Communication and quebecers values
Communication Style: Straightforward and Direct
When developing relationships and communicating among themselves, Quebecers prefer to be direct. They generally communicate in a straightforward, specific, and explicit way. They would much rather have clear, direct, and honest responses to their questions. It can therefore be very easy to establish an initial business contact with them. In contrast, you may find Quebecers rather reserved if you try to discuss their personal life, since they are very protective of their privacy. They make a very clear distinction between their personal and professional lives. They need more time to develop real friendships. The key for newcomers is to reach out to Quebecers, since they will not necessarily reach out themselves.
Conflict and Confrontation
Quebecers usually prefer accommodation, compromise, and consensus to confrontation or conflict. They prefer to talk things over and work out the compromises needed to reach an agreement. They don’t like controversy, so it’s better to avoid direct conflict and refrain from confronting the person you are speaking to. Interpersonal conflicts are resolved privately.
Direct Eye Contact
When conversing, Quebecers usually make direct eye contact. This visual contact is seen as a sign of respect, recognition of the other, and sincerity. Avoiding eye contact during a conversation may be interpreted as a sign of insecurity or even dishonesty.
However, the situation is different in public. In elevators, waiting in line, or on the bus, Quebecers tend to avoid eye contact with others and will stare at the floor, the ceiling, the walls, etc. Staring at people in public may be seen as a lack of respect.
Quebecers tend to be rather reserved and are therefore not likely to express their emotions in public. They are also unlikely to raise their voice in public. Conflicts are resolved privately.
Good Discussion Topics for First Encounters
The weather is often Quebecers’ favorite topic to start a conversation. Most Quebecers will be curious and want you to talk about your country, customs, national foods, music, and politics. They will also take an interest in your professional life or field of study, which is very important to them.
Quebecers are especially proud of their culture and will appreciate it if you ask them questions about their customs, history, artists, and—of course—hockey players!
During first encounters, avoid discussion topics that are too personal, and maintain a rather light conversation tone.
When Quebecers meet up with friends, they tend to greet each other with a kiss (once on each cheek)—but only between a man and a woman, or between two women. Men and people meeting for the first time generally greet each other with a quick, firm handshake. Quebecers tend to think that a soft or weak handshake indicates a lack of assurance or self-confidence.
Honesty is very important to Quebecers. They would rather you express your disagreement or say you don’t understand than agree with them out of politeness.
Importance of the Written Word
Quebecers place more importance on written information than verbal information. For example, contracts are not official unless duly written down. Leaflets, brochures, and notice boards are used extensively to provide information and instructions. So it is important that new foreign students read the information they receive.
Quebecers, like most North Americans, are considered to be individualistic. They leave home at a relatively early age, and it takes time to build relationships with them.
Quebecers are nonetheless attached to certain collective values. For example, most of them believe in maintaining and developing social programs and measures to promote collective rights.
Quebecers are generally quite helpful. If you stop them to ask for information, most will be happy to answer you. However, more intimate relationships are developed gradually over time. Friendships are based on mutual understanding and trust.
Many Québec couples live together without being formally married. This is called common-law marriage. These couples are legally recognized as de facto spouses.
During your first social encounters with Quebecers, you may be invited to join them for a restaurant meal, a drink, a movie, or some other public outing. Quebecers expect that everyone will pay their own way.
Invitations to eat at someone’s home are only made when relationships have developed more. If you are invited to dinner, Quebecers expect that you will not arrive empty-handed. Your host will greatly appreciate it if you bring a bottle of wine, some cheese, a desert, or a specialty from your country. When you are invited to dinner, feel free to ask what you can bring to complement the meal.
Québec is a very large province with lots of wide open spaces and is not very densely populated. Don’t be surprised if Quebecers place a lot of importance on their personal space, which they call their “bubble.” While waiting in line or conversing, they usually keep a certain physical distance (about an arm’s length or one meter) between themselves and the person they are speaking to. Entering a Quebecer’s personal space may make them feel uncomfortable.
Quebecers generally avoid physical contact like touching the arm or shoulder of people being addressed to attract or maintain their attention. Men avoid physical contact unless they have reached a very high level of comfort. Holding hands or prolonged physical contact with people is reserved for intimate relations or family. For couples, public displays of affection are tolerated.
Quebecers prefer to use “politically correct” language to avoid hurting certain people or causing any conflicts. They therefore use expressions of respect; for example, people use the term “minorités visibles” (“visible minorities”) rather than “minorités raciales” (“racial minorities”).
Relations between Men and Women
Québec society values gender equality in all areas of life. Women’s level of education, training, and success is now much higher than it was thirty years ago. Although certain obstacles remain in attaining gender equality, there are many women who hold decision-making positions. Québec women are generally autonomous and independent, and they show leadership.
Religious practice is much less widespread in Québec than it was a few decades ago. The public realm is secular and religion is strictly a private matter. Public displays of religion may therefore be frowned upon.
Speaking Loudly in Public
Speaking loudly in public (locker rooms, classrooms, buses) is frowned upon by most Quebecers and even seen as disrespectful and aggressive behavior.
In Québec, social classes have less impact on interpersonal relationships. People from more modest backgrounds can move up the ladder, since Quebecers believe that what people do and how they act takes precedence over their social background or the country they come from. In most spheres, equality for all is valued, regardless of social class. However, social ties and friendships are more often horizontal (same social status) than vertical.
Time Management and Punctuality
Quebecers follow North American customs with respect to time management. They tend to place a great deal of importance on agendas and planning and organize their activities around a strict schedule. Time is perceived and used in a linear manner, which means that Quebecers set priorities and usually do only one thing at a time. Time is carefully planned and divided according to the various activities to be carried out. Quebecers see time as a valuable resource. You’ll hear expressions like “le temps c’est de l’argent” (time is money), “perdre son temps” (waste one’s time), “gagner du temps” (save time).
As a result, Quebecers take time commitments very seriously. They generally arrive on time at classes and meetings, and even arrive five to ten minutes early for business meetings. Delays often leave a bad impression and are seen as a lack of respect. Meeting deadlines and commitments (e.g., completing teamwork on time) is also very important.
Quebecers think of themselves as tolerant and open to diversity. Laws and institutions have been created to guarantee equal rights for all and fight discrimination. However, this does not mean that there is no conflict or controversy, or that everyone in the province sees eye-to-eye on all issues.
Waiting One’s Turn
In public life, when waiting for a service, Quebecers normally respect the principle of “first come, first serve.” Whether at stores, banks, or movie theaters, people wait their turn. If you don’t follow this custom, you may be admonished.
Quebecers often greet each other from a distance by raising an arm and waving an open hand back and forth in the air.
Learning about Québec: Guide for my successful integration. Guide published by ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion.
Centre for Intercultural Learning, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada