22 votes

What can you tell me about Montreal, Quebec, and, more generally, Canada?

I'm interviewing for an intriguing, unexpected opportunity that requires travel to Montreal, and probably an eventual move there if I like it. Due to the pandemic, I'd be remote for the foreseeable future, doing AI stuff—assuming this works out. No guarantees, but regardless I'd like to know more about Montreal, Quebec, and, more generally, Canada, if you have anything to share.

@vivaria already posted a similar topic in January including many helpful tips, but I'm based in North Carolina. I've never stepped outside the United States, although my wife has many times. She holds dual citizenship between the US and EU. We actually moved to NC from Florida earlier in the pandemic supposedly for her job, but she's been remote the entire time, and she could likely stay that way (what a surprise /s). I'm well acquainted with moving long-distance, but obviously not between countries. No dependents and no plan to ever have them, but we do have cats, for what it's worth.

Mainly I'm curious about cultural, legal and monetary differences that may be jarring or pleasantly surprising given my background, but I appreciate any pointers or advice. Somebody else may search Tildes later with a similar question (wouldn't be the first time). One thing I suspect is that learning French might be a great way to endear myself with coworkers and locals.

Thanks for your time.

11 comments

  1. [4]
    arghdos
    Link
    I lived in Montreal for 5 years at university, it’s a lovely city, especially in the spring and summer. That’s the first thing to be aware of, you are signing up for some form of cold / snow /...

    I lived in Montreal for 5 years at university, it’s a lovely city, especially in the spring and summer. That’s the first thing to be aware of, you are signing up for some form of cold / snow / rain to be from late Oct. to early May. I personally love the snow and cold (and would trade for the hell of Texas summer any day of the week), but some people hate it. I recommend getting into a winter sport, it’ll make it much better. There are public skating rinks all over the city if that’s your fancy.

    Culturally, MTL is way different than the US. There are grocery stores, but there are (or were) also specialty shop (bakers, butchers, cheese stores, etc.) everywhere. Also, there tends to be way less American fast food in general (like off hand I think I only remember seeing... one McDonalds in the city) which is pretty nice. Some pretty famous food institutions are the Jewish deli’s (e.g., Schwartz's), bagel shops (Fairmount), poutine joint’s (e.g., La Banquise, don’t @ me, not a poutine guy :p).

    There is definitely way more biking than in most American cities (bike lanes everywhere!), and it’s actually one of the better ways to get around, though the metro is pretty solid as well (closes a bit early IIRC).

    Music tends electronic/electro-pop (which I’m indifferent to) and Jazz (which was dope). Lots of clubs if that’s your thing. Lots of record stores and venues.

    Beer (when I was there) was... really not great with the exception of DDC and to a lesser extent Unibroue. Which is a shame, because QC has a huge selection of funky Belgian inspired breweries. For whatever reason none of the stuff showed up at bars or Dep’s (think convenience stores with beer). Maybe distribution has changed in the last few years.

    As far as French goes... you’ll definitely be better off if you learn it, but it’s not required for daily life. There are only a few instances where I encountered someone who didn’t speak any English, and it’s easy enough to sign or pantomime your meaning. I don’t know what the workplace is like for that. When the rep. from the professional engineer association came into my class, they said the exams were in French (I don’t know if this is true) but honestly if you have a company that wants to hire you, I bet even that would get figured out.

    A few of my favorite things to do in MTL:

    1. Ride a bike up to Dieu du Ciel, enjoy a few beers (or more) from one of the best breweries in the world, then walk around the corner to Fairmount bagel and spend a tooney (2$ coin) on a few bagels right out of the oven. Did I mention they are 24/7? Perfect for late night snacks.

    2. Go down the Atwater farmers market in the summer. Buy some bread, cheese and wine, ride your bike along the canal and find a spot for a picnic. MTL has four year round farmers markets, all of them are worth checking out, as they tend to be located in hot spots for food & restaurants. For example, Jean Talon in the north is in middle of the Italian section of the city.

    3. Walk around on Mt. Royal. It’s huge, plenty of space to explore, lots of paths and trails (besides the main trail that wraps its way up). We once had a great night with some hot chocolate in a thermos jumping off the stairs on the way up into huge snow banks.

    Let me know if you have any specific questions!

