French expats in Montreal are having trouble fitting in. Though the Canadian city has long treasured its shared bond and culture with the French motherland across the Atlantic, they are not so respectful of the recent influx of immigrants that have been pouring through their borders.
The Atlantic‘s CityLab website reports that many Montreal residents have been expressing disapproval at the rising rent prices and spread of European French culture that has been associated with new immigrants coming from the Continent. As the second largest city in Canada, and the largest inside French-speaking province, Quebec, Montreal is a hub of technology, business and opportunity and proudly wears its country’s multi-cultural label. In the past few years, large numbers of French foreigners have relocated to take advantage of the French-speaking city’s lower cost of living and job opportunities. However, Montrealers view these immigrants as ignorant of Quebec’s unique heritage and have become angry that they have taken over entire neighborhoods in the city without respecting local culture.
A Montreal area called Plateau, now referred to as “New France,” has become a hub of French expats too expensive for locals. In another slight, French chef Joel Robuchon’s restaurant franchise was picked for the spot in Montreal’s casino over a Quebecois concept. Although Montreal is often believed to be an offshoot of continental France, it is, in reality, a city in Canada and a Canadian context. Cecile Lazartigues-Chartier, a Montreal resident who helps French immigrants adapt to the city told City Lab, “Montreal is more North American than French because all the historical, cultural, economic and social references are American.” In a related piece, The Economist points out a culture clash between the two groups of French speakers. While the French use the vous form to address acquaintances and strangers in the third person, the Quebec stick with the more familiar tu. This leads to Frenchmen being viewed as haughty in Montreal, just as a Montrealer in France would be seen as inappropriate.
Despite these tensions, it is likely that the wave of Frenchness into Montreal will not cease. France currently has an unemployment rate of almost 10 percent and many residents may choose to seek employment elsewhere. The 2008 Quebec-France Agreement on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications allows an easy cross-over for French professionals into the province. French citizens are also eligible to pay the local Quebec tuition rate for universities in the region, making education for the French cheaper than for other foreigners or even English-speaking Canadians. Eager to preserve the province’s French-speaking tradition, Quebec officials will often give preference to French-language immigrants over others. The number of French residents in Quebec has doubled in the last decade. Nevertheless, this does not stop newly-arrived Frenchmen from acting like typical expats, “who spend money freely and float above society, rather than ever really engaging with the local culture.”
Read more at CityLab.