Montreal Culture Differences

Since arriving in Montreal, I have been enjoying myself and exploring the city with the group. With the amount of exploration I have done so far, I have noticed that Montreal has a huge sense of culture and diversity. From the murals, architecture, and even the languages spoken, Montreal has proven itself to be way different than American cities like New York. The public transportation system also works great and we enjoy commuting to the Academic Center on the Metro. To get an idea of what cultural differences my peers have observed in Montreal, I interviewed four of my peers consisting of a Game Producer, a Game Artist, and two Game Designers.

The predominant language in Montreal is French. How much of it do you understand? How has the language barrier affected your ability to communicate with the locals?

Carson: Honestly I didn’t know any French before coming here. I would have liked to know more but I’ve actually been Learning Japanese instead since I was there this summer. Knowing the language does make your experience better but having been somewhere else before this it hasn’t affected my ability to communicate with locals. Just be prepared to use simple English when situations arise such as the customer service worker doesn’t speak it, but knows some English.

CJ: I did Duolingo over the summer. I understand a couple of phrases but not as much as others probably do. The only big language barrier I encountered was at the Nautilus Gym trying to purchase a membership. I was there for an hour with one of the staff members as we were using Google Translate.

Liam: Over the summer, before coming to Montreal, I had downloaded an app to teach me some basic French. I know some of the basic stuff, like some greetings and how to ask for some things. It has been a bit helpful, although most people I have run into speak English as a second language, and often choose to communicate with me in that language instead. Still, putting in some effort to speak a bit of French is greatly appreciated by the locals.

Drew: Honestly I Duolingo’d a little bit of French before arriving just to understand some of the basics, and it’s helped a lot. I mean most people that I’ve spoken to do understand or speak English as well, so ordering food, asking someone a question – or asking someone if they speak English if they ask me something in French – usually isn’t an issue!

How would you describe the Metro in terms of cleanliness and reliability?

Carson: Take how clean you would expect a metro station to be and make it slightly cleaner. There’s little to no garbage anywhere and is actually very well ventilated. In terms of reliability I’ve never had a problem with it. There’s displays located where you wait for the trains telling you how many minutes you need to wait. The most I’ve waited before was 10 minutes which honestly isn’t even that bad. Easy travel across the island of Montreal.

CJ: The Metro is very convenient. It is honestly a lot cleaner than I anticipated. The metro stations themselves are super nasty but I have gotten used to them. I enjoy learning the new locations each day and going to different places with all the boys!

Liam: The metro is quite well kept. Occasionally some trash here and there, but compared to subways in many large American cities, it is incredibly clean. Reliability wise, the metro is very reliable. I’ve only had a couple of times in which a metro was either delayed or had to be shut down for quick repairs. You only have to wait like 7 minutes at the absolute most for a metro to pass through. It is pretty quick and can take you to most places in the city you’d want to go.

Drew: The metro is surprisingly clean. I’ve only seen a few wrappers or cans lying around but other than that there aren’t any cleanliness issues… it is a city, there are always going to be those that litter. In terms of reliability, I haven’t had any issues yet personally, but I’ve heard of trains being delayed only twice since arriving here in late August.

What have you noticed about the murals that are commonly seen on the sides of buildings throughout the city?

Carson: Most of the murals I’ve seen are relating to a certain person or a commemoration of a community. I’m in the Montreal Music Core class and we’ve had an outing to look at murals loathed around Little Burgundy and the history of Jazz in Montreal. The range in art goes from a large portrait of a person to caricatures of the local community.

CJ: Each mural has a bug symbolism to a movement or a specific person that has impacted Montreal. In our sanctioned art class, one of the graffiti artists and Gene showed us a tour of all of the murals he has created in Montreal with each one having a specific story behind it.

Liam: There are so many murals throughout the city, and they are really interesting to look at. They also do events for mural painting so it is always cool to see what new art you can find throughout the city. It adds a vibrant life to boring buildings that they desperately need.

Drew: There are a LOT of murals in the city. Maybe I’ve been taking notice of them a little more than the next person because I’m in the Unsanctioned Art class, but there are occasions where I stop and take photos of murals that aren’t related to class that just kind of speak to me.

Describe the architecture of the buildings in Montreal. How are they different from American architecture?

Carson: There’s a decent amount of old Victorian style buildings in Montreal as it was a rule that buildings couldn’t go over 3 stories tall. But the main city itself doesn’t look any different than American cities. Most buildings look the same and are made of concrete. However it is nice to see a splash of old style buildings as you wander the city to really remind you of where you’re living.

CJ: At least with Mass and Vermont, there are a lot more commercialized buildings and Victorian era architecture. It is very scattered throughout the city. Even the small double decker houses have spiral staircases!

Liam: You can definitely tell that they had fun making many of the buildings and general architecture of the city. The metro stations are all unique from each other which is pretty cool to see. Helps in identifying which station you’re at without even reading signs, once you get to know the city better. All the older European buildings mixed with the modern architecture is a unique aesthetic that large American cities wish they could capture. It really gives a unique feel to the city.

Drew: I like that every Metro station is different architecturally. In NYC the subways all look more or less the same. In MTL each Metro has its own style and architectural layout which keeps things super interesting. As for the buildings, there are a lot of similarities when it comes to the newer skyscrapers to that of ones I’ve seen in the U.S., but overall the aesthetic of a lot of the older buildings is very much European with a lot of open space internally.

Anything else you would like to say about Montreal and its culture?

Carson: Very passionate about the French language. I’ve never been somewhere where they force their language so hard. Even being in Japan for 2 months I never felt pressured to speak Japanese, where here I feel weird ordering in English even though there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment lol. But we’re all still getting used to it so it’s been great here.

CJ: I am excited to learn more as this trip progresses! I want to know more about the entertainment and exhibits like the science museum, Biosphere, and more. Even exploring large malls would also be super enjoyable as well. I want to use my free time to explore the city and what it has to offer rather than play video games at night like I did after work back in Burlington.

Liam: Montreal feels far safer and more welcoming than a lot of American cities. Everyone is kind and, while most people like to stay in their own lane, you can still feel a strong sense of community within Montreal. Between festivals and live music events, Montreal really is a vibrant community full of people from all over the world.

Drew: I feel as if here in Montreal there is a commonality in individuality. Everyone more or less keeps to themselves and does their own thing, but there is still a sense of community throughout the city that I’ve enjoyed being able to witness (i.e. festivals, public spaces, etc.).

More Montreal
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Interview with Rudolphe Recca
The Mont Royal Hiking Experience