Montreal, Canada Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Montreal, Canada

Montreal, Canada 08/23/20

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

U.S.. if you are bringing a car from the U.S., you have to drive it to Canada then pay for parking at your hotel while you search for a rental home under LQA.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

USG

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We use LQA. Its nice to have control over your housing for once. Downtown has lots of apartment buildings that tend to look alike. If you like open floor plans with limited kitchen storage and small living rooms, with giant windows that may mean you get to know your neighbors a little too well, there are many choices. Westmount and further out have nice places to live, but make sure you are up for the winter commute.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Similar to US. Maybe not every fruit and veg in the winter. You can easily go to Plattsburgh NY, a two-hour trip when COVID hasn’t closed the border, and shop for groceries and fill up your care. Canada seems to have more organic produce, plus the leeks, strawberries and blueberries from Quebec are good. And good maple syrup, of course.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Maybe some cleaning products and drug store items where it’s easier to figure out what you want in English.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Easy take out, wide variety of restaurants.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No screens on the windows and there are bugs in the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The consulate makes a weekly mail run to NY, so we have a US address.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms in the city, and in apartment buildings. No gym in the consulate. Public pools too. In the winter, the downtown malls are connected by tunnels with stores and you can get some exercise traversing them.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

All are safe.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There’s an Episcopal church downtown and parts of the island near the airport are more Anglophone.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can easily get by with English only downtown, but it’s nice to explore Quebec and you need to speak French when you get further out. The consulate has French classes, also held at the airport for people in that part of town.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Metros don’t seem handicapped accessible but the strrets aren’t bad, except for the road construction which is neverending.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes to all.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The roads are plowed better than any northern US city I’ve ever lived in. The city’s roads have narrow lanes so bringing a huge SUV could be a mistake.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

There are several choices. Walk around and shop. Unlike other places I’ve lived, the information provided for phone and internet this consulate provides was not helpful.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If you bring an unlocked phone, the store in Eaton Center mentioned in a previous post can help. I have a plan that allows me to call the US for no added charge, and use the phone when I am in the US without fees. Bell wanted me to have a Canadian credit card and other requirements that were unreachable. I wish I’d seen that Easton Center post report earlier, because when I asked for advice, I didn’t get useful information.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Good vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It can take several months for an EFM to get a work permit. There are a few consulate EFM jobs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Various NGOs.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Like US.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets downtown are pros. Otherwise, this is a safe place to live.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Most people stick with US doctors because we are so close. Medical care here is OK. If you use private clinics the fees are a little less than in the US. If you don’t get the Quebec health insurance and end up in a hospital, you need to pay a lot up front so I carry my bank card everywhere.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Pollen in the summer. Like living in many place in the US.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Ha. Winter is long. Plan for how you’ll handle it if you’re from Arizona.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Gorgeous summer. Pretty leaves in the fall. Autumn starts arriving mid-August.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

They seem okay.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Okay.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Quebec subsizing them so cheaper than US.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not that big. This isn’t the capital. Morale at the US Consulate varies, though it's a nice place to live in.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For all.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, it’s welcoming.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes. No.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some prejudice against immigrants.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting out of Montreal and seeing the country. Swimming on a beach on the river. Beautiful undeveloped stretches up north. Snow tubing in Mount Tremblant. Being a tourist in Quebec City. Going to Ile d’Orleans. Laughing at your navigation system’s pronunciation of French road names.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

See above.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Maple syrup.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It’s an easy posting once you get LQA figured out.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How difficult LQA is, particularly the lack of support by the consulate. It’s like every new arrival has to reinvent the wheel and figure out how to get driver's licenses or taxes reimbursed, which is needless. Alos,how cut off the consulate is from Ottawa’s support and from other consulates.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Dual tire pick-up.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good warm boots and long coat.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Read about the residential school system before you arrive, which will make protests make more sense when you are here. I’ve enjoyed having local TV and seeing shows about Canada’s First Nations (indigenous) people and “Still Standing,” which visits small towns.

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Montreal, Canada 02/28/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my husband's 5th overseas post and my 2nd. I have also lived in Mexico City.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. 1.5 hours direct from Dulles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Comparable to US in price, but grocery stores have a more limited selection.

