Montreal Survival Guide

The original purpose of this blog was to convey what I have observed being a new resident to Montreal. Much of that was comparing Montreal to what I was used to in Chicago, but in general it was an outsiders view of the city, the culture, and the people. In general the blog has drifted away from that purpose, but I still get a fair amount of traffic from people who stumble on various posts about living in Montreal. For quite some time now I have hoped to assemble the posts pertaining to being a newcomer to Montreal for those seeking that info. Very recently a friend has been sent here for work and I thought it was finally time to organize and assemble those posts. So here are the posts I have written over the past five years which I feel pertain the most to those new to the city.

Everyday Life and the City
Various posts about the city.

Montreal – Bright Lights, Big City: how I came to learn about the city of Montreal.

That’s 70’s Feel: some of my early impressions of the atmosphere of the city.

24/7 vs. Bankers Hours: there are not as many conveniences here as what I was used to back home.

Pop Culture Shock: how I found myself out of my element in relation to pop culture here.

Les Escaliers de Montréal: an explanation of the unique metal stairs that adorn many Montreal residences.

One of the biggest things about Montreal is the length and severity of winter. So it makes sense that I’ve written a many posts on the topic. In reaction to the winters, there are higher expections for the warm summer months.

Winter Observations: an explanation of what winter is like here in Montreal and how it differs from other locales like Chicago not that much further south.

Impressions of the Cold: an explanation why during my first few years here I did not find the cold too difficult to deal with.

Snow Removal in Montreal: one of my most popular posts which explains the massive undertaking of removing the snow from the streets in Montreal.

Potholes and Roads: a post with possible answers as to why Quebec roads are more beat up than surrounding locales.

Sidewalks and Curbs: a post talking about how curbs and sidewalks get beat up during the snow removal process.

Freeze/Thaw: a post about how the cycles can destroy materials here.

Snow: actually the second post I ever wrote on this blog. Most of the observations are restated in the posts above.

Temperature: more talk about temperature.

Sum Sum Summertime: how people here view summer with more urgency due to the longer winters.

Summer Urgency: another post about the rush to enjoy summer.

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet: a look at the practice of having a separate set of indoor footwear during winter.

One of the biggest differences for those coming from the US or most of the rest of Canada is that French is spoken here. I’ve actually written many posts on the subject and here they are. I actually started with a 3 part series.

Language, Part 1 – My Background: talks about my experience with French before moving here.

Language, Part 2 – Quebec: relays my thoughts about the situation off the top of my head.

Language, Part 3 – Correction: is a correction of the previous post and actually uses the results from the census to breakdown the language demographics of the island of Montreal.

The Anglo Bubble: a true look at what an anglophone (English speaker) who moves here can expect in regards to the French language.

Points of Relativity: talking about getting acclimated to a new language and my changing view of other drivers.

Almost hand-in-hand with the topic of language here in Quebec is the topic of sovereignty. Here is a handful of posts I have written on the topic:

Sovereignty – Part 1 – Some Background: a brief overview for those unfamiliar with the history.

Sovereignty – Part 2 – My Viewpoint: my thoughts on the matter back when it was written 4 years ago.

Sovereignty – Part 3 – The Current State: talks about the possibility of another referendum after the Sponsorship Scandal in 2006.

Accommodation: a lengthy post which talks about issues brought to the fore during the reasonable accommodation hearings a couple years ago. It brings together both language and sovereignty issues.

Nation?: some thoughts about Canada declaring Quebec a ‘nation’ and more thoughts about sovereignty.

The People
Various observations of the people and culture here, primarily compared to what I know after living in Chicago and France.

Beautiful People: talking about how I find the people look better than average.

Obesity: a common observation of how people here are thinner than in the states.

Hip Size: observations of those on the lighter side.

Racism: my understanding of racism in Quebec.

Poverty: my understanding of poverty in Quebec.

Women and Feminism: some thoughts on how women are treated and respected here.

Fashion: some thoughts on fashion.

Hair: some brief thoughts on hair and how it’s worn.

Violence: there is less violence in Montreal than in Chicago.

What’s in a Name?: a post about the commonness of many family names here.

Some observations of food that Quebec is known for and one that Chicago is known for.

Poutine – My Journey: a look at my gradual appreciation of what is arguably Quebec’s national food.

Poulet: the Quebecois LOVE chicken.

A Last Look Inside: a post about Montreal’s smoked meat and Ben’s restaurant (now gone) where I first had it.

Chicago Style Pizza: describes Chicago Style Pizza for those who have not tried it and asks for good pizza suggestions in Montreal. Some very good suggestions are mentioned in the comments.

Transportation and Traffic
The title kinda says it all.

Honk If You’re Horny: comments on the lack of honking here.

Traffic: my feeling that drivers are more civil here even if they aren’t saints.

Friday Night Road Rage: how people seem to get nuts on Friday evening rush hour.

Hey Truck Driver!: I find that while the general population drives better, truck drivers are more aggressive.

Gas: during a gas crisis, I pointed out how people here drive more fuel efficient cars.

Cars: another post about fuel efficient cars.

Bicycle! Bicycle!: a post talking about the prevalence of bicycles here.

Motorcycles: talk about the prevalence of motorcycles also.

Recreation and Holidays
Some posts about different aspects of playtime here in Quebec.

The Construction Holiday: an explanation of the very unique summer break for the construction industry.

Getting Away: some observations of the the vacationing habits of the Quebecois.

Moving Day: July 1st is the traditional moving day here in Quebec.

Sports: a post about sports in Quebec.

Golf: how golf is seen a bit differently here than my experiences back in the states.

