I visited Montreal with Pierre a month ago for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. I had been looking forward to the trip. Not only was it a chance to find out the place that Pierre grew up in, the college he went to, friends he played with, and meet his parents, I secretly wondered if this North American city with such French presence would lure me into settling there.
The whole city was in a hyper party mode because of the race. Downtown streets were blocked off for exhibits of fancy cars. There was Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW everywhere. Parties with loud music and masses of people drinking in the streets all around. Girls wore skimpy (some trashy) short dresses. I had never been to a F1 race before. The race track was packed with audience. The noise from the engines were incredible loud. At some parts of the track, it was impossible to bear the noise if not for the ear plugs we bought at the race entrance. We took a ton of photos but it was way too hard behind the fences.
Most people in Montreal speak both French and English. So if you only know one of them, you’d be just fine. I wonder if it was because the way that Pierre is or because Montreal is truly diverse, I met people from all over the world in that weekend. Unlike DC where diverse cultures are pocketed into neighborhoods, in Montreal, people from different cultures felt much more integrated. On one of the evenings, I was having beer with Pierre’s friends. I realized that not two people out 7 was from the same country. There was a guy from Egypt, a French guy, an Indonesian girl, a Lebanese guy, one from Peru, me from China, and of course Pierre, a Russian-descent-Belgian-born-French-Canadian.
Needless to say I had a great time in Montreal. In addition to the beautiful city and friendly people, the food was fantastic. I loved Montreal bagels. Hungarian chicken, souvlaki. We drank beers on the sidewalk for hours–so enjoyable.
I also learned from talking to the locals about the negative aspects of living in Montreal. Weather is terrible. Six months of winter followed by a hot and humid summer isn’t romantic. The roads were patch works. Even though people pay around 40% of taxes, the government fails to effectively use the tax dollars on important projects such as making good roads. Would I enjoy living there? I think so, for the people and the culture. If I had to choose between it and Seattle, I’d visit Montreal at any time without hesitation, but I’d still wish to live in Seattle.