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Tourisme résidentiel

Lifestyle Migration and the Quest for a Life-long Vacation

Zainub Ibrahim and Rémy Tremblay


With international migration on the rise, researchers are interested in understanding the link between migration and tourism more than ever before. In this paper, we introduce some of the main concepts used in studies on migration and tourism, which lead to our discussion of lifestyle migration. We then examine the case of the Québécois in Florida in light of the literature on lifestyle migration and assess whether this case fits the definition and characteristics of lifestyle migration. Our analysis is based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with thirty Québécois migrants in Florida. We find that even though our case study does not adhere to the classical definition of lifestyle migration as it does not meet the restriction of relative affluence, it is representative of the characteristics of this type of migration, and class issues play a significant role in the lives and experiences of the migrants.

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1International migration is on the rise, and consequently, researchers are increasingly more interested in the link between tourism and migration. This relationship is multifaceted due to the interdisciplinary nature of both terms and the haphazard development in their associated concepts. In this paper, we focus on one type of relationship, which is that of lifestyle migration, and examine the case of Québécois migrants in Florida in light of the literature on that subject. We are interested in determining whether this case can really be considered one of lifestyle migration based on our understanding of the term from the literature. Our investigation reveals that class issues assume a significant role in the motivations and experiences of the migrants, and this has relevant implications on the lifestyle migration literature.

Tourism and Migration

2Before delving into lifestyle migration, we first examine the key concepts that shape our understanding of this term: tourism and migration. To claim that defining tourism and migration is complex would be an understatement, as both terms have a wide array of definitions, categorizations, and applications that are largely subjective to individual interpretations. This leads to a complex synergy when attempting to define these terms and their interrelationship. To set the stage for our later discussion, we will first shed some light on the definitions of these terms as they relate to one another. We will thus define migration, and a short discussion of the definitions of tourism and how these two terms are related in the formation of the concept of lifestyle migration will follow.

3Migration is essentially a form of spatial mobility. However, spatial mobility can involve moving anything, from people to goods, money, information, and so forth, while migration is a subject of spatial mobility that is limited to the movement of people (Boyle et al., 1998). Mobility can be categorized in different ways based on its application: temporally vs. spatially, nationally vs. internationally, and forced vs. voluntary. These categorizations stress the different types of migrations and highlight their vast array of applications. For instance, the forced migration of refugees is very different from the case of retirees in search of a good life, although both may end up in the same destination and both would be considered migrants.

4The significance of tourism has received little attention within the literature on migration (Hall and Williams, 2002). At the most basic level, the relationship between tourism and migration can be viewed as a spectrum with permanent migration at one extreme, and tourism at the other (Bell and Ward, 2000). This is a very simplistic view that quickly raises a number of questions. For instance, a permanent migrant may have a change of heart and return home, resulting in a shorter stay than that of a tourist who decides to purchase a second home and makes frequent visits to an area with which he has a special affinity. Thus, these questions: are terms defined based on intention or on outcome, and how can specifics types of migrants be predetermined?

5There are plenty of definitions of tourism, with different categorizations. Stephen Smith sums up the situation: “a single, comprehensive, and widely accepted definition of tourism is beyond the hope of realization. Practitioners must learn to accept the myriad of definitions and to understand and respect the reasons for those differences” (1988 : 180). Guido Candela and Paulo Figini (2012) categorize tourism based on whether the focus of study is psychological, sociological, or economic, so as to better understand the concept. Neil Leiper (1979) categorizes tourism definitions into economic, technical, and holistic. More recently, Leiper (2004) refines his categories of tourism based on usage in popular contexts, technical definitions, and heuristic concepts. These different definitions could all potentially be relevant to the case of lifestyle migration, depending on the angle of study. Therefore, we believe that it is appropriate to examine a holistic definition of tourism.

