Moving to Montreal – Best Advice Part 2

February 2, 2016 , In: Montreal , With: No Comments

Here is the continuation from last week of the best advice for families who are thinking of or who are moving to Montreal.  Read on for the biggest challenges, the best way to meet people and the best piece of advice.

What were some of your biggest challenges?

At first, the biggest challenges were administrative ones – getting a doctor, working out how to do things. However, it seems as though persistence does pay off – keep calling and asking. You never know!

Then as we bought a home, other challenges surfaced – what do the building inspectors really do? Do lawyers check that everything is legal about your house? Also, finding contractors that do not charge a lot of money for little jobs. The Plateau Playgroup has helped enormously with these types of challenges.

Overall, though, we’ve really had few challenges. I think if you come here without work or a realistic plan in terms of studying or finding work, it may be more filled with challenges. -Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands

Finding a job I guess, which is tough for everyone in a new country. – Polina Lichagina, Russia

  1. Winter Walking. We walk (or bike) all year round so I was stunned when confronted with the lack of maintenance on both commercial and residential sidewalks during the winter.  It definitely motivates me to take care of my own sidewalk for others!
  2. Volunteering.  As a stay-at-home parent I have a lot of hours to give, especially in the winter, but my lack of French and having my daughter with me have been obstacles to the organizations I’ve contacted.

Lisa Bagchi, USA

The hardest part of the move for me was finding resources for everything. Some of the simplest tasks seem daunting because I don’t know where to access them. Living in Los Angeles, I knew exactly where to go. Being in a new place, I have to explore the streets and the Internet to really find what Montreal has to offer. One tip is to make sure your Google search setting accesses the French language search results along with English.

The first month we got here, I Googled pediatricians in Westmount and started calling. After leaving 15 messages, I got a call back and my daughter was set up with her doctor. I found getting a family practitioner much more difficult for adults. Calling doctors and leaving messages was to no avail. I went to the CLSC and a social worker helped me fill in the application for a family doctor. Eight months later I had my first appointment with him. The concept of having a doctor and not being able to access him in an emergency is new to me. –Laura Loofbourrow, USA

I think when it comes to schools, healthcare, etc. it pays to do your homework well ahead of time. I toured daycares months before even moving here and I am glad I did because we got into a great CPE. I was surprised that our CPE was actually the best option unlike in NYC where private and money will get you the best. I had contacted all of the private daycares, with daily rates well above the CPE and I was shocked to see how some of these were badly kept and really not what I expected. Get your name on a list and visit these places in person. Ask questions and communicate often because when a spot opens up it might just be the perfect time for you.

If you’re renting be prepared to be a bit disappointed even at the higher end of your budget… you will get WAY more space (compared to NYC), but most landlords don’t ask for security deposits and I felt like rental units weren’t cared for very well by owners or tenants… and that does not seem to be a big deal. I struggled to find a place despite coming up from NYC three times in the months prior to visit places all over the city.

My biggest hurdle was making friends. NYC is a place where everyone is from somewhere else or just naturally very forward, open and welcoming. The first few months were a bit lonely and isolating here for me. You really have to put yourself out there and be patient because things don’t happen so naturally, especially if there is a language barrier or depending on where you live and what your routine is like. The same goes for finding a job. Speaking French is essential and having experience working in Quebec seem very important to employers.

With that I have to say finding a family doctor and just going to the doctor for a basic cold (for yourself) was hard. Waiting three hours for the doctor to tell you to wait it out and that it’ll resolve itself on its own when you’re literally coughing your lungs out was not fun. Choose the right time to go to the clinic (if you can) to limit the wait. As for the kids medical needs, thank goodness for Tiny Tots! -Stephanie Grall, USA

Opportunities to find a new job or start your own business. – Yulia Polynkova, Russia

Coming from New York, we’ve had to learn to slow down a bit. Money gets things done quickly in the states, but here, there are different priorities. We found it a challenge anticipating the various bureaucratic requirements necessary for getting settled in Canada. Sometimes these requirements have felt like an extra burden on top of the comprehensive reorientation of moving home and city, and in addition, ongoing child care. It’s wonderful how much support the province gives families, and I feel we are safe and well-cared for. But it doesn’t come without work. It helps to keep careful notes.Zoe Greenberg, USA

I found the icy sidewalks and being cold very difficult. Also, not being able to understand things around me due to my beginners French at the time. And understanding the parking signs! Marieke Bosch Larose, USA

It can be difficult to find a job if you are not a solid French speaker. If you have a professional license in the US you will (most likely) need to retake all the exams for Canada, and possibly again for Quebec. And Quebec has it’s own immigration too!  We learned that the hard way. After a full half-year into the Canadian immigration process, we found out we first had to be accepted by Quebec and then the feds. –Eliza Moore, USA

The language sometimes but I studied French for nearly a year and it was more or less free. I’ve embraced it but sometimes I feel a little more timid than I normally would be, because I’m not confident. I could take the easy way out and live in an English area and only speak English but that to me, would not be really living in Montréal. I’m not going to be here forever so I want to make the most of it.

