The francophone dating life: a podcast by Pauline Lazarus

Originally from France, Pauline Lazarus sheds light on the cultural differences in the dating lives of French people and Quebecers.

After two months and 10 dates, Ben was convinced he was in a serious relationship. It was to his surprise when he learned he was only considered a friend. 

Pauline Lazarus launched the podcast Une Histoire à part earlier this year, where she invites francophone people to discuss cultural differences between dating customs in France versus Quebec.  

Ben was one of the first guests of the podcast.

“I go out with a guy once, twice, I let myself go up to three times, but by the third time I can tell if I like him enough to have feelings,” Ben, who wanted to stay anonymous, said on the podcast.

When he arrived in Montreal and started dating, Ben quickly understood what it is like to date someone from a different cultural background.

“After kissing a French person, the French consider themselves a couple whereas, for the Quebecers, it is really not the case,” said Noé Klein, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Klein’s research involves examining friendly and loving relationships between French and Quebecers. 

Already friends before the podcast, it was Ben’s story about coming out in Montreal that inspired Lazarus to create Une Histoire à part. She realized that people across the city have all kinds of stories to share about their dating life.

Lazarus plans to release one episode bi-weekly and sees it as a personal challenge that brings her closer to her lifelong dream to work in radio. 

“When we move to a city, we’re not all running away from something, but maybe we’re all looking to be a better version of ourselves,” Lazarus added.

Not interested in the number of listeners, she is grateful if her podcast can help people by advising on adaptation and cultural differences by showcasing stories like Ben’s, who explained how Montreal helped him to come out to his family.

“When I came to Montreal, I felt free to be myself,” Ben said.

Lazarus came to Montreal five years ago on a Working Holiday Visa.

“I applied without much conviction, I must admit, because I had never talked about Canada in my life. I know that for a lot of people, it’s their dream, they’ve been waiting to come to Canada for several years. For me, it was not at all the case, it was really almost a coincidence,” she said.

Although she didn’t plan to stay longer than the two-year duration of her visa, after four years, Canada has become her home.

“I like to connect and exchange with people, and for me, that also means meeting people,” she said.

Since starting the podcast, Lazarus has met with different people and has noticed clear cultural differences.

“It’s true that even though we’re in Quebec where we speak French, we sometimes have the impression that it’s a bit like France. In the love life, here, it is a little different,” she said.

Lazarus said French people come to Montreal thinking they will be able to connect easily with Quebecers, but this is forgetting that they come from two different continents with an important cultural difference.

One of the most important differences between French people and Quebecers when it comes to dating is the status of “seeing someone” that comes before the discussion about becoming “official,” said Lazarus. 

In his thesis, Ph.D. sociology student Noé Klein explains how the French have a vision of relationships that quickly develops towards becoming a couple, whereas Quebecers have this notion of “seeing someone,” a period when they enter an intimate relationship in which one person gradually gets to know the other. 

“It takes more time for Quebecers to see themselves as a “couple” but when they do, it is something much more defined and committed than for the French, who have a blurrier definition of the term,” said Klein.

In Une Histoire à part, Lazarus introduces dating anecdotes in light of these differences for the listeners to avoid bad surprises.

In addition to the definition of “couple” itself, Lazarus discovered that for many, the openness of the city also leads to the openness of relationships. 

“Montreal is a very open city, both culturally and in other ways,” Lazarus said.

Even though she no longer lives in France, she agrees that the trend of open relationships or poly-love is much more democratized in Montreal than in France.

Always eager to learn and welcome people, Lazarus likes to make people feel comfortable when they share their experiences.

On a late Sunday afternoon, Pauline Lazarus opens a bottle of champagne and places it on the coffee table before settling into her sofa. With two microphones and her recorder in hand, a discussion begins between two friends over a drink.

This was during the first episode of Une Histoire à part, where Lazarus invited Barbara Lopez to her apartment to talk about her personal dating experiences when she came to Montreal 10 years ago.

“The podcast is almost just a bonus, it really could have been only a discussion around a drink,” Lopez said.

