From a working holiday visa to permanent residency in Quebec

  • Living in Quebec
  • Quebec landscapes
Published 11 months ago

Charlene comes from a small town next to Nantes, in France. She flew to Quebec a long time ago to visit her family, and twelve years later, she decided to go back to Quebec with her husband on a Working Holiday Visa (WHV). Charlene has now been in Quebec for over seven years and is enjoying a good life with her little family. She shares her experience with



Nous sommes français et vivons à Québec depuis septembre 2010. Un choix qu'on ne regrette pas et je crois qu'on n'est pas prêt d'arrêter l'aventure. Depuis 6 ans on partage nos expériences de voyage ...

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

I'm 28 and I'm from a small town next to Nantes. I fell in love with Quebec during a trip to visit my family twelve years ago. I've always wanted to come back and settle here. When I met my husband, I told him about my plans and he was eager to be part of it. Before moving here, I used to work as a waitress in a castle in Angers.

What brought you to Quebec? How long have you lived there?

We moved to Quebec in September 2010, so it's been more than seven years now. I really like the open spaces here, the warmth, the friendliness of people, and the North American lifestyle. I'm discovering something new everytime I walk in Old Quebec City and while visiting the province. I really love my life here.

What was the process of moving to Quebec?

We came here with a Working-Holiday Visa (WHV) for one year. Back then, it was much easier to get a WHV as there were fewer candidates compared to the current quotas. Our adventure began as soon as we stepped here. I was lucky to be hired by the company for which I had been working. I was then granted a two-year temporary work visa. In July 2014, we became permanent residents.

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

The quality of life. People are warm and welcoming, so it's really easy to live here. Also, shops are always open. The labour market is very dynamic and there are career prospects for everyone. Nature is everywhere so there's a lot to explore. What I like the least, on the other hand, is being far from my friends and family.

Expat au Quebec

How would you describe Quebec in one sentence?

Quebec is a city with a lush nature, wide open spaces and very good quality of life.

What has surprised you the most about Quebec?

The size of almost everything, from open spaces to cars (pick-ups), pizzas, shampoo bottles (1.6 liters) and our Nesquick pack (1.36 kgs).

I was also surprised by how familiar the people here are. It's very easy to make friends here. Random people you come across on the street will say "Hello, how are you ?", they are rarely grumpy and are quite patient, except while driving maybe. Quebec is also a very tolerant city where you can go out in your pajamas on Sunday morning to go buy bread. Restaurants and shops, for their part, are always full.

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

Lease contracts have a 12 month duration and it's not easy to get out of them. In general, lease contracts begin on July 1st. However, sublet is very common in Quebec. There are many agencies here helping expats find accommodation. I have friends who chose to stay with Airbnb for a few weeks while looking for a flat on the spot – which also gives you the time to find a job and thus have more credibility in the owner's opinion.

How is today’s expat job market in Quebec?

The job market is very open so it's quite easy to be hired, especially in sales, catering, and healthcare. However, you have to check whether your diploma or degree is accepted here. In Montreal, companies are often reluctant to hire those on a working holiday visa due to negative past experiences. In general, you may have to take up jobs that don't necessarily match your profile till you find something better.

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

There are many festivals and events in Quebec City. The Quebec City Summer Festival is a very popular yearly festival that lasts for ten days. International and pop artist from around the world come to perform. The ticket price is CA$ 90 for the whole event. We got to see Elton John, Johnny Halliday, LMFAO, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruno Mars, and many more! Quebec being a French-speaking province, many events revolve around the French language. The people here have a real sense of pride for their origins and history.

Paysages du Quebec

What do you think about the lifestyle in Quebec?

Personally, I find it less stressful. I really like that stores are open everyday till late at night. Restaurants are always open and welcoming. Life is really sweet here, even though the winter is really harsh.