The winters are tough!

The roads are a disaster!!

Sometimes I wish things like contacting the city about something would be easier. I just laugh it all off though as it’s all part and parcel of the wonderfully eccentric and unique Montréal! – Elaine Donovan, Ireland

Michelle Little Montreal Family Photographer

What are the first things that families should do right away when they move to Montreal?

If you have young children, sign up on La Place 0 à 5 (I’d do this before getting to Quebec if you can).

Get information on the open houses (portes ouvertes) for all the schools.

Finding a doctor is important especially if you have children with special needs. However, I mainly use the walk-in clinics for day-to-day issues. In fact, there is now a great service whereby you don’t even have to leave your house until there are only 3 people before you. This only works with certain clinics, but my local clinic does it and, contrary to what is written, you do not have to go to the clinic to get your number as you can sign up on-line in the morning. -Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands

Sign up for a daycare, as this is one of the most serious problems here. The waiting list is really long, but you can find a family daycare in the meantime. Find a doctor too as family doctors are very limited. But again – the walk-in clinic on rue Mont-Royal is really good (if you are ready to wait a little bit.) – Polina Lichagina, Russia

Learn how to navigate the healthcare system.  This was the biggest challenge for me because if my child got sick I didn’t want it to be in emergency.  Take a field trip to the new hospital.  Talk to everyone you meet about their healthcare choices.  With some tenacity and fortune, I secured a caring family doctor through the Plateau Playgroup and now I have some peace of mind.– Lisa Bagchi, USA

Right after we moved to Montreal, I had lunch with a woman I met on the Plateau Playgroup and she gave me the best three resources I’ve ever received to get my daughter settled in day care, to get our child care benefits and for me to find volunteer work. She gave me this information: Regie des Rentes, Quebec child assistance, and the Montreal Volunteer Bureau.– Laura Loofbourrow, USA

  1. Research how to get an assigned paediatrician, or if you’re expecting, an ob/gyn: start by inquiring through your local CLSC.
  2. The best way to explore the city in the good weather is by bike. Get a bixi bike rental, or buy a cheap bike to use with a child seat. The subways are not stroller friendly – but a baby carrier makes it easy, especially in winter.
  3. Make sure your apartment is a fun place to be during bad weather. eg. playspace with lots of mats for jumping and rolling around on, plenty of music for dance parties
  4. Buy some vitamin D drops for the winter – they make a big difference for kids!

-Zoe Greenberg, USA

I didn’t move here with a child, but I would look into daycares straight away. I would join some meet-up groups to make friends with similar interests and get that support system up and running. The CLSC network is good here, so a doctor isn’t essential, but it’s also difficult to find one so making contacts is the best thing you can do, as you will be able to ask for recommendations and advice on pretty much anything.

Walk your neighbourhood and speak to people. If you don’t speak French, and you have the time, sign up for classes. – Elaine Donovan, Ireland

Sign up for daycare but don’t be surprised if you never hear from the CPE’s.  They are notoriously difficult to join. There are other options, private, home daycares etc. Yes find a family doctor is difficult if but there are also walk in clinics and the CLSC if you don’t find one as quickly as you’d like. Make an effort to learn some French. The CSDM run some great classes that are practically free. It will make your life a lot easier and it’s good for the brain cells. Register for the health service RAMQ.  – E., England

Kombi |

What is the best way to meet other people? Did you find it easy or hard to meet other people?

By taking any opportunity to go out. We found it easy to meet people, but difficult to make friends. Having kids is obviously helpful as people do get talking in parks.-Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands

We found it difficult to find people with similar interests to spend time together.  The easiest way for us to meet people with similar interests is through online forums or just talking with other parents at the playground. – Yulia Polynkova, Russia

Daycares or schools for those with kids are good for making friends. I found it moderately hard to meet other people, but happy to have found a couple of great friends! – Polina Lichagina, Russia

Say yes to everything.  You don’t like hockey but a neighbour has an extra ticket?  Go.  Bus stop moms getting together for coffee after drop-off but you don’t know anyone?  And you haven’t showered?  And your two year-old will want to nurse the entire time?  Go.  Say yes to everything and the layers will be peel back, revealing more of what you need to not only survive, but thrive.-Lisa Bagchi, USA

