I RECENTLY TRAVELED SOLO for two years in Asia, Europe, and South America. I was often the only Canadian — more often the only Montrealer. These are the questions I had to answer over and over again.
1. Yes, I speak English.
English is my first language, which is why it’s so good and accent-free. I’m not a rarity — there are many of us in Montreal. In fact, there are whole school districts and neighborhoods that are primarily English.
2. Yes, I speak French fluently.
Just because my first language is English, doesn’t mean that I can’t eavesdrop on your French conversations. It was rather interesting finding out what you had to say about other travellers, without you having a clue I was listening.
3. Yes, my province wants to separate (but no, not really).
None of my friends or family members want to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. We, inside the Island of Montreal, generally don’t want to stop being Canadian. People outside of Montreal tend to have a different opinion. The good news is we’ve had two referendums about separating — and we’re still attached. It doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon, but every so often it becomes a hot topic.
4. No, I am not a “Quebecer.”
While I might be from the province of Quebec, I am not a Quebecer. I am a Montrealer, and a Canadian, but because my first language is not French, I do not identify as a Quebecer. See answer No. 3 for more details.
5. What a ‘Dep’ is.
Every city has their own slang, and Montreal has slang in two languages. Dep is short for depanneur, which is the French word for corner store. Except our corner stores sell wine and beer, unlike most cities across Canada.
6. No, we don’t live near Vancouver.
Vancouver is lovely — it has warm weather and nature and a lot of sushi — but it doesn’t have much in common with Montreal. We share the same country — but it is easier (and cheaper) for me to fly to Europe than it is to fly to the West Coast. The next closest big city to Montreal is Ottawa, and that is a two-hour drive. Some European countries require less time to cross.
7. No, not everyone plays hockey.
I actually can’t skate. Blame my mother or my lack of coordination on thin blades, but I never learned. I never thought it was a big deal until travellers didn’t understand how a Canadian couldn’t play hockey. Have you ever wanted to be in a freezing cold arena where it is so cold you can see your breath — and then proceed to fall on your ass? Me neither.
8. Yes, poutine is real.
For some odd reason, everyone knows what poutine is (“Do you really put cheese on fries?”). The truth: only the best cheese. People think it is hilarious that I actually eat poutine, like it isn’t just a Quebec myth. Yes, I eat poutine. Sometimes for lunch or dinner and occasionally both, but mostly as a 3am drunk food.
9. Yes, we are the best Canadian city.
Does this even need an explanation? If you’re not convinced, re-read No. 8.
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