Canada, Montreal and McGill: first impressions

I came to Canada about 10 days ago now with family, to combine holiday with sorting my life out. We spent a week or so in Montreal, exploring various areas of the island (it is an island), meeting my landlord and dealing with the bank.

mont royal
Downtown Montreal from the top of Mont-Royal

We’d planned the flights  month ago with the intention of needing to find me accommodation, though a couple of weeks before departure, I managed to find a great living situation. I’m going to be living with 3 other UK exchange students in an apartment in Downtown Montreal, immediately across the road from the McGill campus. It’ll be closer to campus than Whitworth Park is to Manchester – amazing when it hits -25C and 8:35am lectures! I had been wary of transferring a deposit on an apartment whilst still in the UK, though having met, and being welcomed (not alone) into the house of, my landlord, I know we’ve struck gold with him. He’s everyone’s favourite Granddad, with a great apartment

old town
Montreal Old Town

After nearly a week in Montreal, we headed about 2 hours north to Mont- Tremblant. It’s a town in the heart of idyllic Quebec countryside famed for outdoor sports, owing to its mountains and lakes. Everyone has a pick-up truck or an SUV

View from the top of Mont-Tremblant. Mountains and lakes continue to the horizon

Time spent in these two completely contrasting areas has been a great introduction to Canada. These are my first impressions/things I’ve learnt, at this stage:

  • Montreal is very French, more than I expected (I know it’s in Quebec). The vast majority of signs, announcements and adverts are often only in French, and it’s the first language people try when conversing with you. I’m rapidly improving in reading French and have a delicate grasp of it, so am not over-faced by it. Everyone is very friendly and often willing to switch languages for you without another thought. I hear the McGill community is considerably Anglophone, so day to day life should run smoothly
  • Cars don’t have number plates on the front of them, which I always find weird to see, and also find it weird that I notice it so much
  • The metro is strikingly dated compared to London’s Tube, but is really straightforward to use- I think there are only 3 possible lines to use
  • Many people I’ve come into contact with have been so genuinely friendly, and willing to help, which invites the same reaction from you
  • Tax often isn’t included in prices, often resulting in needing to route around your purse again quickly at the till. As cent coins are in limited circulation, settling restaurant bills etc seem to be done to the lowest amount possible in a relaxed manner, so it often doesn’t matter if you don’t have those small coins
  • Food in supermarkets seems expensive, so you have to be careful
  • It’s illegal to cross the road not at a crossing or when it’s the pedestrian’s turn, and if you are caught, it’ll cost you $50. There’s often 2 traffic officers on every junction when there’s road works,which does appear a bit much sometimes, yet they’re really respected
The Biodome. Despite being on holiday, I’m still learning Geography!!

McGill orientation week (#McGilloweek) begins 29th August, which I’m looking forward to, to see quite how Americanised it may be, based on discussion and hear-say.

Also, if you want to follow my year abroad more, add me on snapchat @emilyfeathers95

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