15 Things You Didn’t Know About Montreal Before Living Here
Before living in Montreal, you had a few received ideas. Poutine, weird accent, Céline Dion, cold weather... ok, you knew about that.
Then, you discovered all these little things about its culture, which now are fully part of your experience.
Here's our list - non complete - of the 15 things you didn't know about Montreal before living here.
Beer is the favorite drink of Canadians. You can find beer in some grocery stores like Metro, Provigo or IGA, and in depanneurs, which are pretty much everywhere in Montreal. The same goes for wine. But if you want strong alcohol, along with fine wine and beer, you have to go to the SAQ, the Société des alcools du Québec. Depending on the country you are from, you will be not so pleasantly surprised by the price of the bottle.
It is also imprtant to know that you can’t buy alcohol after 11 p.m. in stores, and 2:30 a.m. in bars. And of course you have to be at least 18 to buy any.
2. The depanneurs
Depanneurs are small store where you can find basic products, beer and wine, as said above, and cigarettes. For the latter, they are the first place smokers go to buy their packs. Depanneurs truly are a blessing, especially in the middle of the night when you ran out of cookies and the stores are closed. Just for example. Locate the nearest depanneur to your home and check the schedules, it will most probably save your life one day. Call it "the dep" to sound even more local.
3. Montreal is an island!
Some people move in Montreal but don’t know beforehand that it is an island. It is no vital information, but it is good to know. Why? Because if you know that, you can avoid looking like a dumb when your friend tells you that you have to leave the island to go to an unknown hood and you answer “What island?”. Yes it happens. Don't judge.
4. Every night of the week is a party! (even in winter)
Thought that Montreal was hibernating during winter? Not even close. The city is known for its nightlife at every moment of the year. You can find something to do literally every night and you will quickly settle into a routine for the week, and not a boring one. The city blossoms in summer, with more free events and festivals than you can go to, and Canadians had tamed the cold and know how to party by -30°C.
5. Taxes and tips
In Quebec, you have more or less 15% of taxes in addition to your note. It can be violent if you are not prepared when you are at checkout and see the final price for the first time. Furthermore, when you go to any type of restaurants (we don’t include fast-foods) you have to leave a tip in addition to the price and the taxes. It’s best to leave a tip of at least 15% of your note. If you leave less, you might get an evil eye from the waitress.
Note that, in grocery stores, essential food isn’t taxed, and that, if you are a student, you can have discounts.
6. Queuing up for the bus
A surprising thing in Montreal is the line for the bus. Depends once again on the country you are from, but as French, we're not ready for that. If you hadn’t notice, Montrealers are respectful and queue when waiting for the bus. So don’t stand at the beginning of the line if you just arrived.
7. "Hi, Bonjour! Ça va bien?"
In case you didn’t realize, Montreal is a bilingual city. So, accordingly when you enter any shop, sellers greet you with a “Hi, bonjour!”, to cover their bases. Everything is fine thus far. But then comes the “What’s up?” or “ça va bien?”. And you‘re lost. Because you don’t know if it’s rude to simply answer yes or if you are supposed to ask in return and engage in a conversation. Going with “Yes thank you” is probably the safest way.
8. Law 101
You might know french is Quebec's official tongue, but somehow you found out it was very controlled, creating feuds for 40 years.
There was a blessed time when english speakers could speak english freely without being judged. But in 1977 was installed the Charte de la langue française, also called Law 101, which is regulating french-speaking all around state. That's why even in the most english-speaking hoods, you'll always see something in french.
Even if theoretically, cannabis smoking isn't legal in Quebec, we can say it is quite tolerated in Montreal. You still remember smelling the nice fresh pot in the streets the first time you took a walk in town, even when the cops are around. It is called "pot" even in french, and there's even a political party for that.
You may have never got the rythm. 3am sound really soon to end a party. But still, when you see your condition the next morning at work, you're happy it didn't last longer. They're professionals until the end.
11. Local abbreviations
You had no idea Quebecers referred as St-Laurent Boulevard when saying "St-Lo'' or "The Maine", as well as "The Moutain" for Mont-Royal, and HoMa or NodeGa for their boroughs. Now you'll use those slangs every time, 'cause it sounds cooler.
12. No caribous, but..
Hello local "wildlife". Arriving here, you thought Montreal's squirrels were cute, until you find out they were called RATS by locals. You also met raccoons, this quite ungraceful specie who can also be very agressive (beware.). And nobody warned you the city was living together with those rodents.
13. Nobody's living in the underground town
You've heard a lot about this crazy huge underground town in Montreal. And at the end, you thought it was overated. Maybe you've eaten 3 times max in food courts, and shopped twice in the malls above. But no ones really enjoys wandering freely in those places.
14. Weird dividing
At first, you were quite confused. Still today, you have trouble understanding how this town is organised. You know it's divided between several neighbourhoods, you even know the name of some (Le Plateau ,Ville-Marie, and... yeah that's it). It's not really districts, but they all have their proper identity, their proper rules and some are more independent than other. Just like a federal system, but for a town.
15. Hours problems
There's a day when stores close at 6pm, and the next they close at 9pm. There just seem to be no logic in here. You also were sad not to have your national day off, but don't worry you'll get 24th of June, 1st of July and 1st of september here. You'll be deserving those, because another thing you've learned here is the minimum amount of work per week is 40 hours.
Also on Interstude :
> 10 signs you need a break from Montreal
> 5 places to visit
> How to properly use Tabarnak