My Year Abroad: #1 First Impressions

Hello from Quebec! I’ve been out here on my year abroad for around a month and a half now - and so much has happened!

Before we start, do me a favour and as you read this, put on "Van de loup" by Québec Redneck Bluegrass Project . It’ll help you understand the vibe we’re dealing with here…



Just like the song, life here has been very fast-paced despite the rural location of my placement. As I study French, as part of my degree, I have to spend my third year in a francophone country. In my second year, I applied for the British Council assistantship both in Canada and in France, and I was very lucky to be chosen as one of 30 UK assistants to come to Quebec. So here I am, teaching  English in a secondary school in a town called La Pocatiere that only has 4,000 inhabitants. 


Even if you're familiar with French, when listening to the song, you might have struggled to understand any of the lyrics. Welcome to my world… The French of Quebec is very different to the French in France. There are many contractions, the accent is different and there are some variations in vocabulary. Some Quebecois words, such as ‘char’ for car instead of ‘voiture’, sound more like their English counterparts, whereas other words here are more faithful to the French language than the French. For example, in Quebec ‘un courriel’ is used exclusively, whereas in France the use of ‘email’ is common. 


Secondly, just like the pace of the song, many Quebecois people speak very quickly. My landlord is one of these people. During our first few interactions, I must admit I understood very close to nothing of what he was saying, however, due to the pace that he was speaking, I didn’t even have the chance to stop him and ask to slow down! So what did I do? I resorted to nodding and saying ‘oui’ to everything he was saying. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be a risky tactic that landed me in a few ridiculous situations, like that time he dropped me off in a corn maze with a head torch and two French guests from Lille… but that’s a story for next time!



Despite some of the blips in communication, I must highlight that I am very impressed at how welcoming everyone has been. Today, one of my teachers gave me some cookies she baked, another teacher invites me round her house every Tuesday for dinner with her family, another lent me his copy of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ when I complained that I had to leave all my books behind in England, and this list could go on and on! Everyone here is extremely accommodating and genuinely lovely! Moral of the story: all you need to make friends out here is a British accent. They absolutely love it, especially when you try to speak French…


So far, aside from La Pocatiere, I have also visited, Montreal, Quebec City and Tadoussac. All of these places are very different in their own ways. However, one thing they all have in common is just how breathtaking they are. Quebec so far has been exactly that, especially the nature, the food and the people. Despite all this though, I do really miss my mum!