Culture Shock Canada Part 2–Arriving in Montreal

things to do in montreal, montreal sightseeing, culture shock canada, pictures of montrealThe great city of Montreal, it’s about as European as it gets in North America.  They speak French, consider themselves French, and fortunately for everyone there are rumors that they are much nicer than the infamous Parisians (sarcasm – but there is truth there).

When I first arrived in Toronto I talked about my first culture shock experience in culture shock Canada– Arriving in Toronto.  Everyone has a general idea of what to expect when you head to a foreign city or country especially when the media has painted a picture for us on the internet & TV.

This city is distinctly French, not in terms of sites but in terms of sounds and culture.  If Toronto is a mini New York City then Montreal can be compared to a mini Paris.

The signs in the city are all French and rarely are they in both English and French.

When anyone approaches you they always start speaking to you in French.  Be prepared because they will always continue ranting until you give them the infamous look of confusion.  Afterwards they speak English with hints of French.

Not to be vicious or mean like the infamous stories in Paris, it’s simply because that’s what they are used to.  Everyone has a French accent when they speak English as well.  If you ask any Canadian their favorite place to go to in Canada the most common answer will be Montreal.  It should on the top of anyone’s things to do in Canada list.

Montreal is Parisian in the fact that there are bicycle stations along almost every corner in the city that you can rent.  They serve 5 course meals at many restaurants and whether you are purple, green, black, white, or caramel, you speak French.  The city gives a homey feel to anyone that’s partaking in Quebec sightseeing.  An at home feeling that leaves an impression on you for days similar to taking your first European vacation (you remember that vacation don’t you?)  In the summer the people of Montreal have festivals every weekend.  I was lucky enough to see the festival of laughs on my weekend excursion to the Paris inspired city.  Any of the festivals in Montreal should be a must see Quebec sightseeing experience.

One thing that surprised me was the cars that they drove were actually American cars.  Big American muscle cars driving through small cobblestone streets and French café’s.  I was expecting there to be a flurry of European cars like Fiat and Renault, we are in Paris right?

That’s the only time that you realize that you aren’t in Paris.  You can even see the diversity of Canada in the French rich city.  I walked by an Asian woman speaking French and listening to reggae.  Where else does that happen in the world?

Not quite Paris but not quite America either:   The American Paris

Don’t forget to see our top 5 section for more things to do in Canada and around the world.


  1. I think you make Montreal seem a lot more french than it actually is, but I guess that’s what they want you to think.
    30 years ago, english was the way to go. You can easily live in Montreal without ever speaking french, there are areas of the city where it is predom. english.

    If you walk into a foodcourt in montreal, you will be greeted by “Hi, how can I help you?” no matter what you speak.

    1. Sareda… America & Canada do share a similar culture. As you are getting offended, surely because you are Canadian, no one in the world knows what “Canadian culture” is. Since the USA is the dominant world power and has been so for some time everyone in the world knows that USA culture is, which is almost exact, if not very similar to Canadian culture. Cheers

  2. Stop saying it’s in Canada, everyone know it’s in Canada, but it’s also in america because of america is a continent not a country.

    But they don’t consider themselve french they consider themselves Québécois.

    1. I once called a Quebec film (Starbuck, which is a great movie!) French because it’s in French and it was easier than saying canadian-film in French. And you’re right, they don’t like it 😉 which i already knew since I lived there for 4 years and came with a bit of Parisian attitude… Parisians are the worse, myself included 😉

  3. lol, it’s funny to see an American perspective of Montreal. A large percentage of people here speak English. Typically the Quebecois don’t consider themselves to be French and Parisians would scoff at the idea of being like a Quebecor.

    As far as I know there are only cobblestone streets in Old Montreal which is a small touristy area, the rest of the city and basically everywhere else has regular paved roads. The cars are most likely like anywhere else in North America which has a bit of a rough winter.

    As someone who grew up in Montreal and also lived in Paris I hardly notice any similarities between the two cities. Obviously they both have french as their language but the french in Quebec isn’t the same at all. One main difference is in Paris people will assume you are a tourist and they can typically tell by how you’re dressed and how you act, but since Montreal isn’t as touristy they’ll just assume you live there and speak to you in their first language (often French but not always). Montreal and Paris are both very multicultural cities so there are people of most ethnicities speaking french and listening to music from all over the world!

    Just for Laughs is the name of the festival you went to 😉 The Jazz Festival is another one not to be missed, there’s also a Blues Festival, Heavy MTL, and Pouzza Fest for the punk rockers.

    1. the just for laughs festival is the best! We saw Lewis Black there… my husband doesn’t speak French at all, and there were still plenty of shows we were able to see.

  4. Culture shock? I feel right at home there 😉 Probably because it used to be home! Enjoy Montreal, it’s truly an amazing city. Enjoy all the food (poutine of course, but there’s also so fab lebanese restos too)

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