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10 Weird and Funny Questions The French Asked Me About Canada

The Geese Are Going Home, Ottawa, April 2012

Other than my mother and my brother who came to Canada last summer for a visit, no one in my close family or friends has ever been on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

I don’t talk about Canada that much when I’m in France—I’m usually too busy enjoying France in the first place. Besides, I’ve been away for a long time now: although I still enjoy writing about cultural differences, I don’t make a point of commenting on them out loud (it could get pretty annoying!).

One thing you have to know about the French, though, is that they have an opinion on everything. And sometimes, it leads to funny comments and questions!

“Summertime is like what… 5 °C?”

When people hear “Canada,” they automatically shiver with cold. All that snow… surely, it doesn’t melt, does it?

Well, it does. Granted, our winters are longer and colder than in Western Europe, but unless you live really north (as in Yukon or Nunavut) chances are you will experience spring and fall. And depending on where you live in Canada, it can get brutally hot in the summer, like over 40 °C!

“North American food…tsk-tsk, they are all obese over there!”

I also used to think that the French were culinary superior to North Americans. Granted, French food is pretty damn good but most French today don’t spend hours preparing elaborated traditional recipes (not to mention that traditional French food isn’t exactly diet food either!).

This trip, I noticed that a lot of French ate “the American way,” i.e. lots of junk food. Fast-food joints like McDonald’s seemed constantly packed, and local franchises were similarly busy.

I’m the first one to sigh with Jay Leno and his catchphrase, “How fat are we getting that… [insert latest food craziness here]”. But whether you live in France, in Canada or in the U.S., what really matters is the food choices you make every day. You can eat crap in France and healthy stuff in Canada if you choose to, and it’s possible to have a balanced diet in North America!

“So, you can work in the U.S., right?”

Believe it or not, Canada and the U.S.A. are two different countries. And sorry, no Schengen agreement over there.

Besides, why would I want to work in the U.S. right now? The economy is crappy and the gold rush is over!

“How do you pay for your medical bills?”

It’s very complicated. First, I have to open my wallet. Second, I have to pull my health card out—and this is the tricky part, I almost break a nail each time. Then, I hand it to the doctor and put it back into my wallet. Et voilà!

French are so proud of their healthcare system that they don’t realize that most countries adopted a similar approach. When it comes to health care, the U.S. is actually the exception, not the norm.

From a user’s point of view, the French and Canadian healthcare systems are quite similar. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but none will bankrupt you!

“How does it feel to live in a soulless suburb in a city without a centre?”

Most French learned at school that city planning in North America is very different than in France: the downtown core is typically run down and poor and suburbs are more affluent, whereas in France, it’s the opposite.

This view is a bit extreme, though. Ottawa (and many Canadian cities) has a vibrant downtown core and not all suburbs look like what you see on TV!

“Must be tough in the winter when it’s dark 24/7…”

Huh huh. Try again. We do see the sun in Ontario, this ain’t Baffin Island!

“Ah, Canada! Sleigh dogs, Indians, bison, igloos… lucky you!”

Uh… I’m sure the Arte (note: the French-German cultural channel) documentary on the Wild West was great but Canada changed quite a lot these last couple of hundred years.

“How often do you go to New York/LA/Chicago, etc.?”

How often do you do to Greece, Turkey or Tunisia? Every weekend? During holidays?

All the American cities that are famous in France because of U.S. TV series look close to Canada on the map. But most are still far enough that we don’t go there all the time. NY is 700 km from Ottawa—that’s almost like crossing France from north to south. As for LA…. sure, it’s on the same continent but it’s about the same distance as from Paris to Baghdad!

“My cousin/daughter/boss went to Canada for two weeks last summer. He is now completely bilingual!”

Yeah, right. As if you could become bilingual in a couple of weeks. I heard that one so many times it’s not even funny.

In two weeks, you can certainly improve your English and pick up some new vocabulary but you will be nowhere close to bilingual unless you were already fluent.

But wait—chances are the language-gifted person was in Montreal in the first place. Montreal, a city where most residents speak… French.

“You live in Canada? Oh, Quebec, you mean, right?”

This one annoys me to no end. French always assume that Canada = Quebec. If you are French, it goes without saying that you live in Montreal—you’d be crazy to live anywhere else. I mean, the rest of the country speaks English! And they look like Americans!

There is nothing wrong with visiting Quebec or settling there, it’s just the way French disdainfully claim that there is nothing to see outside of that province that bugs me.

Meh. At least, in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver, we don’t feel like we are living in a “petite France.”

Have you heard any funny comments about Canada? Any weird questions?


French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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