6The most widely-accepted definition is that of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 1995 : 30): “Tourism comprises the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside [one’s] usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes.” It focuses on defining tourism based on tourists, their activities, and the duration of their stay (being limited to one year). Lifestyle migration clearly does not fit this definition as it does not meet the length requirement. However, it is interesting to note that despite this, any of the impacts—social, economic, environmental—as well as services required by lifestyle migrants are closely aligned with those of tourists, and as such it is often given particular attention in literature on tourism. Thus, perhaps a broader definition of tourism is more appropriate for the case of lifestyle migration, such as that provided by Alister Mathieson and Geoffrey Wall (1982 : 1):

Tourism is the temporary movement of people to destinations outside their normal places of work and residence, the activities undertaken during their stay in those destinations, and the facilities created to cater to their needs. The study of tourism is the study of people away from their usual habitat, of the establishments which respond to the requirements of travellers, and of the impacts that they have on the economic, physical and social well-being of their hosts. It involves the motivations and experiences of the tourists, the expectations of and adjustments made by residents of reception areas, and the roles played by the numerous agencies and institutions which intercede between them.

7Even this broad definition of tourism does not fully embrace lifestyle migration; although it does not involve a definite time constraint, it emphasizes tourism as being temporary, which is not necessarily the intention or the case with lifestyle migration. From this brief analysis, we can conclude that lifestyle migration does not perfectly fit the mould of tourism, yet it is examined from the tourism perspective because much of the tourism literature is relevant in the case of lifestyle migration—which has yet to develop its own pool of knowledge. We will examine this relationship more fully further down.

Lifestyle Migration

8As is the case with tourism, lifestyle migration is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon worldwide. Like tourism, this can be attributed to certain characteristics such as globalization, individualization, increased mobility and ease of movement, flexibility in working lives, and increases in global relative wealth (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a). The justification for lifestyle migration in fact differs depending on the context. For instance, Matthew Hayes (2014) finds that there has been a prevalence of North American migrants living in Ecuador; their main motivation is to capitalize on the economic difference between their home and host countries, a concept which he has coined “geographic arbitrage.” In this sense, it may be considered that this migration phenomenon has more similarities with studies on elite travel and migration than with other more traditional forms of migration such as labour migration and refugee movements (Benson and Osbaldiston, 2014).

9The term “lifestyle” is chosen by some authors to describe “lifestyle migrants,” as it represents a combination of work and leisure (MacCannell, 1999) rather than focussing on either one or the other. Mason McWatters (2009), on the other hand, argues that migration can be labelled as being either labour-oriented or consumption-oriented, with lifestyle migration falling under the consumption-oriented category. It is nevertheless interesting to note that it is impossible to completely disentangle consumption- and labour-based migration, as each may inevitably contain aspects of the other. The purpose of migration may nonetheless fall more specifically in one category, with the other playing a secondary role.

10Looking more closely at lifestyle migrants, we see that a major factor in their intention is their belief that changing their place of residence will result in a better lifestyle or a more fulfilling way of life (Torkington, 2010), rather than being an assessment of where they can find better economic opportunities (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a). At the same time, migration is seen as constituting a part of life’s trajectory, rather than a single constrained process (Castles, 2010). Migrants have not only chosen how they would like to live their lives, but also where they would like to do so (Hoey, 2005). This understanding is in line with both Dean MacCannell’s (1999) and Mason McWatters’ (2009) views on the terms “lifestyle” and “lifestyle migration.”

11In accordance with these views, Michaela Benson and Karen O’Reilly (2009a) attempted to create a definition of lifestyle migration that is vague enough to be applicable to a wide variety of cases, yet specific enough for it to be constructive. Accordingly, theirs has arguably become the most widely accepted definition in relevant literature. They define lifestyle migrants as “relatively affluent individuals, moving either part-time or full-time, permanently or temporarily, to places which, for various reasons, signify for the migrants something loosely defined as quality of life” (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009b : 621). In this sense, they are not postindustrial migrants pursuing more attractive employment opportunities, and even in situations where employment is involved, it is seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself (Torkington, 2010), as may be the case in labour-based migration.

12The book entitled Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences, edited by Michaela Benson and Karen O’Reilly (2009a), illustrates a series of case studies in different settings that fall under the category of their definition of lifestyle migration. According to them, there are unifying characteristics that are present throughout cases of lifestyle migration (these are summarized below in table 1).

