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Friday, January 24, 2014

Have you ever lived "abroad"? Or Two sides of Canada

Robynajay, Flickr

Warning: Keep in mind that this comparison is based on my very personal experience and not on statistically reliable data; plus, there are exceptions in everything. If this post sounds like an outrageous overgeneralization... well, it's probably because it is one. :-) Also keep in mind that when I speak of Quebec, I speak of the regions surrounding the main cities. It might be different in remote, northern parts of Quebec.

In any case, I love both places, and more importantly, I love people in both places.

Six and a half years ago, we moved from our natal Quebec to Nova Scotia. More precisely, we moved from 1.6 million populated Montreal to the - wooden - suburbs of Halifax. We had never been there, apart from a job interview and a few days of house hunting. We didn't know what it would be like. Similar? Different? Better? Worse? We had no idea.

Was it a crazy move? Probably. But what move isn't?

Today I'm putting together the "Best Of" each city/province. You can go ahead and share with us what you think of both areas, and/or of other ones you know.

                        At one point I had an apartment with a similar view
Scazon, Flickr

                                               Our - backyard - view now

Best of Nova Scotia

  1. Mild summers; no need for air conditioning, and pleasant sleep even in the middle of July.
  2. Mild winters, with way less extremely cold days; today, for example, the windchill gives -33 Celsius in Quebec but a "comfortable" -20 Celsius here in Halifax! (yuck).
  3. The ocean.
  4. Less ragweed (hay fever anyone?).
  5. Less pretentious individuals. I find that Maritimers are less "intimidating", not constantly trying to spread the extent of their culture, not constantly trying to knock you down with their knowledge or accomplishments.
  6. A (perceived) peaceful cohabitation of French and English; tons of Anglos send their kids to French immersion, and are all excited to practice speaking it. They also think it's a sexy language. Francophones from Quebec usually don't feel that way about English, for understandable historical and oppression-related reasons. (Now the Acadian question would deserve a post to itself, but from what I observe, it gives in to English more, as opposed to the fiery Quebecois attitude toward English... in Quebec, the French population has taken the bull by the horns and truly fights to save its language and culture. It might be easier to function without English in Quebec than it is in Nova Scotia; the official language here is English, and there are way more "interlinguistic" marriages - Please remember this is an overgeneralization though!)
  7. More community support and generosity: everyone knows everyone and is willing to lend a hand at a moment's notice; less individualistic approach to life.
  8. Following from the previous point, handymen, craftywomen and successful hunters on every corner, who are willing to make others benefit from their ability (If you don't like the gender stereotype inherent to this point, keep reading).
  9. Many small home-based businesses supported by the community, and that support each other; nice networking opportunities.
  10. From what I understand, better medical service. It IS possible to see a doctor within reasonable time in Nova Scotia, as opposed to Quebec.
  11. Nice hair (many women here have irreproachable hair; it's only in Nova Scotia that I finally adopted a "real" haircut)
  12. Differential, environmentally-friendly garbage cans in public places (recyclables, organics, trash, etc.)
  13. Lobster (and all other fresh and affordable seafood).
  14. Possibility to use - and improve - our English (2nd language) on a daily basis.
  15. Everyone calling you "sweetheart", "honey" and "malove".
  16. Less pressure to accomplish things, more leisurely lifestyle.
  17. The sound of silence, peace and quiet.

Beautiful voice of Nova Scotia

Best of Québec

  1. Hot summers (with a short and t-shirt season worthy of the name).
  2. Cold winters (without the outdoor rinks constantly melting).
  3. Better ski (a couple great mountains, plus the ones in Vermont).
  4. Lively political, intellectual, cultural, and generally speaking ideological scene, mostly explained by the sheer size of the population, but maybe also by the Latin blood and the mix of ethnic/religious/linguistic origins maybe? Quebec is both more populated and more heterogeneous than the Maritimes.
  5. More options in terms of food and drink, for the same population reasons. I was discussing the variety of cheeses offered in Halifax with someone who insisted there are a lot. Well, yes, if you forget the fact that half of them are different types of Gouda!
  6. Speaking of cheese... cheese curds. The ones that "squeesh" between the teeth. Unbeatable. Unequaled. Yum.
  7. Affordable booze.
  8. Microbreweries.
  9. More people to appreciate and discuss cheese and wine with.
  10. Affordable groceries, with way more variety and choice and "ethnic" products offered.
  11. Less traditional gender roles, less gender segregation (read: men and women share the load more equally, gender identity is more flexible).
  12. More open-minded and progressive mentality (applies to everything).
  13. Subsidized daycare ($7 a day for all, yes, yes, I'm not kidding you!).
  14. More studying opportunities, followed by more career opportunities.
  15. Nicer clothes, great sense of style, more stores, more designers.
  16. Ikea. (What?).
  17. Family is there.

Visit Montreal with a famous Quebecois song

Questions for the road:

  • What are the pros and cons of the place you live in? 
  • How do they compare to the pros and cons of another place you've lived in?
  • Do you think friendship within the same gender is stronger in cultures where there is more gender segregation/where friendship between genders is less common?
  • Do you think the new, less traditional gender roles come at the expense of traditional abilities? (e.g. men who readily change diapers but who cannot change a light bulb, or women who can chop wood but who burn water in the kitchen?) (To take with a grain of salt hey!)


  1. That's interesting, Julie!! For some reason I assumed that Nova Scotia would be colder. I guess the ocean makes all the difference.

    I lived in the Midwest US before Florida. Most everything is better here :-)

    Okay, the museums were better there.

    I was born in a small town, raised in a large Midwestern city, and happy to get back to a more rural area in Florida.

    1. Yes, the ocean keeps everything more temperate.

      It's nice to hear your opinion since you've experienced different environments too. Wait 'till I talk about African living now! :-)

  2. seems to me that living in Quebec would be more expensive with all those exquisite goodies! NS seems to be more favorable for human interactions, Quebec for stimulation.

    1. You have a point! :-) But the basics (fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, bread, meats...) are less expensive.

      Agree with you on the second point I think.

  3. Wow - I've read this through and will read it through again !

    I have never been to Canada it is such a big place, with some wonderful fishing I'm told.

    As 'Arnie' would say I'll be back !

    All the best Jan

    1. Please do come visit! But choose your region first, because there is no way one can cover it all in one trip! :-)

  4. Since I've never been to Canada, I totally enjoyed the comparisons between these 2 completely different cities.
    I live in Kansas which I consider pretty meh!!! I'm from TX which I love!!! And, hopefully one day in the not too far future we will live on a warm beach year-round!!!

  5. I think a lot of the differences you speak of are the main differences between rural and urban areas everywhere. I prefer rural, close-knit communities to large cities and have found people in all the small towns I've lived to be warm and friendly. I spent a summer studying in Chicoutimi and found it had a similar small town atmosphere. But like you mentioned of Montreal, they are fiercely proud of the francophone heritage and I found few people that actually spoke English.

    I've lived everywhere from Oklahoma to Alaska and Michigan to California and there are pros and cons to all of them. Honestly, I don't try to compare them to each other because they are so different. I do find myself preferring the climate I grew up in (Michigan) with four distinct seasons. Northwest coastal California is so weird with 50-60F all year long. And it means terrible mold and dust allergies 365 days a year.

    1. I think so to! Although there are differences between the French and the English, that are more than merely linguistic. :-)

      Allergies: not fun at all, and one of the reasons I love Nova Scotia summers compared to Quebec summers!

  6. Thanks for sharing such great images!