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Things I Didn’t Get About Montreal Until I Went to Montreal

There were many things I didn’t get about Montreal until I visited. Some were obvious, others a little more esoteric.


Ok, I admit, I was naïve. I just didn’t comprehend before traveling to Montreal how prevalent French is.

People don’t speak English with a little bit of French here. French is the default language.

What’s even more extraordinary is the ability to change between the two.

In a store, to cover all bases, the associate will say ‘Hi, Bonjour’. This is not an invitation to remember everything from your 7th grade French class. This is a way to distinguish between ability.

As someone who often struggles with just one language, I am fascinated and loved the bilingual aspect of Montreal.

That being said, you can see the prevalence of French throughout the city. Street signs, retail names, menus, receipts, food labels, transit maps and PA announcements—all of these are required by law to be in French.

What the hell is a Depanneur?

This is the New York equivalent to the Bodega, or better yet the Kwik E Mart from The Simpsons. They sell pretty much anything, are open to all hours of the night and usually are a blessing or save your life when you least expect it. Just a like New York Bodegas, they are on every single corner.

Don’t compare their food…

…Unless you want to start something. And my mother told me never to start something I couldn’t finish (she was usually referring to cleaning my room).

Just eat it.

Bagels, poutine, smoked meat and maple syrup are Montreal’s jam. Avoid comparisons to New York bagels and pastrami sandwiches. Just go in there with open minds. I personally liked the Montreal bagels and smoked meat sandwich. The bagel felt less dense and fat to me and I was able to consume other food in the same day, unlike NY bagels. Each city believes their bagels were first and far more superior. An argument that will be around forever, like which came first the chicken or the egg.

SchwartsIt’s usually colder longer

While New York was exploding with spring color, it’s French Canadian neighbor, unfortunately, was not. And while we had splendid sunny days, the wind was cutting at times. I would suggest saving your trip until at least May. We were there towards the end of April and would have loved to do a few things like a picnic in the park.

Stairs on the outside

It’s very common to see stairs on the outside of residential buildings leading to the second and third floor. Architecturally, I really liked the unique style, but in terms of common sense, this doesn’t seem like the best way considering the weather in Montreal is blistering cold half the year.

Steph_profHerstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.

Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.

Connect with her on the web, Facebook and Twitter

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