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2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. Can get pretty much everything here. There's even a small Latino market to get Mexican spices and peppers.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Good Mexican food is hard to find, but there are plenty of great foodie restaurants all over the city. Uber Eats and Foodora are great food delivery options.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Someone at the consulate makes a trip to the US post office once a week to pick up/drop off mail to US, but I also use Canada Post for letters and small packages.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Our housekeeper makes the equivalent of $20/hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are several gyms in downtown Montreal available. Cheaper prices than DC gyms, but not as nice.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are accepted (even Amex in most places). ATMs are safe to use.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The vast majority of Montrealers speak some English so you can get by without knowing any French, but it's helpful to know a few pleasantries. Also, some restaurants will only be in French. If you venture to other parts of Quebec, it will be more in French.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The Metro subway runs underneath most of downtown Montreal. Affordable-ish and very safe. As of February 2018, Uber is still operating in the city and is the easiest way to get around. Taxis are also available, but you usually have to call them (this is not a place where you can just hail them on the street).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything with snow tires.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but expect to pay a little more than you do in the US for comparable service.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We use Telus. You may have to shop around to find a carrier and branch that will open a contract (vs. pay as you go), but it's not a huge hassle. You can pay an extra $10 (Canadian) a month to be able to use your phone/data in the US and make calls to the US.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

We've had no problem finding a vet for our dog or a place to board our dog when we're out of town. Dogs do not need to be quarantined when entering Canada, but bring complete paperwork, including a vaccination record.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Watch out for pickpockets on the subway or in large, crowded spaces, but otherwise very, very safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is easily available. You may have to wait a while for service at an urgent care facility. You can also go to a private clinic and get seen much faster, but expect to pay more.

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3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

SAD during the overcast winter months can be rough.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

VERY cold (a few days in minus 30s) in the winter, but a very pleasant summer.

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Expat Life:

1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good city for couples, plenty to do! When it's really cold or snowy outside, it's also a great opportunity to snuggle up and catch up on TV or play some board games.

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2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, there's a vibrant gay scene in Montreal. Lots of gay bars and clubs in the Village.

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3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

The city does have some problems with Islamophobia (there was a recent uproar over a proposed ban to wearing head coverings while receiving government services).

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Exploring the up and coming local craft beer scene and walking around in the snow.

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5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Mont Tremblant is supposed to be an amazing winter getaway and the Ice Hotel near Quebec City is also a must.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a friendly, clean city with lots to do and minimal culture shock (other than the language barrier).

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That my winter clothes from DC were not sufficient!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Swim trunks.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes and gear!

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Books by Louise Penny.

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Montreal, Canada 08/25/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

13 years in Foreign Service, 6th posting. And extensive travel prior to FS as well.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Maine, a 6-hour drive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Consulate General.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

LQA. Pretty good options. Of course, one has to keep within the size limitations, but that is generally do-able.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Probably around 10-20% more expensive than in the U.S. Many of us stock up every few weeks across the border for big staples, as well as clothing. Everything is available here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really comes to mind, as you can get anything you want here or across the border. And as this is an LQA post, you'll be sent your entire household effects.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Every possible type of food, all budgets. A paradise for this.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Very few. They can't survive the winters.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The U.S. Consulate has a mail run to the US two times a week, or you can just use the excellent Canada Post. Or when you cross border on shopping trip, mail it there.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

No direct experience, but I understand in the range of around Ca$10-15 per hour.(The Canadian dollar hovers around par with the US dollar.)

