If You’re Really Moving To Canada, Then Think Montréal

So You Want To Move To Canada?

It was a running joke throughout the election cycle…

“If [FILL IN THE BLANK NAME OF CANDIDATE] wins, I’m moving to Canada!”

Indeed, the Canadian Immigration website was so overwhelmed by traffic on election night that it crashed.

If you were among the many who threatened to high-tail it north post-Election Day, today’s dispatch is for you.

The best place to live or retire in Canada? Today we reveal our pick…

It’s not France, but in some aspects it certainly feels like it…

It’s not America either, but the connection is there…

It’s not even really Canada, in a sense, though officially it is…

Montréal is one of the most unique cities you’ll find in North America. The predominance of the French language gives a European impression in a city that is still very much North American.

Centuries-old Catholic cathedrals, cobblestoned roads, and café patios are situated alongside McDonald’s, megamalls, and graffiti mosaics.

The city’s inhabited by an eclectic array of fashionistas, hipsters, executives, entrepreneurs, proletariats, punks, artists, students, more students, and everyone in between.

Montréal’s multiculturalism is on full display, and nearly one-fifth of the city’s residents speak a language other than French or English at home. Lebanese, Colombian, Jewish, Syrian, Mexican, Jamaican, Italian, Somalian, Chinese, American, Korean, Polish, and many, many other ethnicities and cultures are represented.

If you want a culinary trip around the world without destination hopping, go to Montréal. Immigrants from all over the world come here, to Canada’s second largest city (with a population of about 4 million), to make their home—and the city is better for it.

They brave the cold, harsh Canadian winter because the quality of life here is worth it. The Economist’s 2015 Global Livability Ranking ranked Montréal the 14th most livable city out of 140 cities in the world. The mixing and interacting of cultures creates a sense of understanding and security and is part of why Montréal is one of Canada’s safest cities (Toronto ranks safest; Saskatoon least safe).

The cost of living in Montréal is relatively affordable, too, compared with Canada’s two other metropolis destinations. Notoriously high property prices and general costs of living in Toronto and Vancouver push out anyone who isn’t earning six figures a year or inheriting a small fortune.

In Montréal, low-income, affordable, rent-controlled housing is available, as are high-income and opulent mansions and penthouses.

The key take away is that there are options for all budgets.

Downtown Montréal is swarming with students, many American. For many university-bound U.S. students, the debt that accompanies a four-year program from their home country seems prohibitively daunting.

Comparatively, in Canada, postsecondary schooling is a bargain, even after paying the additional fees for being a foreigner. On top of the savings, QS University Rankings places Montréal seventh in the world when it comes to the best cities to be a university student.

Montréal’s high-density design makes getting around easy. Not only are most necessary services and amenities within walking distance, but, should you need to travel farther, you have several ways to do so—the least appealing of which is to drive a car.

The most convenient method of transportation in Montréal is the metro. The public transit system consists of 68 stations on four lines, covering a total of 43 miles of track. It’s North America’s third busiest subway system, with an average of more than 1 million rides per day, behind only New York City and Mexico City in ridership. Young, old, rich, poor, students, professionals, newcomers, French, English—the metro is used by folks from all walks of life.

Residents of Toronto and Vancouver may take issue with the idea, but, for my money, Montréal is surely the cultural capital of Canada. Not only is the city the center of Canada’s French television, cinema, theater, radio, and publishing industries, but many English-language artists and entertainers are drawn here, too.

The city’s Quartier Latin, tucked between the Gay Village and Old Montréal, is well known for its theaters, galleries, boutiques, cafés, and general artistic atmosphere. The Place des Arts is nearby, too, home to the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Opera de Montréal.

The Old Port along the Saint Lawrence River is no longer the busy trading center it was in the days of French fur traders, but the shorefront area is as busy as ever, drawing more than 6 million tourists annually.

Canada and the United States share the world’s longest border between two countries, with tens of millions of crossings per year.

Listening to the U.S. election talk about further ramping up border security (both north and south), somehow building a 2,000-mile wall, and beefing up an already militaristic deportation force, it’s refreshing to know that cooler heads still prevail in Canada. The right to a person’s free movement still has priority.

Canada’s restrictions on U.S. visitors are lax when compared with U.S. restrictions on Canadian visitors, and living in Canada as a permanent tourist is an option. U.S. citizens are granted six-month stays in Canada as tourists, and an extension simply means leaving the country and returning.

For anyone looking at living only part time, say during the summer (or the winter, if you’re a yeti), then staying as a tourist makes sense.

Of course, staying as a permanent tourist means that you miss out on coverage from Canada’s socialized universal health care system, known as Medicare, along with other perks of formalizing your stay. For example, you also won’t be able to work. But if you can afford to buy your own health insurance and you don’t need to earn any income while there, the permanent tourist plan is an easy option.

Montréal is a progressive city in the most political sense of the word. One just has to see how enthusiastically inclusive and welcoming the city is of LGBTQ people to understand this. The annual Pride festival sees hundreds of thousands of visitors, gay and straight, and touts the week-long festival as the largest in the Francophone world, with 125 activities, events, concerts, comedy shows, panel discussions, sport competitions, and art exhibitions.

Aside from the annual Pride parade, Montréal has an active LGBTQ community. Since the 1980s, Montréal’s Gay Village, a mile-long stretch of Saint Catherine Street on the city’s east end, has been home to bars, shops, and clubs that cater to the diverse LGBTQ community. But the inclusivity and gaiety doesn’t stop there, as neither do people who identify as LGBTQ. Montréal’s gay scene exists citywide.

The biggest downside to life in Montréal?

That’d be the icy, dark, miserable winters.

Though, while temperatures in the winter months regularly dip well below freezing to as low as -30°F, in the summer months the temperatures are warm, the days long.

It’s a matter of perspective. Ask anyone from Canada’s prairie provinces or far north—where temperatures can reach -50°F and worse—and they’ll scoff at the idea that Montréal’s winter is anything but pleasant.

Montréal’s residents come from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. This city is multicultural… it’s French… it’s Canadian… it’s even American in some ways.

It’s one of the realest cities you’ll find, where everything is proudly on full display… from the down and dirty… and the nitty and gritty… to the posh and luxurious.

The allure of moving to France has been around for decades. The practicality of moving to Canada has become especially poignant in the wake of the recent U.S. presidential election. Moving to Montréal realizes the best of both.

Matt Chilliak