I Moved To Montreal 4 Months Ago — Here Are 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming
I'm not leaving anytime soon. ❤️
This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
After growing up in Reunion Island, studying in South Africa, working for a bit in Berlin, then back home before taking the plunge and moving all the way to rural Quebec for a few months, I finally made it to Montreal! Arriving at the peak of summer with no COVID-19 restrictions to ruin my festival season, I can honestly say that it was love at first sight — though I wish someone gave me a little "Expat 101" lecture beforehand.
From pleasant surprises to awkward revelations, here are 11 things I wish I knew before moving to the city.
Parking Anywhere Is A Living Hell
Buying a car was an absolute necessity when I arrived in rural Quebec, but I had no clue what I was getting into when I moved to the city.
I wasn't surprised by the draining daily traffic — something common to all metropolises — but the nightmare started when I had to learn the rules for parking here (is there any?).
I still don't understand how it works, plus it's a zero-tolerance policy. I'll keep the colossal number of parking tickets I found on my windscreen to myself.
Many People Don't Speak French
In Montreal, many people are bilingual and can switch between French and English with ease, and I'm happy to be one of them.
I was surprised that time I ordered a beverage on rue Sainte-Catherine and was told the staff could only serve me in English. My beautician also can't speak the language of Molière, but she's learning.
It's actually not shocking at all considering Montreal's diversity with students and expats from all over the world.
Montreal Celebrates Cultural Diversity
I never imagined that I would connect with my own roots here in Montreal.
The city celebrates world cultures. I've found lots of African cuisine and music festivals, as well as several creole associations.
In four months, I got to meet other girls from my island in the Indian Ocean, and dance with them in traditional outfits at the Old Port's AfroMonde festival and at Montreal's Conseil des Arts — a great way to combat homesickness!
Construction Never Ends
A truck full of Montreal construction signs.
You can take a walk anywhere in the city and it won't be long until you see those horrible striped orange cones.
Construction sites are pervasive here. You won't believe how many times I got stuck because of contradictory directions on detours.
And it doesn't look like things are changing anytime soon. A summit is planned in 2023 to find solutions to eventually solve this mess. Good luck with that.
Turning Right At The Red Light Is Forbidden
My ignorance about this led to quite a few angry looks until a nice lady took the time to explain the rule. I remember her commencing her speech with: "You're not from here, right?" — Oops.
Mont-Royal In Autumn Is Like A Fairytale
View from the Kondiaronk Belvédère in Montreal's Parc du Mont-Royal.
Though the fall foliage is even more magical in Quebec's national parks — I still can't decide whether Mont-Tremblant or Mont-Orford has the best October views — you don't need to leave the island to enjoy the shortest yet prettiest season in Quebec!
A walk up Mont-Royal will brighten the day for anyone having a rough time. The scenery at the Old Port with the Grande Roue surrounded by red and yellow trees is not too shabby either.
Montreal Has The Best Festivals Ever & Lots Are Free
From the International Jazz Festival to Osheaga, IleSonîq, Fierté Montréal and of course, the iconic Piknic Électronik, this city has so much entertainment and party time to offer that I regret I didn't come here before. Better late than never!
In summertime especially, the Quartier des Spectacles becomes THE go-to destination for can't-miss concerts and countless other events for locals and tourists, alike.
The city of festivals has something for everyone, even those living on a tight budget.
Everyone Is Welcome
People marching in the 2017 Montreal Pride parade.
Overall, Montrealers are open-minded. I love the fact that people won't judge you for wearing extravagant outfits in the streets, but the tolerance goes way beyond the city's liberal fashion.
From the gorgeous Village and pride events, to the darker fetish side of Montreal, safe spaces abound.
Cycling Is Fun Until You Go Up The Hill On Berri
Riding BIXI on a hot day along the Lachine Canal should be on everyone's Montreal bucket list.
But if someone had warned me ahead of time about the steep hill between rues Sherbrooke and Ontario, I might have considered moving to another neighbourhood to avoid it entirely.
The Metro Does Not Run 24/7
People waiting for a Montreal metro train.
This is a bummer for all the party animals not living downtown, especially now that winter is almost here.
I was assuming that Montreal would have 24-hour rapid transit like its big sister New York across the border. I was SO wrong.
Canada Day Is Also Moving Day
I love the collective tradition of racing to change homes and transport furniture in the morning of July 1, followed by an evening of red and white fireworks as part of a national celebration downtown.
Yet, moving day is another story of nightmarish traffic in the peak of summer all over the island, hence my hope to move a few days before.