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Jean-Paul and Emma: From France to Montreal

Emma and Jean-Paul

It’s no secret that Quebec, the francophone province, give French-speaking prospective immigrants the red carpet treatment. Indeed, there is even a separate process for those interested in settling in the Belle Province and processing time are said to be faster.

Emma and Jean-Paul were ideal candidates: there are both young and highly-educated French citizens with degrees and experience in needed fields. They were selected easily and nine month later, they were landing in Montreal.

The couple have now been living in Canada for three years and enjoying it. In fact, they are expecting a little French-Canadian baby anytime soon! Emma was kind enough to answer the interview waiting for the baby.

1) What brought you to Canada?

We are both French citizens. I am also British as my mother was born there and immigrated to France in her twenties.

After completing our studies, we knew we wanted to go work abroad for some time and looked around European countries but it just didn’t seem to be what we were looking for. One day, we started considering Canada as Jean-Paul had met a Quebecer on the train. Several of our friends came to do internships or study in Canada, and they all liked it so much we decided to give it a go too after researching and discussing it for a few months. We then decided to do the papers to become permanent residents in Québec.

On April 29th 2008, we took off for a one-way trip to Montreal. Montreal was a good choice for us as we liked the mix of French and English. Vancouver would have tempted us too but it was too far from our families and we did not want to be completely cut off so Montreal was the best compromise for everything we were looking for.

2) Did you find the immigration process difficult?

It took us 9 months (January to September 2007) to do get the green light for our permanent visa. Our application was quite “easy” as we were both young (early twenties), educated in a field Quebec lacks workers for, both fluent in French and English—it was pretty straightforward. French citizens also have the option to apply for a holiday working visa, a one year visa which can be obtain much quicker, but we decided to go with the permanent visa as we did not want to have to come back to France when the visa expires.

We decided to do our application on our own as we found the information on Citizenship and Immigration Canada easy to search and understand. There are also many blogs and message boards that can provide useful information. Obviously, you always have to double-check what you find on the Internet but it is a very good start and can help you prepare for the immigration.

3) How long did it take you to find a job that you liked in Canada? What was your goal? The obstacles you faced?

We are both Chemical Engineers—I’m in the cosmetic field and Jean-Paul in Health, Safety and Environment. I found my job three month after we arrived and Jean-Paul went back to university for some time before finding his job (18 month after our arrival). Going back to University was convenient because he had to pass his driving licence in Canada (I had a French driving-license so I automatically got a Quebec driving license but he never took his in France) and you have a 8 month-long mandatory waiting period between theory and practical exams. He had several job offers but the fact that he did not have his driving license was a real handicap for him. He got his job a month after his driving license.

We both attend a three-week long job-searching group for engineers 3 months after our arrival and it helped a lot (the AMPE-CITI club).

4) Where did you learn English? What was your second language level when you first came to Canada?

We’re both French, so French was easy and Jean-Paul learned English at school. I am fortunate to have a British mother so I spend all my summers with my grandparents in England (Lincolnshire) and learnt English from a young age.

In our fields being fluent in both French and English is compulsory.

5) What was your biggest culture shock?

Cheesewiz!! (Note from Zhu: this is a popular processed cheese spread in Quebec. I’ve never tasted it but it looks awful!) And waiting in line at the bus stop, it’s so nice to see civilised Quebecers queuing everywhere! Such a change from France.

When you become a permanent resident in Quebec you are offered free “integration sessions” that explain some of the cultural differences that you might find in Québec. These sessions were very interesting for us because you get to learn a lot about the history of the country and some things that are just culturally different her. French people are often misled thinking that as they still speak French, they believe French customs are the same here in Quebec which is not the case… I would recommend those integrations sessions to any newcomers in Quebec.

6) What haven’t you gotten used to yet in Canada?

Cheezewiz!! You could add maple syrup but I knew I didn’t like the stuff even before coming here so… kind of doesn’t count!

Two holidays we have not yet gotten used to are Halloween and Thanksgiving. I guess it will just come with time. We expecting our first child in the coming days so I guess Halloween will very soon be an important date in our schedules!

7) Did immigrating to Canada match your expectations?

Yes, we have fine jobs we would never have dreamt of in France, a beautiful home and we believe our future is here. Of course, being far from our families is difficult at times but we both know we have a much better life here (quality- and work-wise) than what we would have had in France. We are certain we can offer a better future to our children here than in France.

What we have noticed, is that if you put a lot of work and effort into things in Canada it pays much better that in France. Being here makes us feel we have much more opportunities. The Canadian dream came true for us!

But you must also realise that changing countries and being far from your family is also a lot to go through. You have to start back from scratch which makes you face many challenges but three years later, we feel it was well worth it.

8) Do you find life expensive in Canada compared to your home country?

Except for some specialty foods, telecoms, cable internet and wine (so expensive compared to what we were used to!) it feels cheaper than in France. Indeed, housing is much cheaper than in France so it kind of evens out in the end. Basically, you just have to adapt and embrace local habits. For sure, it you try living the same way you used to, it would be much more expensive!

9) Are you planning to apply for Canadian citizenship when you will meet the requirements?

We will apply. As a matter of fact, our application is ready and we will send it at the end of July once we meet the requirements (I still need 20-ish days to reach the 3 years). We are fortunate enough to be able to be both French and Canadian citizens. Being Canadians will be a huge step for us as we will finally be able to vote and have our say on how the country and province are managed.

This will also enables to have the same citizenships as our baby as he will automatically be born Canadian.

10) What advice would you give to someone from your home country interested in immigrating to Canada?

Go for it! But not all at once, because there are already lots of French people here 😉

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