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

All over.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Every form of payment is acceptable here.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all over, many many religions. Remember, this is one of the most international cities in the world.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, via cable TV. Very accessible. Also these can received cross-border (Vermont, NY) stations.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Within greater Montreal, generally none. English is spoken by virtually everyone, and at least I have never detected any big issue/sensitivity around this issue. Of course, the more the better, and people appreciate any effort. The more you get out of greater Montreal, the less and less people speak or want to speak English. The more you get into the core area of Montreal, the more bi-lingual it is. And there are distinct neighborhoods here where it is more English or more French speaking.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think it is on par with most U.S. cities, generally speaking. A big exception that I'm aware of is that the otherwise great metro system does not have any easy access.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Totally available, and moderately priced. I've used them all.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Generally just as in the U.S. However, and while there are many many big SUVs all over, you might consider bringing a not-so-large-car, just to better navigate the traffic and downtown. But a large SUV would be not a big issue if that is what you prefer.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Very available, usually as part of the internet/cable/cell phone package. For internet and cable package, maybe around CAN$110/month or so, depending on specific preferences.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

That is a bit tricky. Some U.S.-based folks arrive using their already existing U.S. phone and plan, and simply update their plan to Canada-based residence. But check the rates. There are a few Canada-based options as well. This will be a personal choice, depending on your own calling profile (many calls to US, or not, etc.). Also, you will likely be issued a work phone. A tip: in the Eaton shopping center downtown (and I suspect in other places) there is a store that can offer phones/plans from all the different local cell companies, depending on your own demands. Not unusual at all here to see Americans (and Canadians) walking around with 2 or 3 phones, owing to this complicated situation.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Just have reasonable amount of papers/shots at the ready to show border folks.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Great. Very much a strong pet culture here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No direct experience. Decent French is usually going to be required, or at least a big plus, but not always. Plus, there are some distinct pockets of more French and more English-speaking areas of Montreal, so if you do not speak French, you could work in the more English area. If you're the spouse of a diplomat, you can get a work permit. Some spouses here have a jobs in the U.S. with tele-commute arrangements.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Generally on par with major U.S. cities, with perhaps a slight French culture-inspired flair/pizzaz thrown in.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The usual in a big city: some purse snatchers, some car thieves, but pretty minor. Very few violent crimes.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I could write many paragraphs about the whole medical care issue. Of course, the whole issue of the Canadian health system is always in the news, and there are opinions and experiences all over the map. I suspect every person and family will have different experiences. And I suspect that some people would take some issue with what I write, below.

Using the local health care system presents some problems, even if you're a fully subscribed Canadian. On the one hand, yes, there is (theoretical) universal care. That translates to waiting periods and some rationed care.

Most official Americans here (with the exception of one couple that I know of) are not using the local system. Most people will simply go to a private doctor here or across the border. If you want to opt into the Canadian system, you pay some kind of monthly fee, (but I do not have those details). If you use a local doctor, you later get reimbursed (by BC/BS, or whatever insurance company), and get back maybe around 85% of the cost.
What we do is simply go across the border to Plattsburgh, NY, a 70-minute trip, door to door, and pay a co-pay only. We do most of our routine appointments there, for pediatrician, OBGYN visits, etc. For any urgent care, or if you want to see a doctor and do not want to drive across the border, you can go to a local clinic here. But you could wait anytime from 1-4 hours (especially if it is not super urgent). Again, we just bill this to BC/BS, and get around 85% back. A typical visit to such a clinic is around $150, and the quality is excellent. Some people find going across the border to go to a clinic to be quicker than waiting at a clinic here. Dental care here is great, and we've all used local dentists. Waiting/access is not an issue. Prices are about the same as in the U.S.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Generally okay.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hey, this is Canada. The winters are quite long and cold. Summer is surprisingly humid. Spring and fall are best - blustery and energizing, I find.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We have one child in middle school. There is no "American school" here, but here are several excellent private schools to choose from. Most, if not all, the expats I know are quite satisfied with them. Are they all perfect? No. And you want to look into each one, in terms of relative strengths/weaknesses vis-a-vis academics, sports, competitive culture, etc.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

No direct experience, but I understand that this can be an issue, depending on the needs. Check into this before deciding to come. Another possible option would be to possibly live a bit west of Montreal, towards Ottawa, and possibly look into schools there, while working here. Ottawa is, depending on traffic, a 1.5-2 hour drive.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

All over.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. In the thousands, for sure.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally great, I think. I mean, if you're a miserable person, you'll be miserable everywhere.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Again, a world class city in this regard, if you want this option.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, fantastic cultural life.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Very much so. Very welcoming climate for this. Not an issue at all.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I do not think so. This is one of the most international, cosmopolitan cities in the world. Every nationality, ethnic and religious group is here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Seeing greater Quebec Province and other parts ofEeastern Canada; immersion in French culture.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Everything under the sun, and more: museums, every possible sport/activity, nature, etc.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing in particular. Local art and antiques could be an option.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Culture (nice combination of cosmopolitanism and outdoorsy-ness), French culture and language, great universities, close to U.S. shopping (upstate NY and Vermont are just over an hour away), good LQA housing choices.

