Friday, February 25, 2005

That 70's feel

One thing that I have noticed here is that I have this feeling like I am back in the 70's at times. What I mean is that life seems simpler here, like when I was a kid. I am not talking about everything, just certain aspects.

For instance, Traffic. I had the feeling when I was a kid, that people were courteous enough that when two lanes were merging, each lane would let one car go after another. In Chicago, I felt that there was an anxiety among a large number of drivers that each driver felt they had been cut off too many times in their life that they were never letting another car cut in. At times, I felt that way myself and started to find myself always on the defensive. At times here in Montreal there are people who show that I must not let anyone in, but the numbers are far less. I will elaborate on traffic and anxiety later in another post.

Another point is courteousness among people. I had lived in France for a total of year and a half. Over that time I came to expect anyone speaking French would be reluctant to speak to me and would not be very helpful. There were notable exceptions to that. Plus it may have been due to the circle of friends we had and the fact that I had long red hair and a black leather biker jacket. Anyhow, I was extremely taken aback with almost all of the people I have met here. Almost everyone immediately switches to English when they hear my accent. And they don't seem annoyed by it. They actually seem eager to practice their English. If I have difficulty speaking French, they are eager to help. It has really blown my mind. The same goes for people in the service industries. There is not the apathy that I had encountered time to time in the US. OK, they are not as quick as in the US, but that also shows less of a rat race attitude. Life is more relaxed and less anxious.

I guess I will go into depth about the anxiety point since it is so tied to the 70's feel. After three of the top documentaries over the past few years, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911, and Supersize Me, I saw an anxiety in America that I had not noticed before and that is lacking here in Canada. First the gun thing. Contrary to seeing about the latest shooting on the news in Chicago almost every evening, shooting here seem very rare. It always seems like the murders are crimes of passion or the offender and the victim are connected somehow. Or the deaths are accidental. One thing I noticed soon after coming up here is that I didn't have a feeling that strangers would do bodily harm to me. There are people who dress up to show a tough side, but for some reason I don't fear it like I had in the states. I have not figured out why yet. It's almost like they are dressing up because it's their personality and they are only showing their image. Also, I noticed that there is not that fear of bodily harm on the road, road rage. I don't fear that if the driver gets pissed off because I cut him off after he cut me off, he will pull out a gun and shoot. That always seemed to be a question in the states that leaves you feeling helpless.

The other anxiety point has to do with commercialism. The whole advertising thing about doing something in order to fit in or to be like by others. I found that people got so wrapped up or were so influenced by the advertising they saw everyday. I am guilty of it too. Maybe I'm not watching the right programs, but it just seems like that pressure is not here.

Lastly, let me finish with a caveat. My posts will tend to point out the positives in Montreal and the some negatives in Chicago. This is not to say Chicago is a horrible place and Montreal is heaven. I love Chicago and could live their comfortably. I always look forward to returning for visits to see family, friends, and the city. Same goes for many US cities I would be interested in living in if life should take us there for whatever reason such as New York City, LA, and San Francisco. It is just that currently, Montreal seems to be the right fit and maybe I'm still in the honeymoon phase of our stay here. Until the next post, adieu.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Open to Anyone and Everyone

Just a quick note. I mentioned in a post the other day that I hoped to reach people who have moved to Montreal. Actually anyone with any observances of either Chicago, Montreal, Quebec or different cultures are open to submit their points.

Also, I hope to share observances of all aspects of life here and will most likely be comparing them to my experiences in Chicago, France, or Europe. Primarily because those are my points of reference. I lived in France for two different nine-month stays and traveled a good portion of Europe.


Almost everyone asks me if it snows in Chicago or if it is cold there. After I tell them that it is only about 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer and that I don't find it colder, they point out that it is probably because I have a Kanuk coat. Which is a very good point that I wish I had realized in Chicago. If you dress correctly, dealing with the cold becomes a lot easier. Though being a little more fashion conscious there had something to do with it. This has only been my second winter and last year I managed to spend almost a month of it in warmer climes, so that may why I have not found a difference. Another difference is that in Chicago I took the el to work and spent about an hour a day outside where as now we drive and I spend only short trips outdoors.

On to the snow. I am impressed how people embrace the fact that they live in a colder climate. Winter sports and indoor activities seem to be a large part of life. On the winter sport front, I believe it is harder to do many of them in Chicago because there are not as many days available to do things like sledding and skating. Plus the flatness makes it hard to downhill ski. The nearest slope is 5 hours away without traffic. Going to an local art fair here suggested to me that there are many people who do stuff like painting during the winter months.

One aspect of the snow that I noticed recently is that for the most part it tends to stay white outdoors because there are often fresh coats of snow. In Chicago, there is enough freeze/thaw to keep the snow gray or not existent. The freeze/thaw cycle here really does a beating on the roads.

The snow removal operation in the city is very impressive. To cart away the snow from all the streets using construction graders, dump trucks, and front end mounted snowblowers on trucks was fascinating to see. Plus those midget snow plow tanks that clear the sidewalks are cool. They don't work that great, but it's better than leaving the property owners to clear them.

Monday, February 21, 2005


As mentioned in my profile, my family and I moved here to Montreal from Chicago in June 2003. The goal of this blog is to find others who have moved here from other places, be it from Chicago, the Midwest, the States, or elsewhere. Then to share your thoughts about the life and culture of Montreal, Quebec, and Canada.

Over the past year and a half I have been pleasantly surprised by many aspects of life here. At times it shows the influence of American culture, sometimes French, and most interestingly it's own. The fact that it is partially separated by language (and government controls) seems to have kept it partly isolated from the rest of North America while still profitting from the US and Canadian economy. It has a provincial identity, isolation, and culture that no other state or province seems to have. I am more used to identities breaking down to city then country without a real regional identity. There is one for people who live in Illinois or the Midwest, but it is not as strong or separated.

I hope this can start some sort of dialogue with others out there. Please send a word if you find the page and find it interesting. I hope to post many more thoughts on life here in the near future.