Last September I moved to Québec from Ottawa. For a wide variety of personal and professional reasons, I made a leap into the unknown and resettled. I want to share my experience thus far. My impetus for writing this post is essentially to provide my perspective on two key things: what it's like to relocate to a new city on my own and what it's like to live in Québec City as an anglophone.
In 2011 I wrote a blog about Ottawa, mostly encouraging people to get out and enjoy their surroundings. It's been something I've thought about a lot recently since coming to Québec - so much so, in fact, that it got me thinking about writing this post. I've been putting it off for some time, and I figure now is a good time to finally start talking about it.
I have the vantage point of having been in Québec now for seven months. I wanted to live in Québec City for virtually all my life, and I
realised that I had to take advantage of any opportunity to do it while I
was in my twenties. The first time I ever visited was when I lived in Saguenay in 2008, during the 400th anniversary and summer festival. I fell in love with the city and knew virtually instantaneously that I'd have to move there. I went back again in 2011 and 2012, eventually researching apartments and finding a place to call home.
It seemed to line up nicely that I had recently
been certified to teach in Québec, got hired by the local school board,
and would hopefully have no trouble getting teaching experience that I
could then build a career from. Nothing has really gone according to
plan with Québec, and I think that's what has made it very exciting. I have yet to teach in Québec City, but I have been teaching nearby.
Québec and Ottawa are similar, and this is part of why I love it here. There are a lot of green spaces and public squares for locals and tourists alike. The city always ranks high on the list of most livable places. It's large enough to have everything you need, yet small enough to get away from. I also really enjoy the fact that it's very much amenable to an outdoor lifestyle. Not only are there hundreds of kilometres of bike paths, it's a city that is easy to walk. Just outside the city are several national parks, including Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. There's also an attitude of embracing the outdoors year-round. Despite the fact that I've only lived there so far in Fall, Winter, and Spring, there have been so many outdoor events it's hard to keep track. In the fall there was a cross-country ski race in the upper village. There was an outdoor Christmas market throughout most of December. Carnival takes place for two weeks in February. Crashed Ice was an excellent weekend in March.
Québec is unique. Living there is incredible and I feel as though I live somewhere very special. Architecturally, culturally, and historically, Québec City in unlike any other place in North America. It has a European feel in every sense of the world. Narrow streets in front of buildings that are several centuries old. Small cars parked on steep hills. People are outside everyone, whether riding bicycles, reading under a tree, or checking out the cafés. It's vibrant and exciting.
On the more socio-politcal level, being an anglophone and a Québécois simultaneously is interesting. I'm very thankful that I have an interesting social group in the city, made up of anglophones, francophones, and allophones alike. Before moving to Québec, I knew that language was a significant tension virtually everywhere in the province, made more salient with the recent election of a sovereigntist PQ Government. Just prior to my move, an assassination attempt on the new premier occurred. Violence has seldom been a part of Québec's separatist movement, but the tensions that push that violence forward are never far from the surface.
I'm fortunate to be living here where there's a lot of turmoil around
language. The PQ has really failed to take significant policy positions
on anything, with the exception of sovereignty. As such, language
politics are always in the news. I listen to the news in French and
English here and try to talk to as many francophones and anglophones as I
can about current events. Currently the STM is debating whether or not to offer services bilingually. There is also a lot of discussion about a proposed bill that will limit the rights of communities with sizable English populations.
There are numerous other items all occurring at the provincial level
and at the municipal level where anglophones live in greater number.
Despite the fact that there is a lot of bad blood between French and English, the discourse is not static. My experience with ethnic and linguistic tension has come from being places (like Montréal or Sherbrooke) where there are large anglophone populations. However, living in Québec is similar to my experience living in Saguenay several years ago. The not-so-shocking truth is that Québécois who have limited exposure to anglophones don't dislike them outright: francophones are frustrated by English people refusing to speak French. As an anglophone in Québec, I've come to note that Québécois tend to really appreciate it when people make real efforts to not only speak their language but to similarly understand their culture. I've had a universally positive experience with francophones since moving to the province, and they know I'm English because they can hear my accent (which they all agree is "Franco-Ontarien").
I'm honestly quite excited to see what happens in the coming months as there are a lot of items on the table. I'll be staying in the province for the foreseeable future, though it's unclear if I'll be moving somewhere where there are more anglophones. I hope that this post makes you consider visiting my city. We'd love to have you!