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11. Can you save money?

We've saved some. Again, it depends on your lifestyle.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Can't think of anything in particular. Perhaps just the notion that this is going to be just like the U.S. It is not. On top of it being another country (Canada), it is also within a "unique" of sorts province, Quebec, with its own very particular history and culture. Having said this, it is really no problem. Come with an open mind, and you'll enjoy it. Also, for cryin' out loud, if you cannot tolerate rather long and cold winters, do not bid on this place! (The nice underground shopping area in the downtown can get old very quickly.) This advice should be obvious, but just in case . . .The winters are long and cold. One other thing - did I mention the LONG and COLD winters?!

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3. But don't forget your:

Again, if you really need something, you can get it here or across the border.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Champlain's Dream, by David Hackett Fischer. Long, but good.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Nothing in particular.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Like in any other post, what you get out of it largely depends on you and what you make of it. Also, much depends on your own situation in your life at the time you're here: family situation, work situation, health, one's expectations, etc. Montreal really offers a huge variety of opportunities and places to see and things to experience.

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Montreal, Canada 12/23/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, lived in Kinshasa, DRC (Sept 2005-Sept 2007).

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It's a one-hour flight from Washington DC; quick, easy, but sadly not inexpensive. It is smarter to fly into Burlington, VT and drive up at a savings of often several hundred dollars.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years (Jan 2008-Jan 2010).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US government - State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I lived in Westmount, a very wealthy neighborhood less than a mile from downtown. It was literally a 5-minute commute. I suspect the suburbs are much longer. A word of warning: Montreal drivers are the MOST dangerous I have ever encountered. The road rage is unbelievable, and no-fault insurance means that no one particularly cares if they hit a parked car or bump someone on the road. For the first time in my life, after driving all over North America and Africa, I was literally afraid on the roads.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is 25-50% more expensive than across the border, and for no discernible reason. I suspect that Canadian businesses just jack up the prices because they have a captive customer base. Simply transporting a can of dog food across the border cannot explain it being double the cost. A quart of milk costs what a gallon does in the States. And grocery and other stores will have strange stock problems. Like one day, you'll go to the grocery store and there is no salted butter. Just none. Also, it's a bit like the French system, where you don't really have full-service grocery stores. You have to go to the pharmacy for household products and cosmetics, the hardware store for cleaning supplies, and the grocery store for food.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None. You can drive across the border and buy them in the US.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

I'm not a big foodie, so I only have limited experience, but Montreal is a foodie city. There are so many restaurants here -- it's a wonder they can stay in business. Lots of price ranges and menus.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None. Hardly ever even saw a mosquito.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Via US mail through the consulate. I used Canada Post for local mail without incident. Tell friends and family shipping things from the US not to use UPS to Canada. On a $40 package, there was a $20 customs charge the one and only time I used them (did not happen with Canada Post).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I had a cleaning lady who came once/week for $70. She was a maid at a hotel where I stayed, and I asked if she'd like some work on the side.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Readily available. I used the Westmount city programs, and they were excellent.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems at all.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, everywhere.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, everywhere. Same cost as French.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

