Quebec through the lens of a French expat

  • Living in Quebec
  • Living in Quebec
  • Living in Quebec
Interview
Published 7 months ago

A young and dynamic French expat, Camille moved to Quebec fours years ago on a Working Holiday Visa. She lives in Montreal where she's enjoying her expat life to the fullest between work and exploring the region whenever she gets the chance. She talks to Expat.com about her expat experience and why she loves Montreal.

CAMcestelle

CAMcestelle

Je suis française et j'habite depuis plus de trois ans et demi au Canada à Montréal. J'ai lancé une chaine YouTube qui s'appelle "CAM c'est elle" afin de partager mon expérience en tant ...

Hi Camille, please tell us a little bit about you.

I grew up in Grenoble, and then lived in Bordeaux for 2 years, moved to Lyon for 5 years to study and work, before moving to Montréal. I did my studies in the audiovisual field and worked as a video editor.

What brought you to Quebec ?

I came for holidays during the summer of 2012, and i just fell in love with Montréal. I found the people very open, friendly, and less stressed out. For the first time in my life, I felt myself walking and looking around me rather than looking down at my feet. It felt so good, and I decided to come back a year later.

How long have you lived in Montréal ?

It’s been more than 4 years now, I moved here August 23, 2013.

What was the process of moving to Canada?

The fact that I am French and fit all the criteria, I asked for a Working Holiday Visa. At the time, the whole thing was processed via mail, and the visa was valid for a year, instead of two years. It seems that the criteria has not changed much, the requirements are still that you need to have some savings, a health insurance, a clean criminal record, be younger than 35 years old, and also speak french or have a French passport, in some cases.

Living in Quebec

What is your favourite thing about Quebec, and what is your least favourite thing?

It’s hard to mention just one thing. Montreal is definitely my favourite thing, because of its energy, all the leisure activities, the open-minded people, the multicultural aspect, parks and the greenery, even if we are in a city.

What i like the least is definitely the price of cheese. On a more serious note, I don’t like the healthcare system. Living abroad has made me realise how lucky we are regarding our healthcare system in France.

How would you describe Quebec in one sentence?

Quebec is all about nature with thousands of kilometres of forest, as well as millions of things to do and charming towns of all sizes to explore.

What has surprised you the most about Quebec ?

I think it was mostly the kindness of the locals. At the beginning, if I opened up a map on the street, there would always be someone who would ask if I needed help. Aside from that, I surprised by the cleanliness. Whether you’re in town or in a national park, there are trash cans everywhere, and people are very respectful about that.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Quebec, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

Finding accommodation in Quebec is relatively easy. It is only slightly more complicated when you have a pet. In general, you don’t need a guarantor, or 3 months’ rent to be paid upfront, or even show your latest payslip. The least they ask for is usually just a credit history, but that’s not always mandatory either. It really depends on the owner. Expats and locals have access to similar options for accommodation. I tend to prefer living with flatmates so as to meet new people more easily, but that’s just my preference.

Accommodation in Quebec

How is today’s expat job market in Quebec?

I think the most stressful thing is that you can be fired at any time. There’s no job security. You can easily find a job in Montreal and a company willing to give you a chance, but it’s difficult to find a contracted job. I think to find a job you just have to keep looking. It is definitely easier to find a job in the food industry than in your actual field, but anything is possible if you look hard enough and keep an open mind about commuting or even relocating. It takes more time depending on what you’re looking for. On my side, it took me two months to find the job that I wanted in my field. I prefer to have a fixed salary rather than freelance.

What are the most popular festivals and cultural etiquette in Quebec?

Festivals are abundant in Quebec. They occur all year round, and offer something to everyone. In Montreal for instance, during the summer it’s mostly music festivals such as Francofolies, the international jazz festival Osheaga, and Juste pour rire. Many festivals actually offer free entrance so that anyone can attend. When it gets colder, movie festivals take over.

There are all kinds of festivals for everything: festival of poutine, beer, cheese, ribs, air balloons, western movies. The festivals in Quebec, whether in summer, winter, or even the Igloofest held in Montreal, are not to be missed.

What do you think about the lifestyle in Quebec?

I think it’s a mixture of European and American. Contrary to how it is in France, people here dress whichever way they want without caring about what others think. In France, we tend to be critical and judge others easily. I also find here that people appreciate and enjoy their lives. I think it is healthy to have that perspective.

How is the transportation system in Quebec? How do you move around?

There’s access to everything, including cars, trains, bus, and planes. You can even add the skidoo (snowmobile) and sleds to the list. When i’m in the city, I either use public transportation, bicyles, or I walk. If I travel outside of Quebec, then I usually rent a car with friends.

Nature in Quebec

Have you had any difficulties in adapting to your new life in Quebec?

