Those were the late 80s. Québécois singers were invading France. They're still very much present today, but that particular period was especially rich and the French reception was very positive. The phenomenon gave much exposure to the particular way French is spoken on this side of the Atlantic, a tad more guttural than its European counterpart to say the least.
I always liked cultural encounters. I'm usually very enthusiastic and blunt about such situations and, from time to time, my curiosity has been interpreted as invasive. I've experienced the feeling. I've also learned to be more tactful with those who would rather blur their cultural differences.
While travelling France in the early 90s, I was having supper with English-speaking tourists in a youth hostel. A few were from Canada and obviously spotted my origins. Most were from Australia, New Zealand, England, the USA... and hadn't realized English wasn't my first language. Upon ordering more wine to the passing garçon in French, all eyes turned on me.
"Where did you learn to speak French?" I was asked. "It's my mother tongue" I replied. I was then the center of much attention about my province and what it's like to be Québécois. Here are a few examples of what I (might or should) have said. Being Québécois is:
- giving English-speaking North Americans a little bit of France without the Parisians and giving Frenchmen a little bit of North America without the Americans;
- feeling as comfortable in Paris as in New-York;
- being reminded by a Parisian garçon that you are in a French bistro, when feeling at home and nonchalantly ordering nachos to satisfy your late afternoon munchies;
- listening to Plume Latraverse on your iPod while visiting the Louvre and making perfect sense out of it all;
- being able to make the rapprochement between a tartiflette au reblochon, a French dish from the Savoie region, and a poutine, a North American greasy spoon favorite;
- having the opportunity to appreciate French movies and their American remakes in their original versions, e.g. La total with Thierry Lhermitte (an easy going police comedy) and True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger (a overblown popcorn movie); Nikita with Anne Parillaud and Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda;
- having the option to easily steer away from McDonald's or Tim Hortons to eat a decent meal at a decent price;
- giving a North American fast food classic, a burger, a Mediterranean twist with lamb meat garnished with steamed spinach, garlic and feta cheese (ok... this one's not typically Québécois, but it sure is a good example of interculturalism, whereas multiculturalism would have offered an exotic side dish with an ordinary burger);
- turning a North American greasy spoon favorite, poutine, into a "Tunisian" meal, by adding merguez sausages, or turning it into a gourmet meal, by adding foie gras;
- going beyond pâtés and appreciating rillettes and cretons for what they are;
- being able to choose from over 200 different local cheeses that rival with centuries of European tradition and savoir-faire;
- realizing that more people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean are familiar with your own culture than people on the other side of the Ottawa River and being labeled by some of them as closed-minded;
- watching or reading your own national media on a local issue and getting the impression the report was prepared by a foreign journalist;
- listening to homegrown music, watching homegrown TV and movies and feeling that unmistakable sense of belonging.