Montreal, Canada Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/22

Personal Experiences from Montreal, Canada

Montreal, Canada 07/28/22

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Lived in Singapore and Windhoek prior to Montreal.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC. - Easy - 2days/5hrs per day/overnighting in Syracuse/avoiding I-95 traffic jams -- I-66 W to I-270 N to US-15 N to I-81 N to NY37E to Canada 401E

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3. What years did you live here?

2020 thru 2022

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My housing: Stand-alone home in Westmount. Montreal's Beacon Hill/Upper East Side/ Chestnut Hill/ Pacific Heights/Georgetown/Buckhead. Typical housing: Apartments and houses. 1200-2400 sq ft. Commute times vary from 5 min walking from apartments to 1 hour driving from west island. Good choices. LQA can be a little bit of a hassle. Some landlords are reluctant to make changes for security and OSHA requirements. FSOs may need to provide first and last month's rent plus a security deposit before LQA locks in - may require access to $15k of your own cash to float before LQA covers first month rent - this could be tough for ELOs

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Higher than in US. But FSOs get Quebec taxes reimbursed.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Asian sauces and spices.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Wide choice / diverse food selection. Food delivery and take out is simple. Same take-out choices as US, plus poutine.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not anymore than in Burlington, Vermont or Plattsburgh, NY

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Mail received in Champlain, NY. A consulate van makes a mail run twice a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

More expensive than in the US. Similar labor laws.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are available. Westmount has a community recreation center for residents. Prices are like US, but slightly higher.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Keep your US credit card. Get a local bank debit card, as well.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Churches, temples, and mosques in Anglo neighborhoods like NDG, Westmount and West Island.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Bonjour-hi English is spoken most everywhere. Quebecois is sometimes difficult to understand. Tutors are available.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Generally good like most US cities. However, Old Montreal can be problematic with its 18th+19th century buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Metro is fantastic! Buses are good but infrequent in the evening. A little pricey.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Same as any US city - but you'll need snow tires in the winter.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Bell internet is good but a little pricey. Takes a couple days to install.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get an phone at your hometown in the US with AT&T US/Canada service. It will work on both sides of the border.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Jobs are available at Consulate. Local economy can be tough getting job because of dual-lingual requirements.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes. Like most US cities.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual at work and public places. Snow boots. Winter parka. Mittens.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is lower than most US cities.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care, in my opinion, is abysmal, with the exception of emergency room care in dire situations. The clinics do not provide very good service. Finding a dedicated doctor is difficult. Without Quebec Medicare, it is difficult to get medical treatment. If you do have Quebec Medicare, the waits can be very long. None of the hospitals or doctors seem to know how to process receipts that can be used for insurance reimbursement - be prepared for insurance refusals to back up. Closest quality medical care is a hour away - you must take the day off and cross the border into New York to go to Plattsburgh. There are plans for a nurse practitioner for mission, but that position is still in process and ETA is TBD. If you have a pre-existing condition that requires dedicated medical support reconsider your choice of Montreal carefully. Montreal is not a place where one can easily access healthcare.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good. Very cold air sometimes makes breathing labored.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

No big challenges here.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Winter blues for sure.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry and very cold during winter. Below freezing on the vast majority of days in mid-winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Good school choices. The school reimbursement process can sometimes be messy, inconvenient, and in some cases costly to the FSO.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. Somewhat expensive. Will not take children younger than 12mo.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Curling club of Montreal - lessons and teams. Swimming classes at YMCA. Hockey lessons at local rinks. Skiing at Mount Tremblant.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Montreal is an immigrant haven. Montreal is a diverse, multi-ethnic, gay-friendly city.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Coffee shops, bars, restaurants, music venues. Bell Centre for Montreal Canadiens games. Bars on Crescent St. near Consulate are fun

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for singles and families

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Easy to meet people. Montreal is a diverse, multi-ethnic, LGBTQQIP2SAA-friendly city.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Montreal is a diverse, multi-ethnic, LGBTQQIP2SAA-friendly city.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Montreal is a diverse, multi-ethnic, LGBTQQIP2SAA-friendly city.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visits to Quebec City in winter and summer, Ottawa Tulip Festival in Spring and canal skating in winter, Toronto Pride Parade in Spring, Niagara Falls

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Bota Bota floating spa that floats on the Saint Lawrence River located at the Old Port
Jean-Talon Market Little Italy
Chez Mein Noodles 3754 Boulevard St-Laurent
Gibeau Orange Julep Décarie Expressway (Iconic landmark)
Clock Tower Beach Old Port (Yes, you can go to the beach in summer in Montreal)

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Quebec maple syrup, Quebac ice cider, Quebec cheese.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Skating outdoors on winter weekends. Music festival. Proximity to Vermont and New Hampshire lakes regions. Near Mount Tremblant skiing.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How to comprehend Quebecois accents. Not taught at FSI.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Island living beach lifestyle.

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4. But don't forget your:

Snow boots. Winter parka. Tuke. Mittens. Ice skates.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

(Book) The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
(Book) Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
(Book) The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy
(Movie) Good Cop Bon Cop (Starring the Umbrella Academy's Sir Reginald Hargreaves: Patrick Huard)
(Movie) Funky Town (Starring the Umbrella Academy's Sir Reginald Hargreaves: Patrick Huard)
(Movie) The Barbarian Invasions
(Movie) Jésus de Montréal
(Movie) The Score ( Starring DeNiro, Brando, Norton

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Everything was great except for the supreme hassles of LQA and the terrible healthcare combined with a lack of timely Mission support to guarantee adequate access to easily-accessible healthcare.

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