Canada Travel Guides

Things I didn’t know about Montréal till I went to Montréal

petite ruelle fermée

Okay, truth is, I’ve been to Montréal once before, but maybe my eyes just weren’t open or something…or maybe I’ve actually learned how to travel because I did NOT notice any of these things the last time I was here.

How the gasoline prices are listed

canadian gas prices$127.4? Per liter? What? Please explain.

The way they use half of the Metric system and half of the English System

So lemme get this right: you use inches at Subway Sandwiches, which is the English System, but then you use liters for gasoline, which is the Metric System. You mainly use Celsius when you’re talking about the weather, except if you’re talking about it being super hot, in which case, you’d use Fahrenheit. And then when you’re cooking, you use cups and when you’re using the oven, you’re using Fahrenheit (English System). When you say your height, you can say 5’8 or 1 meter 75 and people will understand (Both systems). Your weight is in grams, not pounds (Metric System). As for speed, you use km (Metric System).

That’s like a lot of conversions you know how to do.  Much like the United States, Canada tried converting everyone to the Metric system in the 1970s, but they actually succeeded more than we did. Pair all that with their bilingualism and I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration.

Obsession over Fairmount Bagel

l'original fairmount bagel

I went in this place thinking that every bagel would be great, which ended up being a laughing joke that my Montréal friends would tell their other friends when we went out. “He went to Fairmount…and got a blueberry bagel! Bahahaha!”

I had to go back to redeem my Montréal street cred, and this time, MONTREAL FRIENDS, I got your famed sesame bagel like you all do! I’m not much of a bagel guy, but I will say that I preferred it to New York bagels. Something about it didn’t feel so fat.

sesameseedbagel

Bilingualism, but really the prevalence of French

French stop sign

First off, I never heard Spanish once. Secondly, I knew Quebec had made it a law that all government signs and documents be in French, and that everyone was basically bilingual and all, but I didn’t really KNOW know. I didn’t know, I guess, to what extent everyone was so bilingual and everyone was so…French (or French Canadian I should say). The metro is in French, ads are in French, street signs are in French, and if there’s English on it, you bet your ass there’s French on it too.

Of course half the time I spoke, people didn’t understand me, which is fine because half the time they spoke, I didn’t understand them – which is why many times we spoke a mix of Franglish. You might think my ego might feel a bit bruised, since I actually am a French teacher in New York, but after witnessing some French people not understanding either, I felt relieved that my four years of studying French weren’t a complete waste. After all, a French person trying to understand Quebecois French is like an American trying to understand Irish English. You just have to ask them to write it down.

How often you’re going up an incline

fallinmontreal

Thanks to you, Mont Royal! You better believe I noticed. I’m originally from Indiana where there are zero mountains (let alone hills), where ski resorts have to actually build hills, where cross-country teams luck out because of the lack of inclines. Montréal though…you put inclines on a whole ‘nother level. Buns and thighs, people, buns and thighs.

Canadian accents

I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly it is that makes Canadians sound so Canadian. It’s not the cliché “eh” or the “out” in “about,” but something else. The rhythm of speech is different. Someone help me out here cuz I’m sounding super vague? WHAT IS IT?

The hashtag #MTL

mtl burritoville

Okay, like whoa, didn’t know Montréal was the cool kid on the block. I was seriously impressed how young and cool the city is. First off, with McGill College and all the universities, it’s a town filled with college students and twenty-somethings. Secondly, they have many alternative, bilingual newspapers focusing on what’s happening around the city, as you can see behind this burrito, which was my favorite thing I ate in all of Montréal (Thanks Burritoville). All these young newspapers use the super-cool #MTL hashtag too, which is obviously short for #Montreal. Finally, they even have a citywide suggestion movement, where you can directly submit your own ideas on how the city should improve via the site, je fais mtl.

Hockey is a true cliché

It sounds so cliché and stereotypical that when I met a Canadian, he was watching a hockey game and that when I went to a bar with Montréal friends, that every TV screen was showing a hockey match, but it nothing but the truth. Later, my Canadian friend told me that I would be stoned if I ever asked again if Montreal had a hockey team (I didn’t know?). Apart from that, there were literally twelve people (and yes I counted) wearing hockey jerseys in the same subway car on a day when there wasn’t even a game. That’s Montréal fashion for you. Get with it or get lost.

