Moving to Montreal
Expats moving to Montreal will find themselves in a microcosm of Canada quite unlike the rest of it. A former fur-trading post originally founded by the French, it has grown to become the second largest city in the country and the largest in the province of Quebec.
Montreal marries a unique cultural spirit with the mainstays of Canada’s social development programmes such as universal health insurance and free education.
The official language is French - over 60 percent of residents speak French in their homes and a large proportion are actually immigrants who have relocated permanently from France.
Needless to say, Montreal is arguably more Francophone than Anglophone and this fact is often the root of the largest challenges faced by English-speaking expatriates. Those with no knowledge of the language could certainly live in Montreal and live well but the activities they participate in, the extent of the job market and even the people they can interact with will be greatly limited.
In order to immigrate to Montreal and work legally, however, the permit application and approval process takes the candidate’s language ability into consideration. Unlike the rest of Canada, it is only possible for someone to get a work or residence permit for Quebec if they have passed provincial requirements. On the other hand, those who do speak French will find themselves in an economically stable, manageable city that has been credited as both the “cultural capital of Canada” and “Paris without the jet lag”.
Age-old architecture in Vieux-Montreal, a long-standing tradition of jazz and rock music, and countless distinguished theatre, music and art performance centres are all part of the metropolis’s most powerful allure. Not to mention, accommodation in Montreal is generally more affordable and easier to find than in Canadian cities of comparable size, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Video gaming and aerospace continue to be huge industries in the city, and film, finance, world affairs and commerce are also well-represented. International firms are aplenty in the city but, again, employment opportunities will be limited for candidates unable to speak French.
Otherwise, expats moving to Montreal will find that one of the most difficult elements to adapt to is its frigid winters. Summer can be hot, humid and generally pleasant, but from December to March temperatures can hover well below freezing and snow, sleet, rain and ice make regular appearances.
The good news is that the city’s underground metro, which has been cited as an attraction in itself, is warm and incredibly comprehensive – linking up even some of Montreal’s far flung suburbs with its central backbone. Expats won't necessarily need a car, and the chances are if they do choose to purchase a vehicle, they will have to deal with the infuriating traffic congestion that characterises life in an island city.
On the whole, expats moving to Montreal may find that the distinctly Quebecois brand of nationality and politics takes a bit of time to settle into. Once they attempt to do so, they can look forward to a rich life in one of Canada’s most interesting metropoles.