Table 1 : Characteristic Features of Lifestyle Migration

Table 1 : Characteristic Features of Lifestyle Migration

Source: adapted from Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a

Lifestyle Migration and Tourism

13In examining the relationship between lifestyle migration and tourism, it is easy to see that the term “lifestyle migration” is closely associated with what connects tourism and migration. For instance, the two terms are related through what Allan Williams and Michael Hall (2002) call “tourism-informed mobility,” where migrants are inspired by their experiences as tourists to migrate to a destination with which they have an affinity, and based on their experiences, where they envision their lives as residents. Further, as mentioned earlier, a great part of our comprehension of the various phenomena that relate to lifestyle migration comes from the much more established discipline of tourism (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009b). Examples of this include our understanding of interactions between hosts and guests, guests and the destination, the economy, the environment, etc.

14It is important to note, however, that not all forms of lifestyle migration are directly related to tourism, just as not all forms of tourism are directly related to lifestyle migration. While the relationship between tourism and lifestyle migration underscores the main driver behind the lifestyle choice as the tourism experiences, that is, individuals seeking a lifestyle that is similar to that of a long-term tourist, resulting largely from positive tourism experiences, it can also happen that individuals are not satisfied at home for a variety of reasons, and this intensifies their decision to migrate. For instance, migrants may be motivated by counterurbanisation (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009b) since urban areas have been recognized as becoming increasingly stressful environments, with high taxes, crime, pollution, and congestion; while alternative areas, which may be rural, or otherwise, are considered as having lower housing prices, and offering retirement, peace, and quietness, and being closer to nature (Mitchell, 2004). This type of lifestyle migration can be unrelated to tourism in the sense that it is not motivated by a tourism experience, but tourism literature can increase our understanding of the interactions pertaining to lifestyle migration by shedding light on the interactions of these newcomers with their environments and communities.


15The greatest part of the field research for this project was undertaken in the winter of 1996, with additional interviews intermittently taking place in Florida afterward until 2015, to monitor whether there were any significant developments over time. A total of 30 key informant interviews were conducted with French-Canadian business owners in Florida (25 took place in 1996 and an additional five interviews were conducted over the course of the remaining years). The interviews were open-ended and lasted an average of 90 minutes. They were recorded and later transcribed for analysis. The types of businesses owned and operated by the participants differed and include motels, hairdressers, travel agencies, real-estate agencies, convenience stores, and catering services. This gap in the timeframe of the interviews is important because the majority took place at a time when Florida was at its peak for Québécois migrants and tourists. Since then, Florida has largely lost its appeal for Québécois (Tremblay, 2003b). In spite of this, the participants’ attitudes as conveyed over the interviews remain unchanged—thus emphasizing that the correspondence of Floribecois to the definitions of lifestyle migration has not changed over this timeframe.

16The location and type of business were accounted for in order to ensure a representative sample in the selection of participants. The interviewer relied on fifty open-ended questions covering a variety of subjects such as their motives, lifestyles, and thoughts related to their experiences of migrating to Florida. These questions served as a guide to understand the life history of participants in Florida. The interviewer visited the workplace of each participant (which is where the interview was conducted) and with their consent, recorded the interviews. The conversations were then analyzed, and conclusions were drawn from the results. The original interviews took place in French, and excerpts of the transcripts quoted in this paper were translated by the authors.

The Floribec

17Floribec is a portmanteau of the words “Florida” and “Québec.” It represents the snowbirds from Québec who frequent Florida to escape the harsh winters back home. This trend is believed to have started in the 1930s when French Canadians, Americans, and Franco-Americans from New England began immigrating to Florida to work on infrastructure projects which aimed to improve the economic situation after the 1929 financial crisis. Following this, many French-Canadians chose to settle in Florida, and attend to the demands of the initial wave of wealthy French-Canadian tourists who began visiting Florida. That state’s popularity with Québécois took off in the 1970s due to several factors, including developments both in Québec (such as the Quiet Revolution) and in Florida (for example the construction of the United States freeway system and growth in the Sun Belt cities, including Miami) (Dupont, 1982). The Miami suburbs of Surfside and Sunny Isles became the vacation spots of choice for many Québécois, and several Québec investors set up businesses to cater to the growing demands of these francophone tourists. Over the years, the concentration of Québécois shifted to different Miami suburbs as they found ways to maintain their presence despite rising real estate prices.

