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“You May Say I’m a Dreamer” – Tourist vs. Resident

Canadiana, Ottawa, July 2012

As much as I enjoy immigration topics, I have never been able to find a good forum on the subject. Some boast thousands of members, but most are one-time visitors looking for a quick answer to their immigration question—there is no social interaction. Other forums are a hunting ground for scammers and immigration lawyers promoting their services, and have little to offer.

I used to be a member of a large French-speaking immigration forum, but I was banned back in 2006 or 2007. Just as well: I didn’t exactly fit in.

Most members of that forum were prospective immigrants from France heading to Quebec, the large majority to Montreal, a few to Quebec, and even fewer to remote regions of Quebec. I was the token “French living in Ontario”, a role I didn’t mind. After all, to each his own, and as I said many times, I’m much more comfortable living in English Canada.

What drove me crazy were the stereotypes a lot of prospective immigrants chose to believe in.

French citizens are lucky: they do not need a visa to visit Canada, and they can make the trip relatively easily—they are richer and face less bureaucratic hassle than citizens from, let’s say, China, Mexico, India, etc. So it’s common for French families interested in immigrating to Quebec to organise “scouting trips” and to report on them later on.

And most—if not all—families came back ranting about France and spreading stereotypes.

First, I found their whining about France a little bit over the top. Granted, most prospective immigrants aren’t happy with their life at home—this is what they want out. That doesn’t mean the country they live in is completely rotten, and that doesn’t mean, in my humble opinion, that they are entitled to become far-right pricks. I got tired of reading endless rants about “immigrants invading France and destroying our values”, “lazy unemployed bums who sit around collecting unemployment and social benefits”, and “hard-working French who pay too much taxes”.

You are French. Get over it. Immigrating with such a negative attitude towards your home country is never a good idea, and can backfire later on.

Usually, these rants against France are immediately followed by what the family observed during the week- or two-week long Canadian holiday.

“People are so polite in Montreal!” “Everybody was smiling and saying ‘allô’!” “The bed & breakfast owner was friendly and welcoming!” “We made a lot of friends who will help us when we settle there!”

Well, gee. Not to be cynical, but as tourists, you were there to spend money. Of course, the tourism industry is going to welcome you with open arms—that’s the least it can do! As for the friends you made… Just remember that Canadians are friendly and helpful (that much is true!) but don’t expect a friendship to blossom in a week-long trip.

“The weather was great!” (if the tourists were there during fall) “It was much warmer than we expected!” (during a summer trip) “Meh, it’s not that cold and snow is so pretty!” (during a winter trip)

Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between “surviving” two weeks of cold weather, and spending an entire winter in Canada…  or two, or three, or four. Just saying.

“According to the locals, there is a lot of work in the region. So and so is hiring. And we could easily start our own business. Lots of local do, doesn’t look that hard and they make a lot.”

Again, ahem. I’m not saying locals lie to tourists on purpose, but few realize how hard it is to find a first job in Canada, especially for newcomers. Some declining regions are desperate to attract new blood (ever seen the Quebec movie “Seducing Doctor Lewis”?) and will promise the moon, so don’t believe everything the local commerce chambers or industries will tell you.

“We stayed in a log home by the lake, went dog sledding, ate some maple syrup pancakes by the bonfire and rode a snowmobile. We loved Quebec’s wide open spaces and clean natural wilderness. That’s the life we want, we can’t stand Paris anymore!”

Glad to see you had fun and enjoyed the tourist activities! And I’m stressing on “tourist” because let’s face it, unless you become a musher (aka driver of a dogsled), you will likely live in an urban environment and drive a car to work—not a snowmobile. Oh, and log homes are fairly uncommon downtown Montreal. Sorry about that.

You may think I’m a bit cynical, but I’m so tired of hearing prospective immigrants spreading this twisted fictional vision of Quebec! Mind you, the tourism office loves the propaganda, but I don’t think it help immigrants on the long run.

There is a huge gap between being a tourist and a resident, and of all people, prospective immigrants should be aware of it.

What do you think? Ever heard prospective immigrants spreading stereotypes? How do you react to that?

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