    11 votes
    1. reese
      Link Parent
      You're awesome. I appreciate the intricacy of your reply—I get the impression I would acclimate to MTL quickly. Sounds like I would love it, in fact. Thanks for sharing, and I'll let you know if I...

      You're awesome. I appreciate the intricacy of your reply—I get the impression I would acclimate to MTL quickly. Sounds like I would love it, in fact. Thanks for sharing, and I'll let you know if I have more questions.

      2 votes
    2. [2]
      TheJorro
      Link Parent
      I don't know what the time difference is between when you were in Montreal and now is but Montreal has an amazing selection of beer now. I love visiting friends there so I can stop at a store on...

      Beer (when I was there) was... really not great with the exception of DDC and to a lesser extent Unibroue. Which is a shame, because QC has a huge selection of funky Belgian inspired breweries. For whatever reason none of the stuff showed up at bars or Dep’s (think convenience stores with beer). Maybe distribution has changed in the last few years.

      I don't know what the time difference is between when you were in Montreal and now is but Montreal has an amazing selection of beer now. I love visiting friends there so I can stop at a store on the way home and stock up on beers I've never heard of and may never see again. I can walk into any major grocery store and there's always a huge wall of amazing craft beers of all different kinds. A Montreal Metro puts even the fanciest and biggest selections in Ontario to shame.

      2 votes
      1. arghdos
        Link Parent
        This was 2007-2012. I am happy (and not too surprised) to hear the selection has improved overall. Back then it was hard to get anything more craft than Uni or some of the other small locals...

        This was 2007-2012. I am happy (and not too surprised) to hear the selection has improved overall. Back then it was hard to get anything more craft than Uni or some of the other small locals (e.g., Cheval Blanc or BierBier), and straight up didn’t exist at bars unless you went to one of the many pub+microbreweries establishments.

        BTW, the best option back then (and it would be hard to imagine that they don’t have a killer beer selection if they still exist today) was the Cheese market on the ground floor (I.e., outside) of Marche Atwater. Highly recommended.

        1 vote
  2. [2]
    grahamiam
    Link
    Very jealous. Montreal is probably my favorite city I've been to in North America, except for maybe Vancouver. When we were looking at emigrating from the US, we briefly looked at Montreal but the...

    Very jealous. Montreal is probably my favorite city I've been to in North America, except for maybe Vancouver. When we were looking at emigrating from the US, we briefly looked at Montreal but the cost of living + not great job prospects crossed it off our list pretty quickly (hey, same as Vancouver) and we ended up on another continent instead.

    If you haven't lived somewhere with decent public transportation, it's amazing how life-changing it is.

    7 votes
    1. intuxikated
      Link Parent
      The fact that people can just move to another country as they wish rather than which country would let them stay is so foreign to me still. :(

      The fact that people can just move to another country as they wish rather than which country would let them stay is so foreign to me still. :(

      1 vote
  3. TinmanJones
    Link
    Hello ! Fellow Montrealer here. I have lives here for almost all my life, albeit I might be a lot younger than most people are in the Tildes demographic. We as a city are quite welcoming to most...

    Hello ! Fellow Montrealer here. I have lives here for almost all my life, albeit I might be a lot younger than most people are in the Tildes demographic.

    We as a city are quite welcoming to most types of people and generally represent a vast amount of different cultures and peoples. Depending on where you go, Montreal could easily feel like multiple cities in one! It's definitively not a perfect city in that regards (I mean, what city is anyways?) but I do believe it's quite remarkable how nice and welcoming we are as a city for the most part.

    Living here without knowing french is also, surprisingly, not the hardest thing in the world! Sure, learning it can help IMMENSELY, but people who can't speak it is something that montrealers are accustomed to seeing. Plus, since you speak English, it makes it even easier, since most of Montreal is quite open towards that specific language, ESPECIALLY comparatively to the rest of Quebec. I do recommend it though, it's quite nice to learn and makes you appreciate the culture here a lot more.

    I do think Montreal has rich culture, if that's something you're interested in. Nothing huge or jarring (except for maybe some kinds of foods we eat) that I can think of right on the spot, but I'm sure it would be noticeable for someone foreign.

    Food here is quite nice. Decent ratio between fast foods and local stuff. As mentioned by @arghdos, The farmer markets here are awesome hahah. the one I live closest to is the Jean-Talon market, which I quite enjoy going to. Might get more expensive when it comes to meats and other such produce, but the whole vegetable/fruit side of it goes for similar to regular grocery stores, but in a nicer environment !

