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From French Riviera, a Variety of Reactions to Vancouver, Canada, and the 2010 Winter Games

Nice, in a photograph from creative commons

The French have a soft spot in their hearts for their "Canadian cousins".  They mean "Quebecois" and from "Montreal", but there’s also a sneaking sympathy for the Anglo-Canadians  (who they suspect have to put up with French grammar just as any right-thinking French citizen today has to get to grips with global English...)

“Canadians are kind people. Welcoming,” says Henriette, 72, and Gérard, 70, fit and active pensioners who’ve traveled over there in their younger days. “But too cold!” they shiver as well would any Mediterranean soul the minute the sun goes in. “The winters. So long!”

Gérard, a retired mechanic, has friends who emigrated to Montreal, found jobs, loved the people, but came back because the climate depressed him.

Jacques, an ex-physiotherapist,  comments that while  French health professionals find work easily in Canada, the social security system there is not as well-developed as in France. Families who emigrate with children find the cost of living a struggle.

Canadian ‘kindness’ is a leitmotif in any French comment on that nationality. Thus, Marc Touchais, Olympic coach and ex-member of the French Olympic team, comments:  “I’ve always had excellent relations with Canadians on a professional and social level. Many Canadians have become good friends.”

Eric Casimir, who won a silver medal at Sydney and now makes a living teaching gym to kids, concurs. “They’re very easy-going sorts when you meet them in international competitions. Life is good there.”

It’s a reaction seconded by Jean-Marie, third year engineer at Nice university, who knows no more about Canada than the programs he saw on cable TV around the winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Vancouver seems to me to be a place where communities mix more easily, whereas here in Nice, it’s difficult even for a student to break out of the same social circle. They’re way ahead of us in their environmental approach too...” he laughs...“I heard you can’t find one cigarette butt on the beaches over there. Seriously, we've got a lot to learn.”

Lucie, in the same year, says she chats online nearly every day with French Canadians on Facebook. But she wouldn’t ever have the means to actually visit the country. She works 27 hours a week, nights, as dormitory monitor at the local international school to pay her board and lodging.

So how did the latest Canadian event, the winter Olympics, affect their perception of the country? 

The event wasn’t followed as closely as it might have been because of the eleven hour time difference. “People like live TV in sport” says Henriette.

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