Seven Years in Montreal

Just over a month ago we had our seventh anniversary since moving to Montreal. My wife and I have a habit of always talking about our comparisons of the two places when we go out to dinner or during one of our 18 hour drives back from Chicago to Montreal. This evening we had one of those discussions and I thought it would be interesting to compare our expectations versus our experience living in Montreal. So in no particular order here they are:

One of the major reasons for our move up here was the social programs. Although taxes are higher, daycare is insanely cheap, health care is free, and the maternity/paternity leave is more humane. Granted getting into the health care system can be difficult if your problem is not serious, but it is there accessible to all. In truth health care could have been a moot topic since both of us had excellent health care through work. Though had either or both of us lost our jobs, that would have been a different story. The daycare and maternity/paternity benefits have been huge. I believe we would be really struggling with the cost and limited time off given had we stayed stateside. This is one expectation that has been filled and then some.

Another reason was to be able to have an affordable home near the city. Also traffic would not be as bad and recreation like the mountains and skiing would closer. This is another expectation which has been met. We have a reasonably sized house with a yard and a pool in a good neighborhood within a 15 minute drive from downtown. The mountains and skiing are about an hour away and the traffic on the weekends is bad only due to construction.

One of our objectives was to have our kids learn both French and English (the mother-tongues of my wife and I). Thus far, both kids are learning both to differing degrees. Our older can speak both fluently and is now learning to read and write French in school. It will be up to me to teach her to read and write in English. Our younger leans much more toward French since her sister, her mother, and her daycare playmates all speak it to her. But her English is making progress. My expectation was that the city and environs were completely bilingual, but I have found that only certain areas are bilingual with some leaning toward English and most leaning toward French. On the flip side, we would have had to send our kids to special schools or special classes to learn French back in Chicago. I believe that would have come at great expense.

Lastly, we often talk about the differences in friends and family. Before moving to Montreal we made regular visits to the city usually during Christmas. Each time almost every one of my in-laws made a special visit to see my wife during her stay here. We felt that the extended family was close and we would see them often if we moved here. That hasn’t really been the case and we don’t feel as much of a connection as we do with my immediate family and our friends back home. That one has been tough and is the reason we often talk about what it would be like to move back. So really in the end it is money (lots of it) which holds us back. It would overcome so many of the obstacles mentioned above. Of course that is not to say that we are choosing money over friends and family, it’s more like we’re choosing a manageable lifestyle with visits to see those friends and family. As you can imagine it was a tough choice that we still contemplate after seven years.


~ by Frank on July 3, 2010.

10 Responses to “Seven Years in Montreal”

  1. I have always said, “Canada is just like the United States, only better.” And you’ve listed a number of reasons why.

  2. Howdy!

    Before you decide you aren’t ‘close’ with your in-laws, I think you should really compare family (and non-family) special occasions, to other special occasions and not with the day-to-day stuff. Would your friends and family in Chicago really hang-out with you all the time? Or would the proximity and routine do like it has here and and made each individual visit less significant, while probably, I hope, making your day-to-day less strange, thereby strengthening the relationship?

  3. Howdy!

    Oh, and happy fourth!

  4. I never want to go back, except to visit. True the strong connections wane, but I suspect there’s more to that than just geography.

  5. somehow stumbled upon your blog..we have much in common. I moved here 6 years ago from Boston. Both my husband and I are American. WE stay for the same reasons you do. I love this city and its artsy, visual, sensual joie de vie! I am still stunned that so many of my colleagues actually leave the office at 5:00!

  6. Mrne: I kinda agree.

    Zeke: In regards to extended family, Yes, we see them equally and get along with them equally when we lived in each respective town. Though we did expect to see the extended family here more often. In regards to immediate family, we get along better with the immediate family in Chicago and have more in common. Similar for friends in respect to most of our friends in Chicago now have kids also. On that front we could see them more often since we could all go out to do kid-oriented excursions together.

    tornwordo: I don’t think the friendships back home have waned very much. Everything still seems so familiar when we go back. Hence another reason we think occasionally about returning.

    Lori: Yes, its an excellent place and I couldn’t see us living in many other cities of this size. We’ve been fortunate to have the choice between two great cities.

  7. Wow… amazing find for me as I’m contemplating (long term) a move to Montreal from Chicago. I do love both but have family (most of them) in upstate NY and feel that Montreal may be the ideal place for my family. Chicago is an great city (we live in Lincoln Square) but somehow I feel as if my five year old boy will never have a chance to really spread his wings and ‘just be a kid’ here. Maybe my small town upbringing biases me toward something a bit more tame for a child – and I put Montreal in that category – great for adults who need some culture and activities but not so overbearing that I have to act as a helicopter ‘papa’ and hang over my son. Hmmm… I do love both places very much but if I can convince my wife – I believe that will be the plan. Thanks for the post – it’s good to read the differing views.

  8. Hi guys,

    We just found this great website if you are looking for a massage in Montreal, Laval and other Quebec areas. This site has a complete list of professional massage salons including pictures of each salon, price and etc., just drop by at

  9. PulSamsara: I actually grew up near Lincoln Square. We were near the river up against an industrial strip. It was (and still is from what I’ve seen) nicely secluded from much of the city. But I suppose we spreaded our wings by climbing on the factory roofs. Montreal is quite similar to Chicago in many ways and can be more managable with a family. One word of note is that French is more prominent that I had been expecting. You will be limited if you don’t learn it.

    Thanks, Mark. I’ll keep it in mind.

  10. that was an interesting post. I don’t have kids (not planning to for a while!) but I’ll be moving to Montreal at the end of the year. Excited and nervous at the same time.

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