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Who are the language police, and what do they really do?
Inhabitants of Quebec, Canada's largest French-speaking province, pride themselves on being different from their neighbors, and that sentiment extends from the language they speak to the food on their plates, and beyond. If there's anything that unites all Quebecers, it's their joie de vivre: Quebec is a place where fun is taken seriously.
Consider these truths for a better understanding of the province:
1. This is French soil, with a language police
This tiny francophone enclave has some of the strictest language laws in the world.
French must be the predominant language on signs, retail or food service employees always greet customers in French, and there are even laws dictating whether parents can send their children to English or French school.
About 80% of the province's nearly 8 million inhabitants have French as a mother tongue, and outside of multicultural metropolis Montreal, most people only speak French.
There's an entity called the OQLF (Office quebecois de la langue francaise), otherwise known as the language police. They enforce the rules by doling out fines to noncompliant businesses, and are usually plain clothed and covert. Recently, language tensions have risen among locals, and OQLF overzealousness was the main culprit.
2. There are Catholic churches for sale
Given that Quebec's most popular curse words ("tabarnak" and "ostie") are derived from church terms, it's not surprising the Catholic church once played a big role here, but today many of the parishes are empty and have fallen into disrepair.
Many of the buildings are for sale, and buyers have been difficult to come by. Some are being demolished, while others have been converted for non-religious purposes.
Montreal band Arcade Fire recorded their Grammy Award-winning album The Suburbs in a church in rural Farnham, Quebec, but they recently put up their "Petite église" (little church) for sale, citing a damaged roof.
3. Quebec has its own national holiday
Canada Day is on July 1, and while Quebecers still get that day off, those celebrations are muted compared to those of St. Jean Baptiste Day -- known as Fête Nationale -- held a week earlier on June 24.
Because it falls right at the start of summer, the festivities are held outdoors. Quebec has a robust francophone music industry, with its own stars, and St. Jean Baptiste Day is the perfect time to check out the folk revival scene live.
There's a strong nationalistic component to the holiday -- especially for the current minority who believe Quebec should be its own country.
Just be sure to wear blue and keep all Maple Leaf-related paraphernalia at home.
4. Quebec loves small town hockey
The Montreal Canadiens are the only Quebec-based team in the NHL, but outside of Montreal, the storied Habs aren't unanimously adored.
The province has its own junior hockey league for players aged 16-20, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, with teams hailing primarily from smaller towns (including a few outside of Quebec). It's the league where NHL Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy cut their teeth.
There's also the rock 'em sock 'em minor-pro North American Hockey League, more famous for fights than goals.
While Quebecers don't participate in hockey en masse the way they used to, it's still the most popular sport there, and in the winter, towns will erect their own free, outdoor rinks.
5. Many Quebecers speak joual
The language of Molière has evolved considerably in the former French colony.