So you're thinking of visiting Montreal. Perfect. Montreal is amazing, and tourists are always welcome in our fair city, but you should be prepared for the experience.
Unlike anywhere else in Canada, or Quebec, Montreal has a culture all its own, along with its own customs, food scene, and way of life in general.
Honestly, it can be a lot to take in for a tourist coming to the city, even if they're Canadian too. So to inform all other Canadians/prospective tourists, here are 40 things you should know about Montreal (seriously) before you visit.
Montrealers smoke, a lot.
No matter the weather, or public perception outside the city, Montrealers will smoke cigarettes. We know the health risks and all that jazz, so please, a reminder isn't necessary because it's not going to change a thing.
If you're a smoker yourself, be glad knowing you won't be alone on your many trips outside for a quick cig.
It's legal to drink in the park. Actually.
Thanks to the picnic law, having drinks in the park (accompanied by a small meal, though that's rarely enforced) is totally okay. Enjoy the legal-luxury while you're here.
Sure, the winter sucks but it doesn't stop us from having fun.
Frigid negative 20 winds won't stop Montrealers, mostly because the city throws such amazing winter events.
You can only get real poutine here.
Sorry to the rest of Canada, but for the most part, you get poutine wrong. Montreal/Quebec is the only place to get the real good sh*t.
Montreal has boroughs, not neighborhoods.
Or, to be more exact "arrondissement." Both terms basically mean neighborhood, but you should know the correct terminology anyway.
Speaking English is totally fine, so stop stressing about it.
Seriously, don't let your lack of French skills scare you away from the city. Most of the tourist-centric areas are very Anglo-friendly, and it's not like most of the population doesn't speak English anyway.
But knowing French totally helps.
Granted, if you do try and speak French, the locals will really appreciate it. And if you plan on living in Montreal, there's a definite need of having at least a functional understanding of French after year one in the city.
Swearing is a little different here.
Whereas Anglos say stuff like "sh*t" and "f*ck," Montreal/Quebecer swear words have a strange religious twist. You'll probably hear expletives like "osti," "crisse," and "tabarnak," all of which probably won't make much sense to you, until you read this.
Montreal has a history all its own.
Dating back to 1535, the history of Montreal is long, rich, and quite different from all other Canadian cities. To say Montreal's story is complex would be an understatement, but its interesting enough to keep you captivated should you visit (or, you know, just read about online).
And we don't necessarily see ourselves as "Canadian."
Nor do we see ourselves as "Quebecer." Being a Montrealer is a cultural identity in and of itself.
It's "depanneur," not convenience/corner store.
Typically abbreviated as "dep." It's basically the same thing as a convenience store, save for one important difference, which is below.
You can buy beer and wine almost anywhere.
Unlike most Canadian provinces, Quebec allows you to buy beer and wine at any grocery store or dep, thus making our lives a lot easier than yours. You need to get hard liquor at the SAQ, though, the provincial Crown corporation for alcohol in Quebec.
We love, no, live to eat.
You'll find every type of cuisine in Montreal, and more restaurants than you'll know what to do with, many of which house some of the most talented chefs in the nation. If you love food, you'll adore Montreal, guaranteed.
All the signs are in French because they have to be.
It's a Bill 101 thing. Accept it, get over it, and use all the signage as a chance to work on your French skills.
It's really cheap to live here.
Montreal is the hometown of Canada's current Prime Minister.
Yup, the much beloved (and pretty hot, for a politician) Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is a Montrealer. You're now allowed to be jealous.
We're hip AF.
Prepare to feel very uncool when you visit Montreal, the hipster capital of Canada. Also expect to see an abundance of skinny jeans, trimmed beards, sea-punk hair, and high-waisted pants.
Street food here isn't like what you get at home.
Some say Montreal's food trucks "miss the point" of street food, being a bit too pricey and high quality. We say nay to that, because Montreal has created its own street food culture, one that's a bit more refined than what you're probably used to.
Montreal has two seasons: winter and construction (+ festivals).
Once the cold weather leaves, the construction sites invade. Thankfully, we have festivals on festivals all throughout the warmer months of the year to have fun with, counterbalancing all of the construction woes.
It's "terrasse," not "patio."
Again, they both mean the same thing, but you'll just never hear the word patio being used in the city, ever.
