(Yes, I'm that tiny human wearing a pink onesie on the left)
I already spoke about why I fell in love with Montreal, but I never explained just how it happened. I've seen and learned a lot of things through the past fifteen years of my life. Looking back, I realize that these experiences, whether good or bad, have helped shape the person I am today and I couldn't be more grateful for it.
Many Canadians have no clue what it's like to grow up as an immigrant in Montreal. Hopefully, this post will give you a better understanding of our lives, struggles and challenges that you might not necessarily have been aware of thus far.
High schools are brutal. Every immigrant needs to attend a "classe d'accueil" for at least one year to learn French language and get used to local culture. After that, you're on your own. The reality is, none of the kids who were born in Canada want to be friends with immigrants. You come out of classe d'accueil completely self conscious and scared. As a result, you end up being the isolated ugly duckling who needs to find other rejected immigrants to hang out with.
Bullying is also very common. I was made fun of a lot at my public school, just because I was different and/or didn't dress like the rest of the students. I distinctly remember wanting Phat Farm running shoes, but they were way out of my family's budget at the time.
I started to get some sort of "respect" among my classmates only after I did a modelling gig for a famous brand and someone from my school saw a banner with my face on it. That was during my senior year.
Most immigrants are not used to rough Canadian winters, including myself. Yes, I am Russian, but the region I was born in has very mild temperatures and overall shorter winters. Montreal winters are legit! It's almost like a test - if you can brave through a Canadian winter, you're a real Canadian. People who leave the country for the winter have it all figured out.
The language barrier is something every immigrant is familiar with. Especially the older generation who can't adapt to changes as easily. My mom, for example, speaks perfect English and French. Yet, she is extremely self-conscious about her accent and makes me do most of the talking when we're out together.
When I got transferred to a regular class after a full year of classe d'accueil, I wasn't quite good at French just yet. Some teachers were giving me an extremely hard time. One day, my French teacher made me stand in front of the class and repeat everything she spoke about earlier. I couldn't do it because I didn't even understand half of it. She made me go see the principal that day for not paying attention in class and I got a suspension.
It's interesting how most immigrant parents want their kids to end up with someone from their own nationality and background. My folks are no exception. They want me to meet "a nice Russian boy." What's the purpose of moving to Canada if we refuse to adapt and be open-minded? Think about it. I know I'm not willing to limit my dating pool to Russian men exclusively. No way.
That was the best day of my life. "I still remember that feeling in my stomach after I got my citizenship and rushed to Tim Hortons to buy coffee for the very first time as a Canadian… I kept thinking, 'This is my home.' That pleasant sense of familiarity with local faces, shops and smells… you can’t put it into words, you can only feel it with your soul."
I will never stop praising how safe I feel in Montreal. You can literally leave a bag full of groceries in the middle of the street and no one will take it. We don't need to constantly watch our purses for pickpockets or worry about walking outside after the sun goes down.
You probably know how much I love to generalize and compare relationships in Canada vs. relationships in Europe. My final verdict is the following: Canada is not better or worse when it comes to dating "rules." It's just different.
It's not always easy to adapt to the way things are locally, especially when you grow up seeing a certain example set by your own parents. Traditional roles of men and women are all mixed up in Canada and that's ok I guess. If you're curious about other things I find hard to digest when it comes to dating in Montreal, read this post.