Lazarus welcomes each guest to her cozy apartment to share their experiences in a place of trust.

“I don’t think I would have opened up as easily and felt as comfortable if it had been in a studio in the middle of the day, you know. I felt that I had the freedom to talk about whatever I wanted,” said Lopez.

Une Histoire à part brings together different points of view, different stories, and unites the francophone community around their dating stories.For more stories, you can find the podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


“Richest programming of its history” at Cinémania 2020

The francophone film festival will be held entirely online and available across Canada

Against all odds, this year’s edition of Cinémania is set to begin with great optimism. From Nov. 4 to 22, Canada’s largest film festival dedicated to francophone cinema is presenting its most ambitious programming to date — entirely online — proudly adding new features such as a short film program and homemade documentaries.

“We were simply ready,” said Guilhem Caillard, the festival’s managing director, about having to face social distancing measures in the second wave of the pandemic. “The most important aspect is that our public has access to our films, and honestly, in terms of programming, this year is the richest of the 25-year history of the festival.”

Along with other institutions in the film and performing arts industries, Cinémania was put under tremendous stress recently. Until last week, they hadn’t been able to confirm whether they would be able to show their films in theatres. When the provincial government announced that red zone restrictions would remain in effect until Nov. 23, the festival already had an online platform ready to go —  one they had been working on since last April.

In total, only eight films (out of 130) could not be moved online as their distributors didn’t allow it, but Caillard has promised that when it’s permitted, these films will come to theatres in Montreal.

Among those removed from the festival was the opening film, Aline. Directed by and starring renowned French actress Valérie Lemercier, Aline is a fictional film heavily inspired by the life of Céline Dion. The most anticipated feature of the festival, its release on both sides of the Atlantic has been postponed to an unknown later date.

Cinémania is now bigger than ever, adding short films and homemade documentaries this year.

“Opening to short films allows the festival to open up even more to emerging filmmakers, to diversity, and to more francophone countries,” said Anne de Marchis, the director of marketing and communications at Cinémania.

This year the festival adds short films to its programming for the first time ever, including more than 30 films encompassing many different genres. Most of them are from Québec, as Cinémania will also present films that were set to be shown at Regard, a short film festival in Saguenay, which was cancelled on its first day, in March, due to social distancing measures.

Another addition this year are two documentaries produced by the festival itself: a short documentary about Louis Bélanger, this year’s festival’s guest of honour, directed by Kalina Bertin (Manic, 2017), and another by Gauthier Aboudaram on the film La nuit des rois, Ivory Coast’s 2020 Oscar submission, which is also featured at the festival.

A diverse programming to discover francophone cultures worldwide.

Once again, Cinémania proves to be an eloquent testament to francophone cinema’s diversity; encompassing many genres, approaches, and themes.

“This year we observed a strong presence of Quebecois cinema, stronger than ever at the festival,” said Caillard. A good example that might interest Concordians, according to Caillard, is Maryanne Zéhil’s La face cachée du baklava, a comedy about how Lebanese people are perceived in Quebec. Also, for every ticket sold, a dollar will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross for reconstruction in Beirut.

L’État Sauvage, a feminist western and a France-Quebec coproduction, is another of Caillard’s favorites this year, “which brings out the western side of the Quebec landscapes,” he said, and depicts a French family in the midst of the American civil war.

Caillard also noted that many of his films this year — more than ever — centre around LGBTQ+ issues, allowing his audience to discover how they can be seen and portrayed around the world. Among those are A good man by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, which tells the unconventional story of a transgender man’s pregnancy, or Deux, by Filippo Meneghetti about the beautiful lesbian love story of octogenarians.

Cinémania also presents itself as a good opportunity to see some high-profile directors’ work, including films that were part of the official competition at Cannes this year, and new anticipated features such as François Ozon’s Été 85, or Cédric Klapisch’s latest, Deux moi.

The entire programming is available here. It costs $8 per individual film, or $65 for the entire online selection.