18Today, Florida is still considered to be the leading winter destination for Québécois (Tremblay and Chicoine, 2011), although the make-up of these migrants has shifted over the years. Most of the Floribecois are now from the working class. Québécois snowbirds and migrants are not wealthy and do not speak English fluently. They self-segregate and stay among themselves, maintaining their usual lifestyle—minus the snow and cold weather. In addition to the milder weather, they enjoy their ability to conduct day-to-day activities exclusively in French, and this resulted in other Floribecois starting businesses to cater to their specific demands. Many of these are located in a recreational business district (RBD) along the beach. The physical space that Floribec occupies generally refers to an approximately five-kilometre area spanning the cities of Hollywood, Dania, and Hallandale, in the eastern suburb of Miami; the Floribec community maintains close ties with home through telecommunications, interactive information technologies, and television access (ibid.). The Floribec phenomenon has now largely died down since its heyday during the 1970s to the 1990s, and that can mainly be attributed to pressure from Miami’s urban sprawl, the negative image that local political authorities have of the Floribecois, and competition from other destinations (Tremblay, 2003b). Nevertheless, it is an interesting case to study, because despite the plethora of literature on French America, research on the Québécois in Florida is very limited (Tremblay, 2003a; 2006). Additionally, Florida is a destination that, for Québécois, has gone through all the phases of the tourism cycle, from introduction to decline (Tremblay, 2003b), and thus enables us to reflect upon it and to better anticipate what can be expected from other emerging lifestyle migration destinations.

Lifestyle Migrants: Québécois in Florida

19When examining the relationship between ethnic communities and tourism, it is oftentimes noted that tourists visit ethnic communities because they wish to experience a different culture without having to travel very far. In such cases, these communities are made up of a group of people belonging to a specific ethnicity and who reside outside of their home country. Examples include the Chinatowns, Little Italys, and Little Indias that have sprung up in large cities across North America. In other cases, the ethnic communities are composed of tourists themselves; for instance, there is an important Finnish community living in Florida, composed of tourists who came from Finland (Timothy, 2002). And this is also the case with the Québécois in Florida.

20Before analyzing whether the case of Floribec fits the mould of lifestyle migration, let is revisit Benson and O’Reilly’s (2009a : 621) definition of lifestyle migrants: they are “relatively affluent individuals, moving either part-time or full-time, permanently or temporarily, to places which, for various reasons, signify for the migrants something loosely defined as quality of life.” One of the main characteristics of this definition is that it is elusive, and thus applicable to many cases. The first constraint it poses is that the migrants should be relatively affluent. In general, the Floribecois are not considered affluent as they are mostly working-class individuals, not particularly wealthy, and most of them do not have a university-level education. How is affluence understood? In their definition, it is possible that Benson and O’Reilly seek to isolate lifestyle migrants from refugees and other migrants fleeing catastrophe. In this sense, the Floribecois can be considered affluent by association with cases of international migration, although they are not considered affluent when compared with other Québécois. After all, the argument can be made that to be able to afford the cost of residence and transportation, one must at least have a certain level of financial comfort, which, compared on a global scale, can be considered as some sort of relative affluence. Kate Torkington (2010) identifies the relative affluence of tourists based on their intentions (primarily a better quality of life rather than improved economic opportunities). However, we find that this view is difficult to justify because the two are often very closely intertwined. As such, we cannot conclude that the Floribecois are relatively affluent, and thus they do not comply with the definition of lifestyle migration. We will nevertheless examine if they meet the criteria for lifestyle migration as outlined by Benson and O’Reilly, which are divided into three categories: explanations for migration, lifestyle following migration, and fundamental features. Each of these categories is considered in the subsequent subsections.

Incentives for Migration

21The respondents we interviewed stated that they were escaping from various factors back home. By far, the most significant factors that they wanted to escape from are the weather and the costs and chores associated with the daily upkeep in the cold, snowy Québec weather. The following excerpt summarises Florida’s appeal for French Canadian emigrants:

Well, we came here several times before coming in for good; we would spend two or three weeks with the children. We did that for about ten years. At one point, we wondered if we should stay here . . . we were tired of spending money to buy winter tires, worse, to heat the house. On top of that, we’re not like the others [Canadians]. We watch hockey but don’t participate in outdoor [winter] activities. We hate the cold.

