Friday, August 29, 2014

The only Koreans in Eastern Quebec

Tales from my family's cross-country road trip


"People live here?" my mother said in shock. "In the middle of the mountains?"

And that was all we had to say.


As one of the larger cities in Quebec, Rimouski has dozens of restaurants, but we still managed to end up stopping at a Korean restaurant for lunch.

It seemed like a surprising anomaly to find this little Korean spot in the sea of French Canada where it's rarer to see even people of colour, let alone Koreans.

The interior is authentic looking enough, and the menu offers the kind of dishes that Koreans would want to eat, not just what Koreans would expect Canadians to try.  And although the food is served by French Canadian waitresses, eventually the owner introduces herself, a Korean woman who moved here twelve years ago.   She was shocked and delighted to see actual Koreans in her restaurant - she admitted that at first she thought we were Chinese - and she wanted to know all about us.

According to the owner, her family is the only Korean family in the Gaspesie peninsula; it's hard for Koreans to go eat of Quebec City because of the French. A lot of Koreans struggle just to learn English, let alone French. But the owner here lived in France with her husband while he did his PhD there, and now he teaches engineering at the local university. She herself speaks three languages and translates for anglophone customers when her francophone waitresses need help.

She compliments my Korean and is surprised to hear that I am married. "I thought you were in high school," she tells me. "I was going to give you a cookie."

Well, I am nearing thirty but I'm always up for a cookie.

BONUS: From my travel diary, "French words I have learned"