Not at all. Given that I had already visited prior to moving there, I was fine. I also watched quite a few videos on youtube and tried to learn as much as possible, so I knew what to expect. In general, I adapt more or less easily. And I am so happy to be there so it was an easy transition.

How is your everyday life in Quebec?

Sometimes I feel like it’s very similar to France, and over time I stopped feeling like an expat. Overall, my life includes work, which I usually do from home, see my friends for a drink or dinner, go on a trip as soon as I can, and enjoy every aspect of my life.

What do you do in your free time?

I like to create things, so whenever I have time, which is quite rare these days, I like to paint or engage in craft projects. Other than that, I like to do regular things like grab a beer in a microbrewery with friends, have a barbecue in the park, walk around and take photos, or explore the city, whether I go to a restaurant or a museum, and walk through neighbourhoods that I don’t usually get to see. I think I should dedicate some of my time to work out, but I’m not feeling very motivated these days.

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife in Quebec?

There are so many. Honestly I think it’s easy to find something to do. In small cities or towns, it is generally harder to find nightlife activities, but in a big city like Montreal, it is difficult to get bored. There are bars at every corner, multiple theatres, cinemas, stadiums to go watch sport games, and even bingo nights for the reckless ones ready to go hard.

Camping in Quebec

What new habits have you developed in Quebec? Which ones have you dropped?

There’s quite a few that have changed. My eating habits have changed. Bread and cheese being more expensive, I stopped consuming so much of that. I also eat a lot earlier. In Quebec, people usually have dinner between 5-5:30pm. I eat about an hour later, to balance things out and find a middle ground.

I also tend to consult the weather forecast multiple times a day, seeing as the weather changes so quickly. I’ve also learned to leave tips, which is so different from France.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Quebec? For instance, how much does a bus ticket, a beer, and a loaf of bread cost?

I have mixed feelings about that. Sometimes, I feel like it’s very similar to France, and at other times I feel like the cost of living is cheaper here. It’s related to the quality of life as well. A bus ticket to Montreal costs about $3.75 but to go to Vancouver or New York, it costs a few hundred dollars. At least that’s how much it cost 4 years ago.

Regarding other regular items such as a beer, that costs between $5 and $8, depending on the time of day and the quality of the beer. A loaf of bread from a bakery costs between $3 and $4, although you can find cheaper if you’re willing to compromise on quality.

What is something that you would like to do in Canada but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I really want to visit the Gaspesia. I also want to see the Aurora Borealis, go to the air balloon festival, visit to extreme north of the country, spend more time in the Rocky Mountains, visit Vancouver again because it was raining the one time I went there. I also want to perhaps try skydiving, but I am not totally sure yet.

Share your most memorable experience in Quebec.

My road trips, whether in the Rocky Mountains, or smaller road trips with friends to go camping, whale watching, canoeing, or zip-lining, are some of my favourite memories. Exploring new places, or spending the night in places that are out of the ordinary, is an incredible experience.

Living in Montreal

If you could do the move to Canada all over, what would you do differently?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. Things worked out really well for me. Perhaps I would travel more around the continent.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

I don’t think that the typical dishes are the most refined, but they are nevertheless very tasty. I see them more as “comfort food”. It’s not the best to stay fit, but it always makes you feel good emotionally. I’ve had the chance to eat in really good restaurants that created menus based solely on local ingredients, and it was excellent.

What are your favourite dishes?

Poutine, without any doubt. I also like chinese pâté, corn on the cob with butter, smoked meat sandwiches, and many more. It’s a long list.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My social circle, for sure. I also miss French cuisine, although it’s quite easy to prepare French dishes.

Can you give some useful tips that soon-to-be expatriates to Canada might benefit from.

Mentally prepare yourself and keep an open mind, bring enough savings with you, purchase a health insurance, and enjoy every little moment because time goes by so fast.

Quebec, Canada

What motivated you to start your Youtube channel “Cam c’est elle”?

To help people and also to make people laugh. I got the idea two years ago after the attack in Bataclan. Being far from France, I was feeling low, and to make myself feel better, I started watching youtube videos, such as PL Cloutier. He made me laugh and made me feel better, so I decided to try and do the same for others.

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them to Quebec, what would they be?

A good pair shoes, because we walk a lot here. I would also say to come with an open mind because it’s going to be a different lifestyle, in a new country, where people don’t operate in the same manner that you’re used to. Come with courage and confidence for moments where you might doubt yourself, and also clothes from Décathlon, and a camera.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing, and hopefully have more time and opportunities to discover Quebec, Canada, and other places in the world.

What is one thing that you will take with you from Quebec?

So many things! All my memories, my friends, people’s kindness, cheese curds so that I can make poutine, and many other things. But for right now I’m not thinking about leaving.