- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Montreal Guide (PDF)
Expats will find Montreal to be a microcosm of Canada. A former fur trading post originally founded by the French, it has grown to become the second largest city in the country and the largest in the province of Quebec.
The official language is French, with 65 percent of residents speaking French in their homes, and a large proportion are immigrants who have relocated permanently from France.
Montreal is arguably more Francophone than Anglophone and this is often one of the largest challenges faced by English-speaking expatriates. Those with no knowledge of the language could certainly live in Montreal and live well. But the activities they participate in, the extent of the job market, and even the people they can interact with, will be greatly limited.
In order to immigrate to Montreal and work legally, however, the permit application and approval process take the candidate’s French language ability into consideration. Unlike the rest of Canada, it is only possible for someone to get a residence or work permit for Quebec if they have passed provincial requirements. On the other hand, those who do speak French will find themselves in an economically stable, manageable city that has been credited as the 'cultural capital of Canada'.
Age-old architecture in Vieux-Montreal, a long-standing tradition of jazz and rock music, as well as countless distinguished theatre, music and art performance centres, are all part of the metropolis’s most powerful allure. Not to mention, accommodation in Montreal is generally more affordable and easier to find than in Canadian cities of comparable size, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Video games and aerospace continue to be huge industries in the city, and film, finance, world affairs and commerce are also well-represented. International firms are aplenty in the city but, again, employment opportunities will be limited for candidates unable to speak French.
Otherwise, expats moving to Montreal will find that one of the most difficult elements to adapt to is its frigid winters. Summer can be hot, humid and generally pleasant, but from December to March temperatures can hover well below freezing, and snow, sleet, rain and ice make regular appearances.
The good news is that the city’s underground metro, which has been cited as an attraction in itself, is warm and incredibly comprehensive. It links up even some of Montreal’s far-flung suburbs with its central backbone. Expats won't necessarily need a car, and the chances are that if they do choose to purchase a vehicle, they will have to deal with the infuriating traffic congestion that characterises life in an island city.
On the whole, expats moving to Montreal may find that the distinctly Quebecois brand takes time to get used to. Once they attempt to do so, they can look forward to a rich life in one of Canada’s most interesting regions.