Mystifyingly foreign to anglophone Canada, who don’t understand our penchant for dropping French words into perfectly good English sentences, Montreal is a tourist destination and a hotbed of political intrigue all rolled into one. Here’s how to irritate us in the extreme.
You don’t like cheese curds.
Aside from being the staple of our most artery-hardening native dish, poutine, cheese curds are a ubiquitous part of Montreal snack culture. You can buy them from the corner “dep” right up at the cash register, and even the cheap grocery stores usually have a stack of fresh-daily sacks over in the dairy section. Those teeth-squeaking wads of local Quebecois cheese are so delicious, we don’t really understand why nobody else has jumped on the bandwagon.
You’ve lived here for a couple years and you still can’t speak any French.
Quebec’s volatile political history aside, why on earth would you move to Canada’s only province that speaks French as the most common language and not at least take a French course? There are classes through most universities and some private schools, in everything from business French to colloquial slang; some of them are free, some of them cost very little, and if you’re moving to Quebec from outside of Canada, you can often get paid to take the Quebecois Francisation program, designed specifically for immigrants.
You basically have no excuse, and people will think you’re rude…because it is kind of rude to expect everyone to speak to you in English. Just because we can, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort. Also, literally 80% of conversations happen simultaneously in English and French, so if you can’t speak French you’re going to miss half of what’s going on. Montrealais are the most adept at code switching of any city I’ve ever been in, and people will often switch languages mid-sentence without missing a beat.
You ride your Bixi badly in the bike lanes.
Montreal is a bicycling city, especially from the moment the snow melts in March or April until the last possible minute of November. People cycle to work, commute to school, and go out partying to the bars on Ste Catherine, since the metros stop running at 12:45am.
The public bike system, Bixi, is great for tourists and new residents who haven’t yet managed to get their hands on fancy road bikes… until they meander back and forth in our bike lanes, clogging up the steady flow along Maisonneuve and causing accidents. LOOK BOTH WAYS, and for God’s sake, don’t stop your massively unwieldy and angular Bixi to have a gawk at the neat buildings in the Old Port. Pull out of the bike lane first, we beg you.
You make fun of our political culture.
Montreal is a hotbed of protest and activism. When the rest of Canada knuckled under to tuition hikes, Montreal took to the streets by literally the hundreds of thousands, waving placards and sporting red squares in what’s come to be known as the Maple Spring. On any given day, you can find jam-packed workshops on understanding gender, dumpster diving, overthrowing neoliberalism, and standing vigil for victims of violent crime. And not just for Concordia students.
Young Montrealers take our activism seriously, and often have reasoned, well-thought-out opinions on a wide range of subjects. We are a city that is not afraid to get kettled by the police, and we don’t appreciate your calling us “hot-headed” or “whiny.” If you want to sit back while your civil liberties get taken away, go for it… but we won’t.
You hate sitting outside to eat.
We are a culture of terrasses, okay? As soon as the weather is nice enough, we swing open the restaurant windows and stick a bunch of rickety tables and chairs out on the street so we can sip wine and watch the sun set over the Plateau. If we can’t afford restaurants, we sit in the park. It’s basically the great joy of our lives to stuff our faces au plein air, so if you’d rather sit inside, you’re going to make us cranky.
You stand on the left on the metro escalators.
RIGHT SIDE is for standing. LEFT SIDE is for walking. You are MESSING UP my commute.
You expect something to start on time.
We run about 20 minutes late for pretty much everything except parties, which usually start up to two hours after the designated arrival time. Occasional metro slowdowns, busy schedules, and tourists clogging the bike lanes with their damn Bixis often make us late… and we know things often run till the wee hours anyway, since we are a city of night owls.
If you show up somewhere on time, you will find some bemused and irritated organizers who were expecting to have another 20 minutes to set up their presentation. We’re trying to get better at this, but so far, we’re relatively lackadaisical.
You say you prefer Toronto.
Toronto is Montreal’s mortal enemy. It’s not because we have anything to fear from them. Oh no. It’s more that we feel sorry they have to live in Canada’s second most cosmopolitan city, when they could be eating Kem Coba salted butter ice cream and hanging around the Tams on Sunday afternoon with the rest of us. Tell you what, Toronto: We’ll just be over here quietly living longer and being happier, yeah?