Chinese expat draws from experience in comics about Quebec life

The comics, posted on Instagram as “La vie au Québec,” touches on everything from “bonjour-hi” at the pharmacy to debating whether Canada is a French-speaking country.

Zoe Qiu has been posting her comics on Instagram as "La vie au Québec"

Navigating greetings, like "Bonjour-Hi," is something Zoe Qiu said she had to learn when she moved to Montreal. (zoe.qiu0630/Instagram)

Since moving from China to Montreal five months ago, Zoe Qiu has been documenting her immigrant experience the best way she knows how — by making comics.

The comics, which Qiu has been posting on Instagram as "La vie au Québec," touches on everything from "bonjour-hi" at the pharmacy to debating whether Canada is a French-speaking country.

"Comics are my language, that's how I communicate with people," Qiu told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"When I draw cartoons, I feel relaxed. I also try to find something positive and funny in my art, and it helps me go through the difficulties and challenges here."

33-year-old Zoe Qiu immigrated to Montreal about five months ago. Since then, she's been posting art about the experience on her Instagram, zoe.qiu0630. (Annie Deir/CBC)

These challenges include trying to learn French. Several of her comics touch on some of the so-called land mines of the language.

"It is already driving me crazy," she laughed. "French makes the words into male and female — everything has its gender!"

Qiu, who draws herself with rabbit ears, said she understands that French is important in Montreal and is making the effort — something other immigrants can empathize with.

Zoe Qiu said a major hurdle to living in Quebec has been learning the language. (zoe.qiu0630/Instagram)

Members of Montreal's Chinese community have told her the work is "exactly like their daily life" in Quebec, including the uncertainties that come with being so far from home.

In one comic, Qiu described what it was like celebrating the Chinese New Year abroad, worrying about her parents in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak back home.

Qiu said being away from her family on Chinese New Year was made harder, knowing her parents in China had to grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak. (zoe.qiu0630/Instagram)

But Qiu said she hopes her comics resonate, not only with other immigrants, but also with Montrealers who are curious about people moving to their city.