22Other factors that motivate migration include the lower tax rate in Florida as compared to Québec, and this is relevant because the migrants that we interviewed were business owners who would have to pay a higher tax rate if they were operating the same type of business back home. Also, the Québec political situation, the separatist movement more specifically, was a motivation for some. They were concerned by the idea that Québec may separate from Canada, thinking that it would result in an economic recession. We found a final motivation for migration, that is, the need for a fresh start after either a financial failure such as losing one’s job or filing for bankruptcy, or a personal failure, such as a nervous breakdown or divorce. In short, we found that Floribecois migrate in order to escape from different situations at home, and at the same time, they see Florida as an opportunity to make their dreams come true.

23The reasons for migrating given by the Floribecois were thus in line with those that Benson and O’Reilly (2009a) suggest are characteristic of cases of lifestyle migration. As table 1 shows, these authors claim that lifestyle migrants are motivated by the desire to seek an alternative lifestyle, escape from individual and community histories, escape from changing circumstances, and the opportunity for self-realization. Floribecois’ explanations can be summarized as: escape from cold weather, taxes, politics, and the need for a fresh start. These explanations support those characterized by Benson and O’Reilly, in particular seeking alternative lifestyles (away from the cold Canadian winters), escape from individual and community histories (Québec political context and need for a fresh start), the opportunity for self-realization (the idea that lower tax rates and interests in Florida offer attractive business opportunities). Based on this analysis, it can be concluded that all the motives of the Floribecois are in accordance with those of lifestyle migrants as defined by Benson and O’Reilly (2009a).

Lifestyle after Migration

24Prior to migrating, the respondents had visited Florida annually for many years, and were familiar with the area. Some had even built networks over time, and as a result had expectations based on their experiences as tourists in Florida. They sold their homes and assets back home in order to buy businesses and make a life for themselves in that state. After migrating, they realized that their experiences as residents differed from those as tourists. Some of the unexpected circumstances include having to work more than they had anticipated, the high level of crime in Miami, and the restrictions imposed as a result, the fast-paced, aggressive American culture, the hot weather and lack of seasonality, and realizing that the overall quality of life in Florida was worse than that in Québec, as depicted in this excerpt:

I’ll tell you one thing: Miami, it’s not as beautiful as the world thinks. Tourists will just see what they want. They are on the beach all day long or in their motel playing cards, and two weeks later they return to Québec with a nice suntan . . . They say we’re lucky and we should not complain. If they only knew! They’re here two weeks a year, sometimes a month. How can you know what it’s like to live here? They see Americans in movies, on TV. If they knew that what they see in movies is not realistic, maybe they would change their minds. When I lived in Montréal, I could go out at any time of the day. Here, it’s not the same story. It’s out of the question to walk through downtown Miami after 8 p.m., not even in some corners of Fort Lauderdale. There’s a convenience store not far from my home and sometimes I don’t even feel safe to go there alone. You see gangs of Blacks . . . they look at you as if you don’t have any business being there. This is just an example.

25One of the unexpected situations that the Floribecois expressed is that as business owners, there was much more work than they had anticipated, and that it was not at all like being on vacation all year-round. Being a business owner meant that they had to be present at work all the time. Some respondents were overwhelmed with the amount of work it required, and in many cases the entire family had to get involved. For instance, a family who purchased a motel explains that they were working endlessly: the parents and their two daughters had to perform different tasks such as working at the front desk, cleaning the rooms, making sure that the guests received all the services they needed, taking care of repairs and maintenance, and seeing to the many other jobs required in the daily upkeep of a motel.

When we came to Florida from Québec, we had an agreement that everyone would participate . . . Today, we realize that we have no choice because it’s too tough for one person alone. A motel must be open day and night, you have no spare time to relax or go away for two or three days. The whole family must work. I work in the office, my husband takes care of repairs and keeps the outside clean, and our two children [teenagers] clean the rooms.

26They also strongly felt that in Florida they were exposed to an aggressive and competitive culture, which was something they were not accustomed to. They indicated that it seemed like everyone was out to make money, and that was all, whereas in Canada they believed people acted more humanely and were more inclined to lend a helping hand:

Another example, him over there, he just thinks about himself . . . especially if you’re not like him, I mean an American. If you’re in the shit, he’ll walk all over you. They are not like us, not one bit. If you do something that he doesn’t like, he will immediately call his lawyer. They are maniacs, the lawyers. It’s a real obsession.

27Surprisingly, another source of dissatisfaction for the Québécois migrants was that the weather is too hot. This is particularly interesting because the weather was the main motivator for migration. One of the participants went as far as to say that he prefers the weather back home in Québec where there is seasonality and no need for year-round air-conditioning.

