Monday, October 02, 2006

French Kissing Etc

What a unique country this is! Next door to Ontario lies a very different place, the province of Quebec. It's largely French although I know unilingual Anglos who can still get along in Montreal. There are clusters of French people elsewhere in Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba), but French is dominant in Quebec, and their culture is different.

For one thing, they kiss a lot. Well, maybe that way too, but I mean when they greet each other. It's a double kiss, one per cheek. I know that we hear of the Hollywood air kiss, but these are actual pecks. You can hear the lips smacking. Women kiss women; women kiss men; men kiss women; however, I don't see men kissing men. I'm pretty darn relieved about that in point of fact. I mean to say: a stolid old WASP can only endure so much culture shock. Actually, I didn't kiss anyone, but I offered my cheeks appropriately and permitted women to have their way with me. It's the gentlemanly thing to do after all.

Then, there are the memory cards. They give them out at funerals. A memory card (I don't know if that's the right term) is almost the size of a playing card, but it's plasticized (or laminated or whatever). It contains the name, picture, and date of departure of the deceased. People have been known to carry several memory cards around in their pockets or purses. Maybe they also do that where you come from, but it was new to us Ontario Anglos, and, of course, new almost always seems odd. I once lived in Montreal and have attended English funerals there, and we never had that custom, but maybe they do it now for all I know — my last English funeral there occurred about thirty-five years ago, and customs might have changed.

Differences like this make life interesting. I remember attending a funeral in Kansas City. At the end of the in-church memorial service, the family sat at the front, and everyone filed past, viewed the casket, and nodded pleasantly at the family. I actually preferred that to here where we generally wheel or carry the casket out at the end of the service, and people file out behind it rather somberly.

Once upon a time, friends from Western Canada, the Prairies, told us that when they invited people to drop in out there, they really meant it. She claimed that for the most part, we Easterners don't. Certainly, when I trekked out west several years ago, people did seem to be friendlier. I recall stopping at a gas station in Calgary to ask directions, and I pretty well had people running over to the car from all corners of the lot to offer help. One guy actually had us follow him to our destination.

Madcapmum once wrote about the Canadian tendency to take our shoes off at the door. It makes sense to have gotten into that habit because we do have this little season called winter in these parts. We tend to wear boots and must naturally shed them at the door. I mean you can't go tromping about the house in overshoes. What would be next after all: snowshoes, skis?

There is really no point to all of this, except to share what I have shared and to wonder what differences might exist from your geographical area to mine. I'm told that the Brits like warm beer and cold toast for example, and there are dishes called grits Down South. We wear toques on our heads and sleigh down hills on toboggans. Therefore, I chuckle when I read of Americans wearing toboggans on their heads, just as they laugh to hear that our milk comes in bags.

And yes, I am rambling. I really just wanted to mention french kissing when I began. What did you think I was going to write about? Hmmm?


Heather said...

I've been to lots of French funerals in Manitoba and I've never seen a memory card, so it must be a Quebec thing.

And I don't know if we're friendlier out here in the west or just more bored and looking for tourists to kill some time. :-)

Gina said...

Well, I thought it was going to be a manual of some sort. You know, pointers and the like. ;)

Sue said...

Double kissing in Cyprus too, men just hug usually without kissing. In Egypt, though, men kiss men and women kiss women, but (other than close relatives) men and women don't touch each other at all. An Egyptian friend says he prefers the European style where men only kiss women!

incidentally - writing as a Brit now - I don't know where the warm beer and cold toast thing came from. I've heard it before (in the USA) but never come across anyone who likes either of them. We don't dilute beer with lots of ice like Americans do, but I think most people refrigerate it before drinking. Nobody drinks it in our house so I can't speak from experience. As for cold toast - yuck! Some inefficient hotels might provide it (if they make lots all at once and it then gets cold by the time it arrives at the table) but hot toast is much preferable. Oh, and I don't drink tea either, in case you thought that stereotype might be true too!

AS for memory cards... I thought they were little chip things you put in cameras!

Rainypete said...

That kissing thing isn't as uncommon as you think. I've encoutnered much of it here and I'm only 6 hours away from you!! As for memory cards......can't say as I remember them.

Karla said...

Odd. Every funeral I have been too has had those memory card things.

methatiam said...

No, we have something called fajitas ….. ooops, sorry I brought that up ;0)

Granny said...

Just thinking that one the nicest things that ever happened to me was the kindness of an absolute stranger in southern Ontario when our car broke down.

mreddie said...

Nothing wrong with a wandering post, many of mine start and end that way as I wander off into the sunset. ec

Sarah Elaine said...

As a Spanish teacher, I teach my university students about the Latin custom of kissing as a greeting. It is much as you have described here, only in some countries it is only on one cheek and the actual kiss itself may differ from country to country, too (in some place, an actual kiss and in others, an "air kiss", as you say.)

Once you get used to it, it's not so bad. :-)

The very nice man said...

A French kiss or "Frenchie" as it is called here involves tongues!
So your "French kising" stuff is relatively harmless it seems!
How on earth you get from kissing to funerals only your complex brain can tell! Mind you . . .French kissing can be to die for, heehee!!

Coll said...

Winnipeg is rather unique as it has a very distinct French community, St. Boniface. We recently attended a funeral for a friend's grandfather. The family were very French. The service was held at the St. Boniface Cathedral and completely in French. I did not understand a spoken word but was surprised and over whelmed at the beauty of the service and the music. Especially the music. I left with a desire to learn French this winter.

Cathy said...

Here in Toledo, the shoes-off-at-the-door routine is practiced by maybe 1/4 of my acquaintenances. My husband and I are in the shoes-remain-on contingent. I'd love to live the other way - (the carpet cleaners are due in Thursday for the 4th time this year :0)
The 'tobaggon' on the head is new to me! Memory cards - hmmm. In the little Catholic parish I grew up in, they gave out holy cards with the name and date of death of the deceased - I can still see my grandfather's rather vividly: a smiling St. Theresa clutching roses and a crucifix. Hadn't thought about that in years.
French kissing. Hmmm. Hadn't thought about that in years . . . :0D

Dale said...

Mmmmm ... Kissing. Seems a popular theme these days.
Toboggans on the head? What??

pupski said...

We don't do that memory card here in the Uk but actually it sounds like a nice idea.

In Britain we are all away from the casket which is usually on a platform at the front.

It is all a bit too formal I think