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

The bus network is much more developed than the railway system, but it's still easy to get around the province. There's a subway network in Montreal, but not in Quebec City, unfortunately. Each city has its own bus network. Also, domestic flights within Canada are very expensive since there are no low cost companies like in Europe.

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

Not at all. After all, Quebec is a French-speaking province where you can get a glimpse of the European lifestyle. We only had to adapt to the local accent and expressions. We're still learning new things everyday.

How is your everyday life in Quebec?

It's quite similar to what it would have been in Europe. I work from Monday to Friday during regular office hours. I have also been on maternity leave for a while. We're lucky here to have a 12 months parental leave. Also, there are a lot of activities for moms and toddlers here. I recently took a cardio-salsa call with my baby. Other than that, we take trips around the region during the weekends. However, we only have two or three weeks of vacation, which is less than what we had in France.

What do you do in your free time?

We try to travel as much as possible across Quebec and to the U.S. I have a blog, Trip USA-Canada, created with two Belgian friends. We write about places we have been visiting. Our curiosity brings us to places where maybe we would have never dared to go. Since November 2016, we also spend a lot of time with our son Justin.

Trip USA-Canada

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife in Quebec?

I'm not an expert in this matter but I'm sure there are. You have all kinds of bars in Quebec, especially in Montreal. There are all kinds of bars, but for a more local experience, I suggest La Petite Grenouille.

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

I'm always buying a coffee at the drive-through. We have also gotten used to having dinner at the local time, which is around 5.30pm or 6pm. We don't always wait for the weekend to eat out. Regarding old habits, I don't have to stress anymore about forgetting to lock the car or the house.

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?

In general, it's pretty similar to the cost of living in France. Some things are more expensive in France than in Quebec and vice-versa. A bus ticket, for example, costs CA$ 3.50, which is equilavent to 2.25 €. A beer, tax and tips included, costs CA$ 9, around 5.85 €. A French load costs around CA$ 2.50, or 1.65 €.

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

There's still so much to see in Quebec, but we would really like to explore the Western part of Canada, especially British Columbia and Alberta.

Share your most memorable experience in Quebec.

It's really hard to pick up only one. Becoming permanent residents was one of our greatest accomplishments, and a relief too. Regarding our trips, we spent a night at the Montebelle Castle in Outaouais. It felt like living a dream. We also liked our trip to Bic Park in Rimouski. Obviously, the best of all was my son's birth.

Expatriee au Quebec

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

We would have traveled longer. When we arrived, we found our jobs and accommodation in no time. If we had to start from scratch, maybe we could have worked for three months the first year and then travel for one month.

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

I really like the poutine (French fries with a brown sauce and cheese curds). My husband and I also like to go for brunch which is really popular here. Ribs, as well as bagels especially those from Bagel Maguire that are cooked in a wooden oven, are also very tasty. Even though the local cuisine is not so popular around the world, we can still find many fine restaurants and chefs in the province.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My family and friends, of course! Also, the spontaneous lunches or dinners with them, because by the time we reached home, everything was ready. As regards to food, I miss delicatessens, cheese, brioche and Super U stores.

Have you ever had a moment when you almost felt like leaving? How did you overcome that? What kept you in Quebec?

After my son's birth, I found it really hard to be away from my family. I felt like I was depriving my parents of the joys of being grandparents even though they came here really soon after he was born. However, we quickly realised that we had good jobs and a house and we could not just leave everything to go back to France without figuring out what we would be doing next. I don't know for now whether we'll be staying here for good, but we're definitely not considering going back to France for the time being.

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

Go for it! Moving to Canada can be an incredible experience through which you get to learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. Be open-minded. Obviously, Quebec is not a dream land for everyone. We know a couple of people who could not make it here. Don't try to keep the same lifestyle as you had in your home country. You have to adapt to the north-american lifestyle of the country, its people, and their customs.

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

Honestly, you can find everything in Quebec. I just took my photo albums.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to open a restaurant or cafe, like a European teahouse, with my husband.