    To be fair, I don't have much to compare the city to since I've lived here forever, but I am quite proud of it and I do love most parts of the city. West island is kind of boring, but everything else has great places, especially for families! Going to the Vieux-Port is still fun to me after all these years, The Mont Royal is still a really beautiful place, the people remain kind and grateful, etc. Let me know if you want any more info that I couldn't really think of in the spot, and I hope to see you arrive here in the near future !

    Tomi

    5 votes
  4. [2]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Having visited Quebec a whole bunch of times over the years (I'm next door in Ontario), I can definitely vouch for that. You don't even have to master it either, as it's generally the effort that...

    One thing I suspect is that learning French might be a great way to endear myself with coworkers and locals.

    Having visited Quebec a whole bunch of times over the years (I'm next door in Ontario), I can definitely vouch for that. You don't even have to master it either, as it's generally the effort that seems to count most. E.g. If you at least try to start the conversation out in French first, it will more often than not results in a smile and the other person graciously switching to English for you. Thank God for that too, since my spoken French is pretty atrocious (especially these days). :P

    As for cultural, legal, and monetary issues, there shouldn't be too many differences there, or anything that will really shock you, or catch you off-guard. I've never been to NC, but have several close friends from Virginia (who come up to visit occasionally), and I have lived/worked in Boston and Miami + Boca + Ft.L in Florida myself... and honestly, in my experience Canadians and Americans are largely the same (except for us having more progressive politics overall, and a tiny bit more general politeness + apologizing on our side ;).

    4 votes
    1. reese
      Link Parent
      Thank you for your reassurance. It is within my power to pick up just enough French to make people feel bad for me. And maybe we'll be next-province neighbors! Interviewer: This reese guy is a...

      Thank you for your reassurance. It is within my power to pick up just enough French to make people feel bad for me. And maybe we'll be next-province neighbors!

      in my experience Canadians and Americans are largely the same (except for us having more progressive politics overall, and a tiny bit more general politeness + apologizing on our side ;)

      Interviewer: This reese guy is a real eh-hole.
      Hiring Manager: Be polite, he's from the United States, he doesn't know any better.

      1 vote
  5. Pistos
    Link
    Do some research early/now on immigration processes, because it will probably take a while, like on the order of weeks, if you plan to legally stay in the country for more than N months, for some...

    Do some research early/now on immigration processes, because it will probably take a while, like on the order of weeks, if you plan to legally stay in the country for more than N months, for some government-decreed value of N. The current USD-CAD exchange rate heavily favours converting from USD, so look to save up your USD so you can cash in on a good exchange rate if you decide to move.

    3 votes
  6. aphoenix
    Link
    @arghdos pretty much nailed it - it's a lovely city. I've only ever visited, and not lived there, but every visit has been delightful. The only thing I might add that hasn't come up that much is...

    @arghdos pretty much nailed it - it's a lovely city. I've only ever visited, and not lived there, but every visit has been delightful.

    The only thing I might add that hasn't come up that much is the opportunity to travel in and around Canada.

    Quebec is one of my favourite places to vacation - I live in Ontario, just next door. My favourite city in Quebec is Quebec City - there's great food, great beer, great people, and it has a great feel. Knowing french is certainly helpful when travelling anywhere in Quebec, but not particularly necessary.

    The Maritimes is a beautiful place - I've only been to Nova Scotia, but I believe the same warmth and friendliness is something you will find in all of the maritime provinces. Seeing the Bay of Fundy is impressive, and it's a great place for seafood.

    Ontario is a fantastic place as well. Montreal is close to Ottawa, and about a half day's drive from Toronto. Ottawa / Hull has a lot of amazing things to see and do, and the downtown is amazing, and if you're still around on Canada Day 2021 (assuming that we're not still on health lockdown at that point) it's an amazing place to go. Toronto also has a million things to see and do; museums, galleries, aquariums, shows, sports, the CN Tower; there's no reason to ever be bored as a tourist. Lots of other cities are great tourist spots as well - one of our best vacations of all time was to Sudbury! Science North is great, and going down into a mine was awesome.

    I just wanted to highlight that in addition to all the great things about Montreal that you would be experiencing, there's the fact that it's relatively central to a lot of cool Canadian places, and you would be able to see and do a lot of cool Canadian things!

    3 votes