- Download our Moving to Montreal Guide (PDF)
Located at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers in the southwest of Quebec province, Montreal is a microcosm of Canada while encapsulating a charming French atmosphere. Expats moving to Canada's second-most populous city will enjoy a gentle cost of living and vibrant lifestyle. Add to that thriving social development programmes and it’s easy to see why many expats take the plunge and relocate to the city.
Living in Montreal as an expat
Montreal is one of the most culturally rich cities in Canada. Historic architecture, cobblestone streets, a long-standing tradition of jazz and rock music, and countless distinguished theatre, music and art-performance centres are all part of the city's powerful allure.
As is the case in most Canadian cities, sports and outdoor activities are an important part of the lifestyle in Montreal. With an abundance of green spaces and ice rinks, entertainment is always available regardless of the weather. Revellers will be happy to know that the nightlife in Montreal is one of the best in Canada, with a wide variety to suit all preferences, from student bars to jazz clubs and European-style nightclubs.
Being a Francophone city, everyday life in Montreal can prove tricky for non-French-speaking expats. It's not to say that non-French speakers can't get by at all, but there may be limitations in terms of their work opportunities and social life. In fact, to immigrate and legally work in Montreal, expats must pass provincial requirements, which include French-language proficiency.
Montreal’s economy is one of the biggest in Canada. Skilled expats will be able to find opportunities in the engineering, ICT, textile manufacturing and service as well as education industries.
The good news for commuters is that the city’s public transport system is warm, efficient and extensive. It links some of Montreal’s far-flung areas and suburbs with its central backbone, making car ownership largely unnecessary.
Cost of living in Montreal
The cost of living in Montreal is fairly modest. Accommodation in the metropolis is generally more affordable and easier to find than in major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Eating out and groceries are also relatively affordable. That said, education is a big expense expat parents may have to budget for, as many expat parents choose English-medium international or non-subsidised private schools for their children, and these certainly don't come cheap.
Expat families and children in Montreal
Public schools in Montreal are free to attend for all citizens and expats on permanent residence and work visas, though, as mentioned, most public schools in the city are French-speaking and many expat parents choose to enrol their children in one of the city’s international or private schools. Fortunately, some of the city’s private schools receive government subsidies, which reduces tuition fees.
Montreal also boasts exciting theme parks, museums and cultural attractions for the whole family to enjoy during their leisure time. The city’s parks and walking and jogging routes are also lovely spots for the children to experience the great outdoors.
Climate in Montreal
A downside to living in Montreal is the frigid winters. Summers can be hot, humid and generally pleasant, but from December to March temperatures dip well below freezing with snow, sleet, rain and ice occurring regularly.
Overall, expats moving to Montreal may find that the distinctly Quebecois brand takes time to get used to. Once they do, though, newcomers can look forward to a rewarding life in one of Canada’s most culturally-rich regions.
►Expats on a budget can live quite comfortably in Montreal – read more about the cost of living
►Read Areas and Suburbs in Montreal to find out about the best places to stay
"The positive sides of Canada will depend on your expectations. Overall, I find Canada is an easy country to live in. People are nice, it’s a very steady place, pretty safe by world standards, and we are a good mix of American and European cultures."
Learn more about French expat Juliette's experiences in Canada in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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