There are more bad sides than good ones here . . . I won’t die in Hollywood, that’s for sure. As soon as I have enough money to retire, I will return to my part of Montreal. I hear Québec tourists who complain all the time. In the summer, you suffocate. Here, you cannot go outside, you live with air conditioning day and night, and there are the hurricanes that come unexpectedly. Oh no, my friend!

28The main lifestyles of the Floribecois after migration can be summarized as laden with hard work, a high crime rate, clash with the American culture, hot weather, lack of seasonality, and an overall quality of life that is worse than that prior to their migration. These characteristics are thus in line with those that Benson and O’Reilly (2009a) suggest are representative of cases of lifestyle migration. As presented in table 1, they state that following migration, lifestyle migrants usually exhibit similar characteristics: (re)negotiation of the work–life balance, pursuit of a good quality of life, and freedom from prior constraints. Therefore, it can be concluded that all the major characteristics of their lifestyles following migration expressed by the Floribecois are in accordance with those of lifestyle migrants as defined by Benson and O’Reilly (2009a).

Fundamental Features

29According to Benson and O’Reilly (2009a) the fundamental features of lifestyle migration are: negotiating new lives, contradictions between expectations and realities, ambivalence and lifestyle migration, and the ongoing quest. We will examine each of these features in light of the above discussion in order to assess whether Floribec represents a case of lifestyle migrants.

30Migration involves the quest for a better way of life while overcoming the challenges associated with leaving home and starting a new life. These challenges can materialize in a variety of ways, such as dealing with living in two locations, making friends, and dealing with cultural differences. All these examples fall under the category of issues pertaining to negotiating new lives. The Floribecois’ experiences may differ, but they all experienced a struggle in reconciling their own Canadian-Québécois culture with the culture of Miami-Beach Americans. Not only did they express distaste for the fast-paced, aggressive American culture, in many instances they viewed their own Québécois culture as superior. It is interesting to note that the participants unanimously agree that they do not view themselves as fully American, and feel deep down that they will always be Québécois. Even the participants who had been living in Florida for over 25 years, and whose children were born there and spoke no French, still felt strong ties to Québec and Canada:

Legally I’m American. I have my US passport, my Green Card, my children live here and are Americans, and they speak almost no French. But in my mind, in my heart, I still feel Canadian. Even though I have been based in Hollywood for a long time, I’m not able to say that I’m an American.

31In the interviews, the Floribecois migrants unanimously expressed contradictions between expectations and realities: “As expectation meets reality, migrants come face to face with the limits of their knowledge of the local setting and way of life” (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a : 8). Their explanations for their contradictions, however, differed. As mentioned earlier, some of the reasons that they cited were that Miami is a violent city in which they did not feel safe. Other reasons include their discontentment with the lack of seasonality—year-long summers were not as appealing as before—and they found Americans to be unpleasant, and some ironically found that the quality of life in Florida is not as good as in Canada. These examples reflect situations where the Québécois migrants’ expectations differ from reality. They had based their expectations on their experiences as tourists to Florida, but quickly found that their living experiences required interaction with local culture, work life, and year-long summers that they were oblivious to prior to migration.

32Ambivalence and lifestyle migration result from two factors: being caught between two cultures, and reconciling the tension between reality and expectations (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a). Both of these features were found to be prominent in the experiences of the Floribecois. None of the participants considered themselves to be Americans, even those who held dual citizenship. As mentioned earlier, they claimed to distaste American culture, and strongly identified with the Québécois culture, even in instances where they did not wish to return. With regards to the second thread on the point of ambivalence and lifestyle migration, which relates to reconciling reality and expectations, as already discussed, Floribec represents a case where reality and expectations clearly differ. However, some of the migrants were able to reconcile these differences, and as a result expressed no desire to leave, while for some, the quest for a good life is an ongoing process.

