Friday 20 February 2009

First Impressions of Canada & Québec

The beginning of our life in Montréal

J’habite à Montréal. I live in Montréal. It still hasn’t sunk in. It’s been a real surprise to me how easy it was to uproot and set up life in another country. There were a lot of things to do, but none of them were difficult or troublesome. In a future post I will write a list of all the steps we went through to get over here & set up. For now I’ll try to give an overview of the start of our life in Canada.

First of all, I must apologize for the recent radio silence, not only has setting up home in Canada kept us very busy, I haven’t had a laptop to work on (since IBM owned my laptop) or very much in the way of Internet access – only using my N95 and in Internet cafés. I haven’t been able to manage much more than a few Twitter updates. I do have my desktop Mac set up now and we are due to get Internet connectivity on Tuesday so I hope to resume normal service now.

Anyway, the good news is that we have found and moved into a nice apartment in Montréal, we have heating and hot water (although no gas yet due to an unpaid bill by the previous tenant – that’s being worked on). We have social insurance numbers, health insurance numbers, a Canadian bank account and Canadian mobile phones (cellphones). These last four things we were able to sort out all in the first day even though we didn’t have an address yet, which was very impressive.

Most of our time has been spent doing admin and furnishing our apartment – some of which is proving particularly difficult with a low budget and no access to a car! We did find time at the weekend to meet up with my IBM podcasting buddy Jean-Francois Arsenault (JF) who showed us around some of the sights of Montréal such as the 1976 Olympic Stadium and the views from Mont-Royal, the mountain giving the city its name. Montréal is a beautiful and lively city, on an island some 70 miles long and has a range of architectures from old colonial French style buildings in Old Montréal to the modern skyscrapers downtown.
One of the biggest adjustments has been the weather. Huge piles of snow and thick sheets of ice are commonplace here, and it rarely gets above zero C. However it has been very dry and sunny, with only one day of rain and one of snow so far. This means that it’s actually not as unpleasant to be outside as I feared, and the snow makes for some spectacular scenery.

We’ve been here just over ten days now. Mrs Alex (Dr Alex) has started her new job as a post-doc researcher for the Biotechnology Research Institute and meanwhile I am getting various household matters sorted and starting to make plans for my own career & personal development. Thanks to the very useful website (which also enabled us to find our apartment), I have made contact with someone who will give me French lessons in exchange for teaching her Web design. In general you don’t need to know French here, despite signage and broadcast media being predominantly French, almost everyone is bilingual. However this works both ways, if you want to work in any way with people, as I do, then you need to be able to speak both languages – which is why I want to dust off my rusty 1995 A-Level French and bring it up to a working level with some personal tuition. To be able to pay for it in time rather than money is fantastic, as money is understandably scarce at the moment. As far as my technical career, I'm also getting involved in Montréal's tech entrepreneur community, and plan to attend a get-together next week. I intend to establish myself as a freelance consultant; networking will be a key part of making that happen.
Well, I don’t want to make this first post too long. Alex has put together an excellent photo journal of the lead up to and our first days in Canada, and I have also uploaded lots of photos to Flickr (note that you need to log in and be marked as Friend on Flickr to see the people photos – although scenery photos can be viewed by anyone). So if you want to know more, have a browse through those. And over the coming days and weeks I will come back and post some more posts with details about the different aspects of life in Canada, I intend to cover:

  • The steps we went through to emigrate & get set up here
  • Living in a bilingual province
  • The people and the culture
  • The snow & ice
  • The cold temperatures
  • Adjusting to life post-IBM
  • Dealing with the Canadian establishment and Canadian companies
  • Differences I have observed between the UK & Canada
  • Shopping in Canada and brand equivalents

So enjoy the photos and come back soon. Feel free to leave a comment if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know more about, and as always I am contactable via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MSN and ooVoo. You can find my contact details on Facebook, or drop me a tweet or a comment below (including your email address) and I will let you know what you need to know.

Au revoir!


Unknown said...

Interesting & all the best.. I have to admit there's only 2 countries I'd really fancy emigrating to. Canada & Australia... I have friends & relatives in both.

Looking forward to some of your comments on the UK/canada differences!patis