Photos courtesy of Cinémania.


The poetics of language should be stronger than its politics

Anglophones choosing French universities signifies a deeper change in Montreal society

“Montreal is home.”

That’s a statement I’ve heard on more than one occasion from native-Montrealers and newcomers alike. I’ve heard it from born-and-bred Torontonians and proud Vancouverites. I’ve heard it said in English, French and even Spanish.

As someone who grew up in the far-away town of Saguenay, Que., I am very aware of how great the city’s energy and culture is.

But Montreal, as one of my Canadian literature professors put it, is the centre of very complex, divisive politics. Indeed, language politics bring out the worst in people and foster a hostility I have a hard time wrapping my head around.

Last month, the Montreal Gazette published a compelling article about a Montreal lawyer who found herself choosing to study at Université de Montréal (UdeM) despite being an anglophone. According to the article, when Serena Trifiro wasn’t accepted into McGill University, she opted for UdeM. Today, Trifiro says she’s infinitely grateful for this turn of events, as it helped her pass the Quebec bar and facilitated her career in Quebec, according to the article. Trifiro suggested that she believes the perks were well worth the struggle at UdeM.

The Montreal Gazette’s piece addressed the fact that more anglophones are choosing to attend French universities. Among other statistics, the article pointed out that the number of English-speaking students at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) rose from 193 in 2012 to 519 in 2016.

I am a born-and-bred Saguenéen who loves the English side of Montreal, and I came to study English literature at Concordia with the goal of eventually leaving the province. In my opinion, the increase of anglophone students in Montreal’s French universities is significant.

Forty years after passing the controversial Bill 101, this increase shows that Montreal has successfully affirmed itself as a French-speaking city, and yet is still accessible to both French and English speakers.

Of course, Trifiro’s initial hesitation to study in French is both understandable and telling about the state of language relations in Montreal. Some francophones are often closed-off and even hostile towards English-speaking Montrealers. I myself have gotten the infamous dagger eyes for speaking English with a friend in public. Yet French can be a complex and difficult language, and many people in Montreal—especially English-speaking university students—live here with less than adequate French skills, which I think is regrettable.

Languages are meant to be learned with passion and interest. Unlike what many might think, even with Pierre-Elliott Trudeau making both English and French Canada’s official languages in 1969, Canada is not and will never be a truly bilingual country—except in Montreal.

To be fair, I’m fine with that. Not everyone needs to be bilingual, so long as we can be civil and accept each other. In a way, I do feel a sense of pride in seeing anglophones acknowledging that French is necessary to build a career in Quebec. I think that has always been the point of encouraging French education, at least for a portion of the population.

To get another perspective, I spoke with Alexandre Viger-Collins, a Concordia political science graduate. Despite what his first name suggests, he is 100 per cent anglophone. He grew up in an anglophone community where, he confessed, people don’t have much incentive to learn French.

Nonetheless, he ended up studying political science at UdeM, which was more or less an accident. While attending a French university was never his intention, he said he is now positive that it was for the best. Viger-Collins said he intends to work in provincial politics, and while studying in French will certainly have a positive effect on his career prospects in this province, he said he has also gained much more insight into Quebec’s culture. He said he now feels more integrated into the society.

The bridge between French and English in this province needs to be built on both sides. Although I believe we francophones have work to do in terms of accepting those who don’t speak French, I am confident in saying that Montreal has become a good place for both communities to live in, despite recurring tensions. Ultimately, I think the attitude of people like Trifiro and Viger-Collins encourages this generation and future generations to have a different outlook on the French language.

This recent surge in anglophones choosing to study in French seems to be an indicator that the city is changing for the better.

In light of this, my hope for the future is not only that more anglophones attend French

universities, but that they do so with motivation, for the love of the French language—not by force or as a last resort. When it comes to education, I believe we should let go of the politics and give more room to the poetics of language.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

A previous version of this article indicated that details about Serena Trifiro’s experience had been quoted from a Montreal Gazette article rather than paraphrased. The Concordian regrets the error.

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