Travel responsibly and sustainably

Whose girl are you?

Îles de la Madeleine, cars

With friends, the other day, at the café.

- Really girls? You think we do things differently here?
The look on their faces... After talking about it some more, here's a sample of what our daily habits look like.

1- Cars stopped in the middle of the road

Two cars stopped in the middle of the road, the drivers having a chat. Even now, in the era of cell phones. But don't fret, that's not the kind of thing we do on the 199 - the main road - but rather on the side roads and service roads. If you come across the spectacle while in a bit of a rush, keep an eye out for the details: if they only mean to exchange a few words, the drivers will stop in the middle of the road and block it entirely; if the story requires some in-depth conversation, they'll slightly pull over, leaving you just enough space to go through. Every time I see it, time stands still...

2- Whose girl are you?

To ask for the names of one's father and mother is only natural and is part of the archipelago's customs and greetings. The information gives a geographical sense of the person, of who their family is or was, of exactly where they are from. Let's mention that the newcomers often get an updated version of the question, something like "Are you from the Islands?" Many Islanders also get to answer it, being mistaken for someone "from the outside." For the male version, we go with mousse, an old French word for ship's boy.

3- Greetings on the road

While driving, we say hi! A nod, a wave, some form of acknowledgment. If you don't, sooner or later, you'll get asked why. A friend once phoned someone to apologize for recognizing them too late to wave hello.

4- The doors

A conversation between two elderly ladies, overheard at the store:
- You still live in your house?
- Yes.
- Alone?
- Yes.
- Good on you.
- After my husband passed, I asked one thing to my kids, if they could replace the handle on the front door.
- It was broken?
- No, it couldn't be locked... it never did.
We see it less often nowadays, but many of us still share this persistent habit.

5- You should come by!

Instead of saying goodbye, some people leave you with a "You should come by!" Sometimes I think that if everyone I invited to "come by" decided to show up at the same time, I'd have to start locking my doors! Ha!

6- The grocery store

Some say that it takes us longer to go grocery shopping here, because we talk so much. A friend who's lived here for a couple of years told me that the day people started to chat her up at the grocery store is the day she fully felt as part of the community.

7- A bit of chivalry

Holding the door firmly for whoever's following, and making sure that they have a good grip on it before letting it go... seen as a courteous gesture elsewhere, this everyday act is a bare minimum of politeness for the Madelinots. A nice thought that is more than welcomed when living in such a windy decor!


Îles de la Madeleine, door


And you, what habits have you noticed?

Par Suzanne Richard

Suzanne Richard is an author, a speaker and a musician. She published a collection of short stories entitled La mer, trois kilomètres à gauche. Her conference — Les mots et la mer — is about maritime words and expressions commonly used in the French language.

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