Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making my way from Georgia to French Quebec

Today’s guest blogger is Maddie Taylor, a former Etiquette & Leadership Institute intern. Her story reminds us of how far manners can take you, especially in a brand-new environment.

Maddie Taylor and her "southern smile" that works wonders (keep reading!)

Breaking Barriers

It is quite humorous to think that I have been living in Quebec for three months. I feel as if I have been a Canadian forever. If someone had told me in May 2011 that I would be moving north of the border (in the dead of winter) I would have thought they were crazy.

My name is Maddie Taylor and after graduating from the University of Georgia last May with a major in public relations from Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications, I took a leap of faith and obtained a Marketing/PR internship in Granby, Quebec, Canada. It was an unexpected position, but I can’t imagine working anywhere else at the moment. I work for Beaulieu Canada as a Public Relations Specialist.

I absolutely love my job and the incredible experiences I have had so far such as organizing various marketing campaigns, writing numerous press releases and corporate newsletters, participating in our National Sales Meeting and filming a commercial. As much as I love my current position with Beaulieu Canada, the move to French Quebec has not always been as easy. Growing up in the United States, I naively thought of Canada as an extension of America, a place people sometimes lived if the USA got too crowded. How wrong I was. Once you cross the border into Vermont, you can instantly see it’s a world apart.

I reside in a small town on the outskirts of Montreal, where everyone speaks French with little to no English. Most of the population of Granby consists of the elderly and retired or young families with small children. Granby is definitely not the hotbed for “young professionals,” and there is certainly not an English-speaking skating group to join. But I have found my way around this tiny French town with a pleasant smile and common courtesies that seem to surprise my neighbors. When I first decided to come here, I quickly mastered the most important French phrases: Hello, how are you? (Bonjour, comment allez-vous?); Thank you (Merci); Please (s'il vous plait); I am sorry, I do not speak French (Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français).

Never before have I seen simplistic manners and a southern smile work such magic! Yes, living in Quebec is a daily struggle, whether I am driving in an ice storm (we still have them!) or asking directions to the local skating rink. My assimilation into this very unique culture has been made easier, however, due to the respectful manners I learned as a child and to the smile I keep on my face. Cultural awareness, respect and good manners will serve you well and get you far, no matter where you are in the world!

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