If you think your music scene is cool, you haven't experienced ours.
And I'm not even talking about the major music events like Osheaga or Jazz Fest. Montreal is always alive with stellar tunes, with every genre represented in all sorts of venues.
We kind of have a problem with authority.
Canadians may have the reputation for being apologetic, but Montrealers aren't. If there's a problem, we band together and protest in defiance, something you won't see in most other Canadian cities.
Smoking weed is already pretty much legal.
A walk down a major Montreal street isn't complete without catching at least a few whiffs of marijuana smoke. It's almost a guarantee. You don't need to be a weed smoker, but just understand that most Montrealers are.
Walking to stuff is actually a thing.
One of the benefits of Montreal being a somewhat small city is the fact that you can walk for a while, and actually get somewhere. A thirty minute walk will get you from one end of the city to another, which will seriously cut down on cab costs.
It's not graffiti here, it's street art.
Montreal's buildings are brought to life through the magical murals created by the city's many street artists, a lot of which are created during the annual Mural Festival. Here, we don't see "graffiti" as a bad thing, it's a part of the city's artistic culture.
Our parties start when yours are winding down.
Not only is last call 3am in Montreal, a bit later than most other Canadian cities, but Montrealers also have the tendency to not go out anywhere until it's after midnight.
Take note, because if you arrive to a bar/club/party before then, you might be taken aback at the lack of people. Rest easy knowing things will blow up by the 12:30am mark.
We like to think Toronto is our rival, but really, they don't care much about us.
Honestly, talk to a Torontonian about Montreal and they won't have much of an opinion about the city other than "yeah, it's a pretty cool place."
On the other hand, Montrealers perpetuate a very one-sided rivalry with the 6ix, and personally, I think it needs to stop.
Don't go to Starbucks, we have better coffee than that.
Of course, we do have tons of Sbux (we're a city in North America, after all) but Montreal boasts many more independent cafes that deserve your attention.
Montreal architecture is a thing of beauty.
Take a walk through almost any neighborhood in Montreal and gaze upon the many beautiful buildings, a luxury even Montrealers take for granted.
Old Montreal and Downtown are only the beginning.
Yes, they're the tourist hubs of the city, but there's so much more to the city. Ask a local and they'll no doubt let you know about something amazing to find in any of the other boroughs.
Bagels are a bit different here.
Unlike the big, doughy mess that other cities call bagels, the Montreal version is lighter, crispy, and slightly sweet. The baking process is unique to the city, and there are plenty of great bakeries to head to and grab a delicious Montreal bagel.
Montrealers work to live, not the other way around.
Sure, Montrealers care about their careers, but we're just not as entirely focused on it to the point of being obsessed and boring. Here, we'd rather have fun.
You'll see a lot of churches, but that doesn't mean we're super religious.
Don't mind the giant cross on the top of the mountain, either, they're remnants of an older, more religious era. That isn't to say you shouldn't be visiting said churches, because they're truly beautiful.
Our metro system will actually get you places.
In all honesty, this is just a jab at Toronto (the rivalry continues) but it's true, the STM metro system (what we call the subway) will get you everywhere you need to be in the city. Buy a weekend pass and you're set, no cabs needed.
We're pretty nostalgic when it comes to our past.
Given Montreal's long history, we have many extra-special historical moments to look back upon. Then there's the large amount of people who claim Montreal has been going downhill since the 70s, making us look back to the past with an even more idyllic bias.
Stop saying "Montreal women are the most beautiful."
I mean, they are, but they don't need you to objectify them any further.
Students live here. LOTS of students.
Ranked one of the best student cities in the world, and for good reason, Montreal caters to those seeking higher education in many ways. And not only do all the students boost the city's collective IQ, but it also ensures there are tons of young and pretty people walking around.
Be prepared to walk uphill.
Montreal is pretty much built on a big ol' hill, and if you're in the core of the city, be prepared to walk up and down many inclines. Don't complain, because it's a serious leg workout.
Roads are fairly treacherous around these parts.
Montreal's potholes are legendary, swallowing up a construction vehicle level legendary. Be wary when driving around these parts, seriously.
Either adore the Habs, or don't talk about hockey.
Take this to heart, because the Canadiens love in the city is too strong to f*ck with.