In Montreal, you can get by entirely in English. Outside of Montreal, it's much better to have French.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's really a walking city and not very friendly for disabled people. There are few metro stations with elevators, and the whole city slopes from Mt. Royal down to the river, so there are a lot of steep streets.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Depends. A monthly pass on the metro is almost obscenely cheap - less than $70/month no matter where you go. A single ticket is ridiculously expensive - nearly $3.00, even if you're only riding one stop.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I have a Honda CRV which was fantastic for driving out of piles of snow. I would strongly recommend not having a low-to-the-ground car if you have to park it on the street during winter.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, $40/month. Again, do not use Bell Canada.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Do not, under any circumstances, use Bell Canada. They are the worst company I have ever dealt with in the entire world. Customer service is awful. In two years, I had to make over 100 calls for billing errors, service outages, etc. Not once did I get assistance on the first call - I often had to call 3-5 times to finally get someone to actually do what they said they would. And the average time on the phone for any call was more than 40 minutes.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. The border officers didn't even want to see their rabies certificates.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I cannot say enough good things about the vets in Montreal. They are extraordinarly knowledgeable, caring, and just amazing. I owe the life of my pets to the Animal Health Clinic in NDG and the Rive Sud Emergency Hospital. I've also found wonderful pet sitters when I needed to be out of town, mostly through Craig's List.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Same as any North American city.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good; same as any North American city. Not the cleanest city I've ever visited - lots of trash in the center of town. For two weeks in the spring, when the snow melts and all the garbage that's been thrown on it for months melts, too, the city smells like the third world.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Lots of car break-ins. I wouldn't even leave a pair of sunglasses in a car. If you mount a GPS suction on your window, you might as well put a flashing neon sign on the top of your car to have it broken into. Hundreds, probably thousands, of windows get smashed for computer bags, purses, etc. Don't leave ANYTHING in you car.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you are not covered by Quebec medicare, you must pay cash at a pay clinic for service. It was $150 each time I went to the doctor, but I received excellent service

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Six months of winter, some of it brutally cold (negative 30F or more windchill); very mild summers; long falls which stay reasonably warm -- often into early December; very short springs. I grew up in a very cold, dry climate, and the cold here was beyond anything I had ever experienced.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. Enormous. Probably 20,000 Americans in Montreal at any given time. Thousands of Europeans and other expats as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good if you like to party. Pretty bad if you don't. Especially during the winter months, people really get closed off. If you are not part of a social circle, it can be very isolating. I would say more than half the people at the consulate have not had a good experience here - and it's largely because it's a big, rude city where people (at least in public spaces) treat each other with zero consideration. Basic courtesies - holding doors open, letting people get off the metro before you get on, saying excuse me - are simply not part of public life here. It can make the already depressing cold absolutely demoralizing. During the short summer months, people literally become more outgoing and friendly. It's like a different city, and it feels better to be here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

I've mentioned this above, but it is just really, really hard to meet people. Rarely will a stranger strike up a conversation, or even acknowledge your existence -- even if you see them literally every day in the same neighborhood. It took probably 18 months for me to develop real friendships with locals. Once I did, they were wonderful, loyal, friendly people, but it was very difficult.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It seems like a fantastic city for single people who like to go out. Otherwise, it can be very difficult to meet people and make friends. Once you do, though, they're great friends. It's just really difficult to break down the barriers.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No direct experience, but from everything I've heard, it's one of the best cities in the world for gay and lesbian expats.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not particularly. There is, however, the ever-present French/English split. I didn't notice it much when I first got here, but the longer I was here, the more apparent the prejudices on both sides became. Also, it is not a particularly religious city -- it's filled with Catholic churches that only the old people attend.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Anything you want, just like any North American city. I would strongly recommend getting out of Montreal and seeing the spectacular Quebec countryside - both the beautiful townships to the east of Montreal and the amazing Quebec wilderness going northeast along the St. Lawrence.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Local painters and other local artists.

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9. Can you save money?

Of course. Just like anywhere, it depends on whether you spend your time shopping, eating out, and traveling. There are wonderful things to do here that cost very little, just like anywhere. But everyday items are very expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably not. I love to be outdoors walking with my dog, and this is really not a terribly dog-friendly place. You can't take them to restaurants, or on college campuses, or to about half of all parks. Montreal (like a lot of big eastern cities) is a place for people who like nightclubs and restaurants, not walking paths and open spaces.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bikini. There have been approximately 20 days over 80'F in the 2 years I've lived here.