There are so many different ways to meet people to build your network of friends. I had reached out to the Plateau Playgroup before I moved to Montreal and piqued a few women’s interest to meet me. A few months after I got here, I had coffee with them. It was these meet ups that have been most beneficial to me but I continue to reach out because we all crave friendships. My family hosted a Valentine’s Day party in February and we invited our neighbors, everyone on the Google group, and the two mommy groups I joined on I also have initiated a mommy’s night out twice on the I am continually looking for ways to meet new people. I submitted my resume for volunteer opportunities and in return was asked to participate on the Board of Directors for Auberge Transition, a women’s and children safe home from domestic violence. I look on for inexpensive or free events to attend and to meet people with similar interests in the community. I have a membership to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts specifically for Young Philanothropists and I get invited to their different events. There’s a magnitude of ways to meet people and find those that click with you. I continue to seek new ways and reach out whenever I can. – Laura Loofbourrow, USA

Through friends, meet-ups, talking to neighbours, classes (french, swimming, playgroups, exercise etc.). If you have kids, the kid friendly cafés are great. I found people SO welcoming and open here.

I think the ‘Moms with babies & toddlers in Plateau/Mile End/Outremont‘ is a great meet-up for anyone with young kids. I met almost all my mum friends through it and it’s been a life saver.
Also the AEPP on Drolet and Marie-Anne is great for people with children too, especially for the winter. I just joined recently ($35 for a year’s membership – less if you earn under a certain bracket) and it’s fantastic for my active 10 month old. There is an indoor playroom, a joujoutheque (toy library), a common room and lots of other resources and workshops at the weekends (I think – I haven’t done any). It’s a non-profit organisation that’s in jeopardy – it would such a shame to lose such a great resource for families. Also great place to meet other moms/parents.

– Elaine Donovan, Ireland

Day Out: Montreal Science Centre |

What advice would you give to people considering or already moving to Montreal?

Winter advice: Buy a good coat and boots. They are costly, but if you buy bad quality ones, you end up spending more in the long-term and you can’t enjoy winter. In terms of a coat, I bought a long one at first because I wanted to stay warm, but it was actually cumbersome when the snow wasn’t cleared. I recommend a knee- or thigh-length coat.

Do winter sports. The winter is long and people do stay inside more. However, if you are well-equipped, skating under the sun in the freezing cold is amazing; then warming up with a hot chocolate.

Advice for all year round:

Get into hockey! It is fun and helps when talking to people (hockey here means ice hockey. If you want to talk about hockey as the sport played in the UK, you need to say field hockey).

Take advantage of the great BYO restaurants. The food can be as good as in some of the best restaurants and you don’t have to spend a lot on wine.

Use BIXI in the summer if you live and work centrally. It is cheap and convenient.

-Philippa, Jersey, Channel Islands

Be curious, positive active and open.  Don’t live in the past.  There are plenty of new and interesting things all around you.  -Yulia Polynkova, Russia

  • Live in the highest floor you can, facing south.
  • Consider ditching your car.
  • There is no bad weather, only bad gear.
  • Learn common phrases and greetings in French.
  • Stay outside after Halloween.

Montreal is unique and beautiful!  Come! – Lisa Bagchi, USA

Don’t tell people how wonderful it is. Keep it a secret! -Zoe Greenberg, USA

Learn how to dress properly for winter (long enough and warm enough jackets, snow pants or long underwear, good boots, etc.), and learn French. Your life will be so much happier and well-rounded if you are able to tap into the beautiful Quebec culture, even just a little bit. –Marieke Bosch Larose, USA

You shouldn’t mind the snow, potholes, and changing everything to the Montréal way (which can be a little frustrating!). If you love people, culture, passion, togetherness, food, festivals (like 10 every weekend of the summer months!)… then this is the place for you. It’s positive, kid friendly, not ‘up its own-arse’! The city is very European in its attitude and humour. It’s not easy sometimes, but it’s worth it. – Elaine Donovan, Ireland

Before moving anywhere you should do your homework on the neighbourhoods (and schools if applicable). If you have a car, choose a neighbourhood with easy parking. I believe it’s vital to learn some French to help with integration.  A good winter coat and waterproof snow boots are essential items here. – E., England


Do you have anything to add?  What would be your advice?


Don’t forget to read Moving to Montreal – Best Advice Part 1


Thanks to these wonderful ladies!  Next week they will describe the neighbourhoods they live.  Where to live is one of the most common questions I get so I was excited to hear what they had to say.


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I also do Family & Newborn Lifestyle Photography in a relaxed natural-light setting.

(Featured Top Photo Credit: Emmanuel Milou on Flickr)


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Michelle Little

Writer & Photographer

Originally from the prairies and now in Montreal, I love exploring new places, eating great food and modern design. I'm mom of two wild things and paper and cake make me happy. Photographing your cutie family would make me very happy.

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