France is not bilingual. Quebec is – sort of. In a very complicated way. There are very old, very Anglophone populations there. Montréal, the biggest city there, is the closest thing I’ve seen to a really bilingual city since Brussels.

    Anyways, I guess the short answer to your question is Anglos call the Quebecois “French” because they’re wrong. But at the same time, there are lots of Francophones living in other Canadian provinces, so one needs a term like “French-Canadian” to refer to all of them.

  • Nancy

    Whatever, I have found both the French & the Quebecois to be lovely people in any language. Good food, too. ;)

  • http://mrbounce.blogspot.com/ Mistress La Spliffe

    Fucking right, Nancy! (Am I allowed to swear in the Comments section?)