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3. But don't forget your:

snow boots, warm coat, and long underwear. Remember: 6 months of winter. Oh, and bringing one of those light lamps that treat seasonal depression would be useful.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Non

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Montreal has been very challenging for me. I struggled for a long time with the lack of community and difficulty making friends. If I had written this post 8 months ago, it would have been almost uniformly negative. However, having finally made Canadian friends and experiencing their incredible generosity and kindess, I see that it's really just about being here long enough to integrate (something difficult for expats).

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Montreal, Canada 09/14/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Overseas for 20 years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Consulate.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

45 minutes to NY, 1 hour to Vermont.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The May 2001 post report on Montreal gets this right - still all true in 2009. Getting housing is really difficult if you have a family, particularly if you are arriving in the fall/winter. Nothing is available, and the weather is awful for looking. That said, if you're single or a couple or don't have to live in a particular school district - you have options downtown and in the plateau that are awesome and possibly available year-round.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Forget about chicken - it's so expensive you'll think it must be caviar. Check out the Loblaws and Super Cs - big warehouse-type stores with everything you ever wanted.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Yes its all local, but at a very high cost. I ordered everything - clothes, bike parts, tires, etc. - off the internet and had it delivered to an address in NY. Often the Quebec price was twice what it was across the border -- for no market-driven reason.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The mosquitoes are frozen out during the winters, but in the summer they are rampant if you get out of town.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Don't mail things to Canada - you'll pay high duties upon acceptance. $150 for golf clubs, etc.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Yes it's there but expensive. Babysitting was $10-15/hour. $50/day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Everywhere. Though that's funny because everybody's smoking all the time.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Sometimes, when you need it most, they won't accept a U.S. credit card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Zero. However, more and more local kids and immigrants are dropping English. In the mall we found a lot of teens working at McDs, etc., who wouldn't speak English because they couldn't.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's a nightmare. As anyone with a stroller can attest, there is no such thing as handicap access for wheelchairs for places like the metro, museums, major buildings, etc., or rather, its very well hidden if its there. The famous underground city is a fire trap for anyone having difficulty walking. And those few places that do accommodate seem to have done it half heartedly - elevators are constantly broken, etc. Sadly, this is not -at all - the place for those who need assistance.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local transport is actually not that bad and seems reliable for commuting.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything with a U.S. plate is ripe for a being stolen, according to statistics. Also, the Trudeau airport is the #1 place in all of Canada to get your car stolen. Bring an SUV - the roads are terrible. Over 40,000 potholes greet every Spring. Also, winter tires are now the law as of December 15.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Just don't go with Vonage.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don't go with Vonage. Three phones died on us, and they manufactured reasons that suddenly made them out of warranty. Like, "there's water inside it."

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Montrealers love their pets. Pet parks are everywhere, and there are some $15/day kennels in Laval. The best vet we found was in NDG on Sherbrook. Great vets, good prices.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Only if you speak French. Otherwise, the employer has to come up with a reason why a local couldn't do your job.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Montrealers dress very well.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The pollution seems light, however if you hate the smell of smoke this is not the place for you. It's everywhere.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Cars are stolen all the time and quickly put on container ships. The rate of theft is incredible, and only 50% are ever found - and thieves seem fearless. Cars are stolen out of parking garages and hotel parking lots. Purses may be dipped into if they are hung on the back of your chair in a nice restaurant. Nothing violent, unless you go to the clubs downtown and get on the wrong side of a bouncer.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

In one year, someone died in the emergency room awaiting care, another delivered his own child when the doctors wouldn't go to the maternity room, and another with appendicitis waited 7 hours for an ambulance. Quebec's health system is in crisis. The doctors are leaving en masse for other provinces, or the U.S. Excellent care -- if you can get it.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It seems to be getting colder, snowier, and rainier, according to the locals. This year we had just a few non-rainy days all summer, so everyone booked trips to Cuba in August.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The schools think they are pretty great - but in our experience they lacked academically compared to the US.There appeared to be one or two that were of a higher standard, but entry is very competitive, and applications must be put in by spring for the next year. ECS and LCC seemed to be very good schools and worth getting into. If you have a kindergarten-aged kid -- you might think about going to one of the English-language public schools. Two in Westmount were actually considered better than the private schools. I say kindergarten-aged because by second grade they are immersed in a French-English split and if your kid doesn't already speak French by then they could drown awhile.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

