Monday 19 March 2012

Dépanneur and Québec civilisation

I took this picture during my last trip in Montreal, it is a typical dépanneur, in other words a convenience store.  Like many of them, most of them, it is quite ugly, with lots of cheap advertisement and old, cheap, generic, discoloured business sign above. The building surrounding it is lovely (a picture here). In Montreal and elsewhere in Québec, the ugliness mixes with the beauty, often overshadowing it. When you go to the Vieux Montréal, austere but elegant grey buildings mix with tourists shops. At least the dépanneur has a useful, community role.

So why do I blog about dépanneurs? They are just convenience stores right? Well, yes, but not quite. A convenience store does not look, feel, sound or smell the same from a country to another. So the Québec dépanneur feels very Quebecker and it is one of the first shops I visit when I go back home. The term has now been accepted so much that it is part of Quebec English. A dépanneur is certainly convenient: often opened 24/7, we can buy the bare necessities of life: bread, butter, peanut butter (don't laugh, peanut butter might one day eliminate famine, it certainly prevented me from going hungry), Vachon cakes, chips, soft drinks, cheese curds (one my my region's favourite snack, Blueberries are quite fond of squeaky cheese), beer (to go with the squeaky cheese), etc. And now even the most modest dépanneur, like this one, has a decent choice of microbrewery beers (something I seldom see in convenient stores here). It also gives jobs to immigrants, either as employees of chains or as owners of independent store (you need little money to start such business). But when I go to one, I just stay a few minutes to buy some beer, cheese curds and I always listen to the local radio. I could listen to the radio at home, but it's just different in a social environment. It makes me take the heartbeat of home.

1 comment:

Cynthia said...

I hate that most Depanneurs are become big corporate chains like Couche Tard.

When I lived in Hochelaga we had one of those decrepit weird dépanneur that felt so authentic. The only bad thing about it was that they did not sell much candy!