33This brings us to the final feature of lifestyle migration, which is the ongoing quest for a good life: “The ongoing quest for a better way of life explains the ambivalence that many of the migrants feel, while at the same time indicating that the initial destination may not be the final destination” (Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a : 10). When asked if they would be content to die in Florida, or if they hoped to migrate elsewhere one day, there were mixed responses. One participant said that she would be fully content to die in Florida and that she “had not shed a single tear” after leaving the cold Canadian winters. She expressed her wish to have her ashes thrown into the sea because that is where she felt she belonged. Most of the participants shared this view, indicating that they intended to stay in Florida forever. The remainder were split between ambivalence and wanting to return to Québec. One of the participants was saving up money to enable him to retire in Québec. Those who wanted to return expressed different reasons for doing so. The overarching theme, however was that their adventure in Florida was not what they had expected. Regardless of their reasons, for these participants, their pursuit of a good life continues.

34Therefore, based on this assessment, we can conclude that all the fundamental features of lifestyle migrants outlined by Benson and O’Reilly (2009a) are present in the case of the Québécois in Florida. During the interviews, the Floribecois expressed that they were negotiating new lives, experienced contradictions between expectations and realities, felt ambivalence toward their migration experiences and lifestyle, and for many, this migration was not a final destination but rather part of an ongoing search for a good life.

Migration and Social Class

35One unexpected theme that emerged from the conversations with the migrants is that despite the idea that financial motives were secondary to other lifestyle quality motives for migration among the Floribecois, it is obvious that motivation in this field, and in this case, is underpinned by understandings of subjectivity that privilege middle-class ways of being. This notion surfaced in different instances throughout the interviews, with subjects indicating that they perceive themselves as superior to local Americans they encounter: “Me, I’m not like them, other [Americans]. They have a violent temper, which is different from mine.”

36In addition to perceptions of class superiority as compared with Americans, there were also indications of feeling superior to other Québécois in Florida. This could be based on the period during which they migrated, with the idea that Florida has gained popularity among the lower class:

I find that customers have changed a lot over the past couple of years. It seems that tourists are noisier and they leave fewer tips. It seems to me that before, they were more educated . . . I think it is because Florida has become less expensive that we have that [lower] class of tourists. Today, almost anyone can come to Florida. This is not Hawaii!

37Furthermore, there was the idea of class differences based on spaces that were occupied within Miami, with some of the migrants wanting to distance themselves from lower-class Québécois vacationers by occupying different spaces and emphasizing their bilingualism:

The Hollywood gang is a class of Canadians that is not civilized. They look foolish; they don’t know how to dress. You see them walking on the beach with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other... They are 50, 60 years old, have big bellies and small bathing suits... We could not live there… My husband and I are perfectly bilingual. That’s why we stay in this corner. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and Canadians who come here are nice. We even have a couple of friends who speak French... We would never have made friends in Hollywood [laughs].

38Therefore, despite the fact that the Floribecois are not of particularly relative affluence in comparison with their peers back home in Québec, it is interesting to note that their migration and experiences are laden with a consciously perceived class superiority.


39Much of the definitions and understandings surrounding the terminologies central to our understanding of lifestyle migration are subject to interpretation. When characterizing these terms too narrowly, we run the risk of leaving out situations and instances that could be informed by and inform the lifestyle migration literature, and too vague a description leaves open the need for a unified base of the field. Benson and O’Reilly’s definition of lifestyle migration is appropriate because it allows for a variety of different cases to fall under the same category of lifestyle migration while highlighting the similarities that unite them. Based on our above analysis of the Floribecois experiences, we conclude that Floribec does in fact represent a case of lifestyle migration even though it does not fully meet the definition of lifestyle migration as outlined by Benson and O’Reilly, as it fails to meet the criteria of relative affluence. Despite this, it is interesting to note that the Floribecois are conscious of social class issues and have made statements that allude to their perceived class superiority. This presents an interesting avenue for further studies to shed more light on the dynamics of perceived class dynamics and motivations for migration.

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List of illustrations

Title Table 1 : Characteristic Features of Lifestyle Migration
Credits Source: adapted from Benson and O’Reilly, 2009a
File image/jpeg, 271k
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Electronic reference

Zainub Ibrahim and Rémy Tremblay, « Lifestyle Migration and the Quest for a Life-long Vacation », Téoros [Online], 36, 2 | 2017, Online since 08 September 2017, connection on 26 October 2020. URL :

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About the authors

Zainub Ibrahim

Professor, School of Hospitality and Tourism, Algonquin College, Ottawa:

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Rémy Tremblay

Professeur agrégé, Département des sciences humaines, lettres et communications, TÉLUQ, Université du Québec:

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