If they think your kid has behavioral issues, the private schools won't take them. The public schools make accommodations, but only one school near downtown, Westmount Park, is truly English speaking. They had a learning-disabled class and a good teacher, but it was overflowing.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Very expensive, nothing like the US. (Again, see the May 2001 report.) There is $7/day daycare available, but the wait-list is about 2 years long. The upside is that most daycares can't afford bilingual staff, as they advertise, so your kid becomes a French (or Spanish) speaker very early on! There is a strong focus on keeping daycares healthy and safe -- though there are a few odd ideas. Just check out the ones that have space, and see what works for you and your kid. But don't be picky, as there aren't that many free spaces in town, even at the expensive ones.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No. Even in Westmount. Check out the Westmount city hall the minute you arrive and try to sign up for things. Most sports will be oversubscribed by locals, and the seasons are super brief because, as it was explained, 70% of the kids go away to camp for summer. So, for three weeks in May, they crowd the fields to play soccer on a team that they signed up for in September on a day that was unadvertised beyond the local newsletter. This is no exaggeration - and may it be a warning that if you want your kid to play sports, you must work very hard to find them opportunities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

Not great. Those we met from just about everywhere consistently said that it took 3 years to like Montreal. Until that point, most found it aggressive, exclusive, and unfriendly.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

It is very hard to break into local cliques. Its a very family-oriented society - with large extended families. So it takes time to find folks that have room to meet new people. Once you do get to know people, however, they are very generous and lovely. Neighbors are particularly wonderful when you get to know them.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

GREAT for singles and couples, and potentially good for families with wee ones if you can get a babysitter. It just gets complicated when you want daycare - and really complicated when you have a school-aged kid.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Superb.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Race issues are bad, and I believe, getting worse. Immigration policies are bringing in more and more immigrants, and the effect on demographics and the economy is starting to show -- with anti-police riots and other ugly stuff.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tons. Unless you're freezing your bum off and hiding indoors (which is the norm). The coolest thing is to explore beyond Montreal. Head to Quebec City and beyond. Gorgeous!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

ice cider.

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9. Can you save money?

Very funny.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not with a family.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

thoughts of being in a first-world city. The city is falling apart, literally. The 'system' is full of red tape, and it is difficult to manage without help. This is not the U.S., and any expectations you might have for "French lite" are grossly misled.

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3. But don't forget your:

good humor and patience, particularly on the roads. These are the worst drivers in North America, at least according to their own "worst drivers in canada" TV show. To survive without exiting your car to accost the crazy driver that almost killed you, you'll need a bucketload of zen-like patience

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Montreal is truly a great city - unique and full of great ideas and events. It seems to be having growing pains due to a couple decades of underfunding - a problem that many Canadian cities are experiencing. I think it has a bright future ahead, but for now I would not recommend it unless one comes fully prepared with lots of optimism and a great sense of humor. And ready for an adventure.

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Montreal, Canada 01/28/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

25 months, 2007 to 2009.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

State Department. - 1st Tour FSO.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

45 minutes by car to the New York border, 1 hour by air to New York City or Boston. Close to many Northeastern cities, though surrounded by miles of farms and forests.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

LQA is apparently a shock for those who have been in the service, but as this was my first tour it wasn't onerous to find an apartment. The limitation in Montreal is square footage allowance rather than price, since rent is so cheap here (apocryphally, beacause capital fled after the Quiet Revolution, and Anglos are afraid to move back for fear of total separation of Quebec). Anyone posted here can live in a beatiful new apartment or house, though large families seem to feel squeezed.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Just like in the U.S., with a European twist in some neighborhoods like Plateau. Produce at the grocery store is surprisingly cheap, since apparently lots of fruit ships from South America stop here. There are also numerous gourmet markets, bakeries, chocolateries, charcuteries, etc. to visit.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Every type and price range is here. The foodie scene is excellent!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None to speak of, except close by the canal, where some mosquitos lurk.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The APO is actually a bi-weekly mailrun to Champlain, NY, so getting mail is very easy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive, but available. Very few FSOs have domestic help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots. People here tend to be very fit. Hiking the (smallish) Mont Royal is always popular, too.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Many of the ATMs don't accept U.S. cards, but bank accounts are easy to get here. Amex is hard to use, but Visa/MC are everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, in many denominations.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, plenty.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Realistically, none, almost everyone speaks English, but the French speakers really do appreciate it if you try and tend to be friendlier.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are elevators and curb ramps everywhere, but some sidewalks are very narrow. Otherwise it's just like any major North American city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, all three very cheap, very safe. I don't have a car, and have never really needed one.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A small one is best, since parking is difficult. But anything will be fine, the roads are usually excellent (though the drivers, not so much).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. The cheapest is US$40-$50 per month, but most people bundle cable with it for US$100+.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Mission Canada signed a very favorable contract with Rogers. Otherwise, it's just like the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but you need the usual exams.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, though many of the French speakers are openly hostile to dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, plenty, of all ranges, but you cannot get hired without French (at least 3/3).

