10 Struggles Of Growing Up In Ontario And Living In Montreal
You know who you are.
Moving to Montreal from Ontario has been one of the best decisions I've ever made, and altogether the experience has been more than magical. But that isn't to say the whole process has been easy and breezy.
There are certain things you just aren't prepared for when migrating from suburban Ontario to Montreal like I did. And no, I'm not talking about speaking French (which we do learn in school, btw).
Like I said, moving and living in Montreal has been, is, and continues to be amazing, but there are more than a few struggles only someone who moved from Ontario will really experience and understand. If you're an Ontario transplant too, then you'll know what I'm talking about.
Going Through "Dep Anxiety"
Even equipped with a functional mastery of French, during my first few years in Montreal I always experienced this strange emotional phenomenon I dubbed "dep anxiety." Essentially, it's a strange feeling of nervous anxiousness you get when entering a dep and you ask yourself "will the attendant speak English? Or French? What if they can't really speak either?"
For whatever reason, the worries associated with dep anxiety never extended to restaurants, grocery stores, or the SAQ. Maybe it's because at those places it's almost a guarantee the attendant will start in French, then switch to English if they can tell you're an Anglophone.
At a dep, it's all up in the air, and the whole process used to get me a little nervous upon entering even a familiar corner store. Still kind of does, actually.
Having To Get Your Sun Card
If you've always lived in Montreal, you went through the hassle of getting your health card (and other important IDs and cards) well before you were old enough to really know how excruciating the process can be.
Arriving in Montreal as an adult doesn't afford you that luxury. Fully aware of how time-consuming municipal services can be, and unequipped with a child's imaginative capabilities to make even waiting in a two hour line somewhat entertaining, getting your Sun Card is far from fun.
Of course, born Montrealers have to go through this too (as do folks from other provinces and countries), so lets just take a moment to honour all the time wasted jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops needed to get a sun card. Never forget.
Being Typecast As Someone "From Toronto"
Ontario is a big place, hell, the GTA is huge in itself, and yet anytime you tell someone in Montreal that you're from the province to the directly to the west, you're automatically labelled as a Torontonian. Or, simply "from Toronto."
If you're legit from Toronto, I guess that would be fine, but for someone like myself who lives well outside the urban core of Ontario's capital, I don't really think of myself as a Torontonian. Thus, I shouldn't be thrown into all the negative preconceptions people have about folks from Toronto (which in many ways are totally true).
Being a suburb-boy ain't great, but I am definitely not a Toronto urbanite, so please don't typecast me or anyone else from Ontario who just happens to be from somewhere near-ish to the 6ix as one. But hey, at least we're not from Ottawa, and if you are, our collective hearts go out to you and we understand why you now live in Montreal.
Having To Go Home For The Holidays
Normally an upcoming major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) should be a time you look forward to, one that will bring relaxation and good tidings. When you're from Ontario, that generally isn't the case, as you have to deal with the stress of figuring out how to get home, along with the financial toll it will take on your wallet.
Not only do you have to find the fastest and most affordable way to get back to wherever you live in Ontario, but you then have to deal with the balancing act that is seeing both your friends and family. And no matter what, one side is going to get shafted.
Then to top it all off, at least on extended holidays, you have the intense boredom that sets in from being home, without access to many of your usual sources of entertainment you normally enjoy in Montreal. Holidays can be a struggle, people.
You're Not A Smoker
Unlike Ontario, which is pretty adamant on being a non-smoking province (for the most part), Montreal has a strong smoking culture. By which I mean smoking cigarettes, because there's no shortage of recreational cannabis use in Ontario, either.
While there are plenty of Ontarians who smoke cigarettes regularly, a lot of us don't, mainly because we didn't live in a city like Montreal where there is such a prevalent smoking culture. It's probably a good thing, but it does make you feel like the odd man out when all of your Montreal friends are heading out for a light and you're stuck watching everyone's stuff at the bar table.
Getting Used To Cheap Rent
If you moved to Montreal from wherever in Ontario, there's a decently good chance you'll move back at one point. Your reason to move out of Montreal could be a job or just to be closer to your family again, but either way, Montreal has forever ruined you with its cheap rent and general low cost of living.
I've heard horror stories from friends who have made the Montreal to Ontario migration, a majority of whom were beyond shocked at just how much you need to pay per month to get even a shitty apartment in Toronto. Same goes for when you're looking at places in other major Canadian cities or in the US.
Simply put, this city ruins you for life when it comes to rent, because you'll always be thinking "man, it was so cheap in Montreal!"
Accidentally Calling "Pharmaprix" "Shoppers"
Or any time you use the Anglophone/Ontario-name for many Canada-wide businesses found in Montreal.
When you grew up calling Pharmaprix (in Ontario: Shoppers Drugmart) or Couche-tard (Mac's) by another name, and you drop the Ontario-version in casual conversation, everyone in the room basically gives you a "wait, where are you going/what did you just say" kind of look.
Then you hang your head in quiet embarrassment, give the Francophone name, and hope no one noticed your Ontario showing.
Having No Long-Term Ties To The City
All too often I'll hear my Montreal-born-and-raised friends reminisce about their younger days in the city, talking about major franchises that came and went (apparently Harvey's used to a bigger deal), festivals they've been going to since they were kids, people they knew from high school, and how much the city has changed since "back in the day."
As an Ontario-transplant, your history with the city is a fraction as long, and while that does give you the chance to experience Montreal as an adult and see everything with fresh eyes, it is a mild pain that you'll never be able to grow up in this beautiful place.
Heck, even just having your family around to call in times of need is a major boon to Montrealers, something Ontario-folk don't really have have access to, which is a struggle in itself.
Everyone Assuming You're A Student
Oh, you're from Ontario and living in Montreal? You must be a student, then.
That's pretty much the line of thought anyone who hears I'm originally from Ontario takes, which you know, would be fine if I was still a student.
Except I'm not, and would like to be treated as an adult and with none of the prejudices many Montrealers have towards students from Ontario who leave the city as soon as they've graduated.
No doubt you've probably been asked the same thing if you're slightly young-ish, from Ontario, and you're living in Montreal. Or you actually are just a student, then good luck with that.
You'll Never Be A "Montrealer"
I've lived in Montreal for close to seven years now, know more about the city than most natives do (it's kind of my job, after all), and plan on living here for quite a while, but despite all that, I will never be considered a true Montrealer.
Unfortunately, that title is reserved for folks who grew up in the city and have a family-legacy here. Since Montreal is a cosmopolitan metropolis filled with immigrants of every sort, I think that prerequisite is a little ridiculous, but it's true: most Montrealers won't consider you one of them unless you've lived here all of your life.
So try as you may, my Ontario-born brethren, some of you might one day be considered a Montrealer, but for many of the prestigious title will remain ever-elusive.