French Expats, Here and There

World cup celebration

French football fans celebrate in 2006 on the Plateau Mont-Royal
Photo by Oliver Lavery

It’s been a long time coming, but the French — in the words of a shop manager on Mount Royal Avenue — “are taking over the Plateau!” French immigrants have been coming to Quebec for decades, but the past few years have seen an especially large influx. This year, Canada will issue 14,000 temporary visas to French people between the ages of 18 and 35, most of them on working holidays. Many choose to live in Montreal, and especially on the Plateau Mont-Royal, where French accents have become common enough to elicit half-joking exclamations like the one above. According to the French consulate, there could be as many as 100,000 French citizens living in Montreal.

In today’s La Presse, Émilie Côté takes a look at the growing community of young French émigrés on the Plateau. Many of the people she encountered say they want to stay in Montreal long-term, but finding permanent employment has been difficult. There’s also some lingering prejudice against “les maudits Français,” though some admit that the animosity could be well-deserved, considering that French people “have a chauvinistic streak” and are “notorious whiners.” In any case, the French influx is beginning to reshape the social fabric of the Plateau in some potentially fascinating ways.

Though Montreal is unique in that it is the only large, economically-developed French-speaking city outside Europe, it is not the only place with a growing French community. More and more French people are moving to Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver; a number of American cities, including Boston, San Francisco and New York, have been popular destinations for quite some time now. According to the French magazine Les Echos, there are 210,000 French expatriates in Canada, 175,000 in the United States and 158,000 in the United Kingdom. But here’s a surprise: the country with the absolute largest number of French expats is China, with 252,000.

Here in Hong Kong, the French community has grown enough to have a noticeable impact on some parts of the city. In Central and Sheung Wan especially, the increased French presence has begun to rival the traditionally anglophone hold on the area’s expat life. This weekend, there was a free outdoor concert featuring francophone musicians from Canada, France and Belgium, and a couple of months before that, the local French film festival concluded with a free outdoor screening of Jacques Tati’s “Les vacances de monsieur Hulot.” Outdoor music and movies are still rare in Hong Kong, and without the support of the Alliance française, I’m not sure they could have taken place.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Monday March 15 2010at 08:03 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Canada, Demographics, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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