Government and Legal Stuff
Posts about items that concern the government or are government run.

Healthcare: my thoughts, observations, and experience with the healthcare system in Quebec and Canada.

Giving Birth: comparing our birth experiences in Chicago and Montreal.

Permanent Resident: an explanation of what it means to be a permanent resident.

Socialism: early thoughts about the style of government here.

Electing Leaders: comparisons of the US and Canadian forms of choosing a leader.

Hydro: an attempt at humor regarding what Hydro Quebec really does.


10 Responses to “Montreal Survival Guide”

  1. […] So I decided that it was the best time to finally assemble all those posts. So you can now find the Montreal Survival Guide listed under the “About” title to the […]

  2. I love the site. I’m originally from Chicago, although now living in Denver, but will most likely be moving to Montreal in the next year.

    What a perfect resource for all my pressing cultural questions!!
    Thanks so much!

  3. Thanks, I’m glad that it is of some use. My original intention was to meet others who had also moved to Montreal, but instead it helped me meet and become friends with people here.

    • Hi!

      I am actually relocating to Montreal in the next few months. My fiance got accepted into a Masters program at McGill. I am absolutely terrified, as my French is definitly at the basic level, and my career is in Human Resources…. I currently have a great job and I am really worried that I won’t be able to find anything in my field once I move. Correction: I’m concerned that I won’t be able to find any job that is not 50 steps backwards in my career. Any suggestions on companies/recruitment agencies/job boards for me? I am trying to learn French, but of course it will take time and I dont have much of that before we move 😦


      • Dear Sarah, the situation for just english speakers is far worse. I am a PhD student at McGill and now repent my decision to come to Montreal. My colleague’s wife has been taking french course for a year now and still has not cleared even half the levels.
        About McGill, Thanks to the Quebec government, McGill lost a big portion of its financial aid, which got diverted to Univ de Montreal. I am a PhD student at McGill and every other day, I get an email stating the bad financial situation McGill is under and the things they’re doing to save money. They’ve increased the graduate student fee now. The funding for graduate students also had got affected. I hear McGill is facing one of its worst financial crunch. I think McGill can no longer compete to attract quality international students. The funding which we get here is just about 14000 $ per year( in which we are to survive and also bear the cost of travel to our home once a year which take 2000$ off it) which is much less compared to what graduate students get in US or rest of the good universities in Europe. I guess grad students in Concordia and Univ de Montreal get more stipend that what we do. We are really struggling to survive with low pay and lot of academic and research pressure (the research which we do benefits companies in Quebec as well). We could afford a bus trip to Ottawa as it was a Chinese tourist company which made our tour possible for 20$. I am trying to learn french (my research schedule keeps me really busy, which makes my learning french much slower). We do not find any part-time jobs as all of them need good knowledge of spoken and written french (graduate students of other universities in US and Canada do not usually need to do part-time jobs). We are the most low income level guys here in Quebec. We do not have a proper medical insurance plan, we cannot waste money on eating our meals out, we cannot afford the luxury of spending money on clothes (I have been here for 10 months now and have not bought one piece of clothing except for the winter coat which helped me survive through the never ending long gruesome winter). I see McGill is dying a slow death thanks to it being an English University in a French majority state. I really doubt if McGill can maintain its standards in the coming decade. It is already begging for money from its successful alumni, industry contacts, etc. to fund itself. Well, I guess the Quebecers are happy now that they no longer spend the small amount of funding they did to McGill. Montreal has also been apathetic to us. We do not have a social life (nobody in the university is interested to talk to non-Canadian students (they have their own comfort zone groups and are happy with them, nobody wants to mingle or make friends), the common people in Montreal treat us like a piece of shit, and thanks to whatever minimum money we get to survive we cannot go out on weekends as most of the bars/pubs/clubs are expensive). All grand visions of what I had of Montreal have washed away in one year. The people speak of the good nightlife here but we rarely experienced it. Most of the graduate students at McGill are really economically stressed. Except the French speakers, most of them want to leave Montreal as soon as they finish their research. They’re just hanging on with hopes of better future elsewhere in the world. And if you’ve read of the wonderful fancy parties students have at McGill, it’s all a myth or probably stories of undergraduate students who are residents of Quebec. Research at McGill in engineering is surely suffering, though I cannot say about medical research.
        I no longer have hopes things can improve for McGill. I like many other students am just living my life (that sucks) waiting to complete my degree.

      • Can the admin/moderator delete my comment above.

  4. Hello Sarah, I sent you an email regarding some of your concerns. Please let me know if you did not receive it. In general, I would not worry too much about the move. There are places here for anglophones with varying knowledge of French. I would say as long as you do your best to learn French and show others that you are willing to speak French, it will get you a long way.

    Surendra: I know where you are coming from. The anti-anglophone element here is very vocal and can really get to you at times. It is also frustrating how politicians and the government are ‘promotiing’ French through the suppression of English. I understand the pure intention, but sometimes it comes across more as xenophobia. I contacted a friend who was also at McGill for a PhD program and is still there. She agrees with many of your points. But having been frustrated like you, I have found the second-class treatment from some is something you need to live with if you wish to no longer live in frustration. The majority of the people here (in the Montreal metropolitan area) are open and understanding to others. It is best to keep those people in mind when these anti-anglophone matters come to the fore.

  5. Thanks for putting this together! Although I already live in the city (and didn’t have the same language challenges) it’s really quite entertaining and informative to see how a person coming from a completely different context experiences the city life and adapts to its particular character and perceives the local culture.


  6. Thank you, Paul. I know that many people here find it odd that people from elsewhere are surprised that they cart away the snow here.

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