The island city of Montreal lies at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers in the southwest of Quebec province. It is the province's largest metropolis and the second-most populated city in the country. Expats moving to Montreal often find it to be a microcosm of Canada while encapsulating a charming French atmosphere.
Montreal marries a unique cultural spirit with the mainstays of Canada’s social development programmes such as universal health insurance and free education. These are major draw factors for international assignees, students and families relocating to Montreal.
However, the language barrier shouldn’t be ignored when considering Montreal as an expat destination. The official language of Quebec is French. Most residents speak French as their first or second language, and many immigrants have relocated permanently from France. Expats with no knowledge of the language could certainly live well in Montreal. But the activities they participate in, the extent of the job market, and even the people they can interact with may be greatly limited. In fact, to immigrate to Montreal and work legally, expats must pass provincial requirements. French-language proficiency is one such consideration of the work and residence permit application for Quebec.
Meanwhile, foreigners who speak French will find themselves in an economically stable, manageable city that has been credited as the ‘cultural capital of Canada’. Age-old architecture and narrow cobblestone streets in Old 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 Montreal’s powerful allure.
Accommodation in the metropolis is generally more affordable and easier to find than in other major Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver.
One downside: expats moving to Montreal often 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 duck well below freezing. Snow, sleet, rain and ice are regular occurrences.
The good news is that the city’s underground metro, which has been cited as an attraction in itself, is warm as well as efficient and extensive. It links up even some of Montreal’s far-flung suburbs with its central backbone. Thanks to Montreal’s comprehensive public transport system, driving a car isn’t essential.
Overall, expats moving to Montreal may find that the distinctly Quebecois brand takes time to get used to. Once they do though, newcomers can look forward to a rewarding life in one of Canada’s most culturally-rich regions.