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual is OK, but suits have made a comeback at work. Outside the Consulate, all ranges.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

One of the least polluted cities I've ever been in. Sometimes the snow gets a bit brown on the streets, but inevitably a few more feet fall and cover it.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

The usual.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

All the women I know here are comfortable walking alone at night in almost every neighborhood - it's a very safe city that way. On the other hand, it has one of the highest property crime rates in the U.S. and Canada. Car break-ins and theft are rampant. Get an indoor parking space (for the snow, too).

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No epidemics, but the medical system here generates numerous complaints from residents. Expect to pay up front and be reimbursed later by your insurer. There are tremendously long waits for some examinations (like MRIs), though emergency care is on par with the U.S.Most Consulate employees have doctors in NY.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Amazingly, horribly cold for six months of the year. Winter 2007-2008 saw 13 feet of snow fall, and 2008-2009 is on track to match it. Spring and Fall are brief, but Summer is glorious, and people stay out every night on terraces to enjoy it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience, but all my friends tell me they go out of pocket significantly buying uniforms, school trips, etc.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Lots, especially in Westmount. If that's your cup of tea, make sure you get a house within Westmount.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

22,000 Americans in Montreal, but they don't exactly hang out. The largest concentration is at McGill, with 2,500 undergrads and graduate students. But there's no need for an expat community, since Americans fit right in. Most of my friends are Canadian or from a third country (there's a huge immigrant population).

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2. Morale among expats:

Hard to say. Most Americans don't introduce themselves as such. Probably like asking what Canadian morale is in San Francisco.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Only as people want to within the Consulate. All the officers have lives apart from the Consulate community.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This city is excellent for singles (there are numerous districts devoted to clubs and bars), but seems pretty tough on families due to the expense of children in general. There are numerous free festivals and lots of outdoor activities, so families that want to always can find something to do outside the home.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably one of the best in the world. There's a very large and open gay community here, and no sense of discrimination I've ever seen.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is a subtle racism here, typified by the recent "reasonable accomodation" debate, wherein imigrants were excoriated for their non-Quebec values polluting the French-Canadian culture here.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Anything you can imagine. If you like nightlife, the city is a bottomless well of clubs and bars. There are more restaurants here than I had days to eat at them, and they range from 5 star to 24-hour corner grills (viva Moe's!).There are free festivals all year long (Jazz and Comedy being the big ones) with free activities all day and night. There's lots of skiing close by, and endless open space for hiking, camping and biking. Road trips to the Maritimes, weekends in NYC, you name it, it's easy to do here.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are numerous artists in the city - I bought several modern art paintings. Lots of maple-based things as well.

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9. Can you save money?

Realistically, no, unless you live like a monk.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a heartbeat.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Thoughts of living in a third world country. This is as urban-modern as it gets.

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes in abundance. Hat, scarf, coat, second coat, gloves, thermals, boots, overboots, shovel, sled, dog team, etc. etc.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Since 5 or 6 films are filmed here every year, just go Blockbuster and pick one. Bon Cop/Bad Cop is a fine and silly look at Quebec vs. Ontario self-perceptions.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

A great city to live in if you are willing to go out, brave the cold and buy US$12 martinis. Maybe less good if you like the expat life.

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