Montreal, in southwest Quebec region, perches proudly on the island of Montreal and spills over onto several smaller islands such as Ile Bizard. The city provides a visual banquet; bold modern lines contrast with the elegant Haussmann-style architecture, Basilicas and cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal.
This predominantly French-speaking city has been dubbed ‘Canada’s Cultural Capital’. It is a hub for Canada’s television productions, radio, theatre, film, multimedia and print publishing. As Canada’s second-largest economy and the region’s largest city, Montreal is also an important centre of commerce, finance, industry and technology, and is the headquarters of the Montreal Exchange.
The city’s liking for the arts has resulted in a vibrant – and largely Francophone - theatre scene. It is worth highlighting that if you plan on staying here for a decent length of time, a crash course in French in advisable; more than 60% of the population is French-speaking, with less than 20% speaking English as their first language.
The city’s thriving market scene is testimony to its tenacious French roots; farmers’ markets can be found year-round, on weekdays and weekends, selling anything from handmade sausages and locally harvested honey, to exotic flowers and spices.
Whether it’s fish, steak or sausages that you crave, you will not be disappointed; Montreal’s restaurant scene is sublime and was recently ranked (by Gourmet magazine) alongside Paris, New York and London.
The city’s surplus of markets, green spaces, seasonal variation and packed cultural calendar make Montreal a lively and enriching city to live in.
What is special or unique about your city?
Montreal is unique in North America, in that it blends new world urbanity with European-style romantic charm. A certain joy of living is evident in the city's many cafés and its dynamic night life. Although its skyscrapers are the city's testament to the economic clout of Canada's second largest, visitors are more likely to be drawn by the promise of a horse-drawn carriage ride along the cobbled streets of Old Montreal.
Montreal is known as the city of festivals. All year, every year, Montreal hosts over 40 festivals ranging from the traditional to the wildly unconventional. Jazz, laughter, food and snow are just four of the many reasons Montrealers take to the streets, theatres and clubs and party for weeks on end.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Montreal is one of the most popular destinations in Canada. One of the few Francophone destinations where you can speak English during your entire visit; Montreal is familiar enough to feel welcoming, and foreign enough to feel exotic. Its people are warm and friendly, and it boasts one of the lowest crime rates in North America.
Are these impressions likely to change?
It is possible that they will intensify, particularly with regards to the city's European feel. Recently, more emphasis has been placed on the local European influence in the area.
What is the local language?
French is the main language spoken, but English is widely spoken and understood as well.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
You should be able to easily get through daily activities without a command of the French language. French is the official language in Montreal, but throughout Canada, both French and English are recognised as official languages and there are 53 other native tongues used by visitors and residents in Montreal.
The government of Canada provides free local information in both French and English.In Montreal, a little understanding goes a long way. If you make any effort to communicate in French, whether you are successful or not, your efforts will be appreciated and you'll be offered assistance.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
The best way to avoid offending residents of Montreal is to abide by the Canadian Human Rights Code and Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. These are the national and regional laws that provide everyone with equal rights and opportunities in specific areas such as jobs, housing and services. And, of course, just keep your eyes open - you can learn most of what you need to know about local etiquette just by watching it in action.
Some tips to avoid offending residents of Montreal are:
- Canadians usually hope that visitors will recognise how different their country is from the United States
- Canadians quickly move to a first-name basis, although you should wait until you have been invited to do so
- The order for Canadian names is first name, middle name and last name
- A firm handshake makes a very good first impression
- Keep a distance of several feet when talking to another person. Canadians like their personal space
- Do not show emotion in public
- It is okay to use the 'O.K.' sign and the 'thumbs up' sign, but the 'V' sign with the palm inward and pointing with your index finger are considered offensive
- Holding doors open for the person behind you is appreciated and often expected
- Being punctual should be a priority especially for business-related meetings. However, being 15 minutes late (and no later) for an evening social engagement is acceptable
- Some professions allow for casual dress, but if you are not sure then dress on the formal side
- Canadians in general do not wear any type of scent in a business setting. Perfume, aftershave and heavily scented personal care products such as shampoo and hair spray should be avoided
- It is considered rude to speak in a foreign language in the presence of others who do not understand what is being said
- If you see someone you know at a distance, a wave is an appropriate acknowledgement
- People using cash machines expect the next person waiting in line to stand a few feet behind them
- Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, restaurants and bars. You should always ask permission from your host to smoke.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Most of Canada has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Canada measures temperature using the Celsius thermometer expressed as degrees Celsius (C).
Spring (March 21 through June 21) is cold and sunny. Maximum temperatures in April and May average roughly 10.7 C and 18.5 C, respectively.
In summer (June 21 to September 21), the temperature often soars above 30 C during July heat waves, though the average temperature is 26.4 C. Summer in Montreal is the ideal time to engage in a wide array of outdoor activities.
Autumn (September 21 to December 21) is arguably Montreal's loveliest season. It is very colourful, with an average temperature of 13 C in October.
Montreal is reputed for its cold, snowy winters (December 21 through March 21). Annual snowfall averages 200 cm (78.7 inches). Winter is the perfect time to engage in outdoor sports, such as skating, skiing, snowshoeing and hockey. In January, the mercury hovers around -10 C or even lower! But don't worry -- Montreal has a vast network of underground pedestrian passages so that you don't have to be out in it too much if you are sensitive to cold!
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Montreal has a distinctly European flair and a great deal of "joie de vivre." It is also wild about hockey, the most popular local sport.