Staircases on the outside

exteriorstaircases

It’s super common in Montréal to see staircases leading up to the second and third floors on the exterior of buildings, which, personally I don’t find as the smartest architectural design in a city where six months out of the year it is less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Random things being so expensive

$3 for a one-way metro card? $3 for a drip coffee?

Seeing dépanneur everywhere

Depanneur aka bodega

And I thought New York was a bit repetitive with bodegas on every other corner. A dépanneur is basically a deli/convenience store, but most people call them “deps.”

How much of the city is underground

undergroundmontreal

Okay, this was so interesting. Montréal created an underground city officially named le Réso, but mostly referred to as le Souterrain, where you will find a system of connected underground paths looping stores to office buildings, office buildings to metros – allowing you to never have to walk outside during a frigid Montréal winter. It is seriously impressive for a few reasons: 1) because you barely see any homeless people sleeping in the underground and 2) all of the stores seem to stay in business.

Automatic tu response

If you’ve never learned a romance language, you wouldn’t know that there are two different ways to say “you” in those languages. There is a “you” (tu) for your friends and a “you” (vous) to show respect to older people or people you have never met before. Meeting complete strangers would thus mean using the “you” (vous) to show respect, which I did to everyone to Montréal. Wrong-o!

 I would walk up to strangers on the street and ask them, using vous, if they knew where something was and I’d get straight up called tu. I’d talk to the bus driver. Straight-up tu’d. Talked to the bartenders. Tu’d. This is a complete no-no in France, where vous is used for anyone you don’t know like dat. In Quebec, everyone is tu.

Petit alleys being the best part about the city

petite ruelle fermée

If you walk around the cool, hipster neighborhoods like Mile End or Plateau, you’ll most definitely see these alleys connecting the main streets. My advice: WALK DOWN THEM. You’ll see tons of street art and catch groups of locals taking a shortcut.

Super high taxes

Since when? I always thought the States were notorious for adding an immense amount of tax onto the sticker price, but then you go to Canada.

How beautiful it is during fall

beautiful fall in montreal

montrealmountroyalpark

They do not play around when it comes to fall.

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  • Candy

    “Automatic tu response”. That was really interesting. I obviously know what you’re talking about since my first language is Spanish. “You” for a friend is “vos” (only Argentina uses “vos” instead of “tú”). And the formal “you” is “usted”.
    Fun fact: we only use “usted” to talk to older people (sometimes, not mandatory), and to talk to companies in like letters or more formal situations. BUT in countries in Central America (Ecuador, Colombia) they use “usted” for just anyone they don’t know.

  • Glad you enjoyed my city! I know that our hybrid measuring system makes absolutely no sense (I still have no idea how tall I am in meters) and I know that our accent is very difficult to understand for neophytes – but hey, this is what makes us quirky and adorable, right? 🙂

    • SO adorable. I honestly can’t wait for my next trip to Montréal. It feels so “different” from North America to me…and that’s why I love it.

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  • A Canadian

    Great to hear you had a good time! Love your channel and blog <3 Thing with the accent, I always perceived ours to be the same as americans (in certain states) but I guess there is a slight variation. I've been told we really enunciate the words? I feel you on our tax. Crazy high being 13%! But, when you are in the hospital, the last thing you want to worry about is how much it all costs because….its covered by our healthcare which comes from that tax money!

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  • Élisabeth m.

    On n’utilise pas beaucoup le «vous» parce que plusieurs sont insultés lorsqu’on leur dit «vous»: c’est associé à la vieillesse, puisqu’on dit «vous» plus souvent aux vieilles personnes. Le «tu» est donc plus friendly et jeune. 🙂

  • Tish Benson

    Love it. I am dying to relocate to Montreal from NYC.

    • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! MTL has amazing vibes and feels super European for a city in North America!

  • The exterior staircases are for separate apartments! We have staircases on the inside haha. But yes it is a pretty uniquely canadian thing!

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