HOME HEARTSTRING 25: JOIE DE VIVRE

On their own, Quebecers usually keep to themselves, are rather reserved and seem to bear the weight of their long winters stoically on their shoulders. But when they’re part of a group, they tend to let loose, become the centre of attention and make like they don’t have a care in the world.

Joe Tremblay tells us about an eventful trip to Mexico:


“A whole choir got on the plane in Montreal. It was an organized charter. We were already a bit tipsy, but once the singers came onboard we all went a little wild. About an hour into the flight there was nothing left to drink on the plane but ginger ale. We were all singing as a chorus, bellowing with laughter and teasing the flight attendants. I like to see everyone having a good time. Do you remember that trip, Fernande? We came home even more tired than when we left!”


But life can’t always be a party, and we really do need to calm down from time to time. Case in point, top health official Martin Laberge says Quebecers are the No. 1 consumers of sedatives in all of North America. Of course we are.

In Voyages en Amérique (Travels in America) published at the end of the 19th century, Finnish explorer Peter Kalm shares his observations on how happy and good-natured Quebec women are. “I often heard women and young girls singing as they were doing house chores. They were always singing the same kind of songs to themselves, the ones that use words like heart and love a lot.”

Quebec historian Benjamin Sulte had the following to say about the habits of French Canadians in the 19th century:


“There’s always something to celebrate. People ring in the New Year after spending the previous night singing from door to door to raise money for charity. They plant a fir tree on May 1, build bonfires on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and get rip-roaring drunk at the end of summer. The simplest of things give them cause to live it up. Slaughtering a pig, completing construction of a house or a barn, attending a christening, signing a contract, making maple sugar…you name it, they drink to it! Almost every household has a fiddle, and they use it often. Men and women take turns singing, and everyone dances with great enthusiasm.”


The success of the Quebec Winter Carnival has inspired many of our cities and smaller municipalities to hold their own annual celebrations revolving around tobacco, bread, apples and lakes. Jean-Claude Saint-Pierre of local radio station CHRL stated that, “The international swimming competition across Lac Saint-Jean has become nothing more than a pretense for letting loose and partying for seven days straight. It’s even got to the point where we need to remind the 50,000 or so visitors who come out for the event that there’s a marathon taking place on Sunday to close out the week.”

Everything is a pretense for partying in La Belle Province.

Quebecers love to laugh. They also like to poke fun, tell jokes and pull pranks. They enjoy puns and wordplay and can often entertain you with an endless stream of funny stories and anecdotes.

With Heartstring 17 lending them the imagination of the greatest advertising minds out there, Quebecers are quite skilled at manipulating slogans. The kind of advertising that reflects their exuberance usually does well right away – and for a good long while – which is why Quebec advertisers make matching Quebecer’s enthusiasm a top priority in any campaign or commercial.

Joe talks about commercials:


“Funny commercials don’t bother me so much. When a commercial is serious, it’s usually because there’s something to hide. I like beer commercials because there’s lots of singing and people are happy. I also like the ones that feature children (Heartstring 26). The one with the cat dancing the cha-cha is also good, as is the one with the cow walking through the big market (Heartstring 2). There’s another commercial I like that has a pretty good impersonator in it (Heartstring 28). But don’t talk to me about commercials that show guys with headaches or stomach pains. Or the ones that advertise feminine hygiene products. I never watch those, although maybe my wife does. Commercials are like soap operas. They’re way more entertaining when they’re funny.”


The ad campaigns developed by the ministry of tourism to help attract visitors to Quebec always showcase our famous joie de vivre, which Anglos often mistake for promiscuity.

When we’re out having a good time, we love everybody and we’re polite with all the tourists. We tend to adopt the Messieurs les Anglais, tirez les premiers! (Dear Englishmen, you shoot first!) mentality in these festive times. During the Fêtes de la francophonie (French-speaking cultural celebrations), for example, we forget all about our fear of strangers. Any outsiders willing to come and find out who we are and admit we’re a breed apart get a free VIP all-access backstage tour they’ll never forget. They might even leave convinced we’re a polite, charming and courteous people.

French acting legend Louis De Funès and Quebec funny man Gilles Latulippe always have us in stitches. We just can’t seem to get enough of their antics, which is probably why De Funès films make even more money per person in Quebec than they do in his own country.

Interviewed on Channel 10 in September 1977, Belgian-French comedian Raymond Devos answered a question with, “Do I have messages to spread? Sure, I do (although I’ve been accused of not having any). But my main message, my main goal, is to make people laugh.”

Laugh it off, much like Heartstring 22’s It was bound to happen, could be as meaningful a motto to Quebecers as Je me souviens (I remember).

In communications, laughter is divine.

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© 2014 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.