Moving is tough. I know, I’ve done it a few times. But, I’ve never moved with kids and I imagine that along with having less time to actually get stuff done, there’s the added work of finding schools, daycares, childcare, figuring out how to get around and putting health care in place.
I get a lot of emails from people who are moving to Montreal and have questions. Most I can answer, but I felt that there were probably things I was missing. Things that I took for granted but for people that were new to the city (or country) that may have been a challenge.
So I got some help. I asked a lovely group of ladies who were not originally from Montreal (and most often not even from Canada) to let me in on what they’d wish they’d known, what they’d do different and anything else they feel might be important.
They were all so generous with their time so I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. You showed your love for this wonderful city, shared what would help others and gave so many great tips. I’m sure you will help many more to come.
What do you like most about Montreal?
Its laid-back atmosphere – Polina Lichagina, Russia
The feeling when you come out of the long winter. Everyone is out on the street making the most of the weather. Also, the feeling when we have a bit of an Indian summer before the cold hits. – Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands
How much time people have here to spend with their families, cook tasty food, visit with friends, and experiment with projects. -Zoe Greenberg, USA
I love living in two languages. I love how small Montreal is. I love that people here are more concerned with living and less concerned with “what do you do.” I love the quality of life we have here, especially with children. –Marieke Bosch Larose, USA
The best part of Montreal is the way cultures and races coexist; it feels like hope. –Eliza Moore, USA
I love that you can start talking to anyone, just about anywhere. People are open and genuine. I also love that the city has a passion about the arts and diversity. I also love that it doesn’t rain that much!! – Elaine Donovan, Ireland
I like that it has a European feel to it and a bit more history than other North American cities. – E., England
Everything except the roads. The people are very nice here, the weather is acceptable and the food is excellent. There are also a lot of activities available to hang out with friends and kids. – Yulia Polynkova, Russia
What do you miss most about home?
This is home now. I miss Christmas cake and setting the world to rights in the local pub. – Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands
My friends and family. Also, sometimes the rhythm of the big city (I’m a downtown Moscow girl, center of the action all the time.) – Polina Lichagina, Russia
I am full-time homemaker and just haven’t found a match those stores/services.– Lisa Bagchi, USA
The people. New Yorkers are irreplaceable. -Zoe Greenberg, USA
I miss how easy it is to navigate ANYWHERE and not worry about being understood, understanding, etc. –Marieke Bosch Larose, USA
TJ max. I buy a lot less here because of the taxes. –Eliza Moore, USA
My family and my friends, being the obvious answer, but I’ve lived in Canada for over 9 years, so I’ve learned to deal with that. I miss my culture, the warmth and sense of humour of Irish people. The ocean. – Elaine Donovan, Ireland
Did you find it difficult to adjust? How did your children adjust?
Difficult question to answer. I still find that I have fewer friends than I would have if I’d stayed in the UK. However, I’m not very good at going to things to make new friends. I think if you are a sociable type, it’s really important to take every opportunity at first. Otherwise, you may feel lonely. – Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands
I haven’t found it difficult to adjust as I am a very social person. – Polina Lichagina, Russia
Yes I did, but mostly because my son had difficulties. I pushed my son too hard too soon. He didn’t need to be immersed in order to assimilate; he needed to go at his own pace. I’m happy to say that since making changes to his routine and choice of school, he has blossomed here in Montreal. – Lisa Bagchi, USA
Our adjustment has been aided, in many ways, by the natural seclusion of my pregnancy and our shared raising of a newborn. Our biggest challenge has been in adjusting to the different standards and expectations of the professional and government culture here in Montreal – we’ve found it difficult, at times, to get things done. -Zoe Greenberg, USA
I found winter tough to adjust to and French. But I was seriously committed to learning French and am now very fully bilingual and proud of how hard I worked to get to that point. –Marieke Bosch Larose, USA
Yes it is difficult to adjust in some ways. My children don’t know any different, but they do like visiting family in the US. My son thinks it is amazing that everyone speaks English! –Eliza Moore, USA
It was difficult, as any big move is, but it wasn’t as difficult as our move from Ireland to Vancouver. We had contacts here, friends of friends etc, which made it easier for us to meet people – and people in Montréal are a lot more open and friendly. In saying all of that though, we had lived in Canada for 6 years already, but it felt like we’d moved to another country. The language, culture, weather, attitudes – all are completely different. – Elaine Donovan, Ireland
Dealing with a long freezing cold winter. That is the number one challenge for me. One has to stay active and get outdoors on those freezing cold days. There are many days during the winter when the sky is bright blue, the sun is shining and there is no wind. Those days are beautiful and perfect for skating and there always seems to be a festival/activity of some sort taking place. Another challenge has been learning French but it is a good challenge and one that I enjoy. – E., England
We had no problems at all. It’s easier if you speak some English or French. – Yulia Polynkova, Russia
What are the top resources that expats should get familiar with when they move to Montreal?
Since many people mentioned the same resources, I’ve just listed them all below.
-Language Exchange sites for learning French in a relaxing environment
–La Place 0-5 for daycares
– Fédération des établissements d’enseignements privés (if you want to send your kids to a private school)
– REALTOR.ca for buying/renting houses
– SAAQ for driving licence
– RAMQ for health insurance
–City of Montreal website
–Meetup.com (I asked several of the respondents who mentioned this if there was a specific group and everyone responded that there were so many that it was best for people to just look for themselves. One person mentioned the ‘Moms with babies & toddlers in Plateau/Mile End/Outremont‘ and said they met almost all their mom friends there and it was a lifesaver.)
–Roasted (thanks guys!)
–YES Montreal, a non-profit that offers business consultants to anyone and career help to 35 years and younger
–CLSC (Local Community Services Centres) – health and social service centres
–Citizen and Immigration Governmental Website
-Newspapers in your own mother tongue
What surprised you most about moving here?
The role of language in daily life. On a daily basis, there is something in the news about English or French and their roles in Quebecers’ lives. -Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands
You’ll laugh, but squirrels on the streets and in parks. I’ve never seen this before, except for in NYC 🙂 – Polina Lichagina, Russia
More than one person told me to make friends before Halloween because afterwards everyone stayed indoors. This was true. –Lisa Bagchi, USA
I was most surprised by how much I like Montreal and living in two languages. I love the way Montrealers can so easily switch from language to the other in one sentence and knowing everyone (at least most people) understand. There is something so special and rich about being able to communicate this way. –Marieke Bosch Larose, USA
The quality of living, the secure atmosphere, the lifestyle, the choice of restaurants and the beautiful outdoors. -Yulia Polynkova, Russia
How complicated it was to navigate the social safety net (healthcare, child tax benefits, etc). You have to be sure to be proactive – anticipate and follow up on any obstacles. –Zoe Greenberg, USA
I was surprised by the quirky Quebec culture. Montreal has a certain sexy wholesomeness that is unique to this province. –Eliza Moore, USA
The fact I had to change EVERYTHING (after moving from Vancouver, BC.) License plate on car, driving license, health care, phone number etc… it was like starting all over again. – Elaine Donovan, Ireland
A big thank-you to all these wonderful ladies for your responses! Next week will be part two of this series.
Do you have anything to add? What would be your advice?
I also do Family & Newborn Lifestyle Photography in a relaxed natural-light setting.
(Top Image Photo Credit: Matias Garabedian on Flickr)