Living our first four seasons in Montreal was a very challenging experience. A new life, a new city, new friends, a new Family. Still anchored in our French culture which - obviously - we do miss but from which we need to distance ourselves to get out of our comfort zone. New weather, new accent. New currency, new way of life. You will find in this post all of our feelings for each season, hoping that 2020 will be as busy as that one!
F I R S T W I N T E R
We landed on January 9, 2019 in Montreal, when temperatures up to -35 degrees welcomed us. We were described as brave since we decided to arrive during a week of snowstorm! We just told to ourselves “it only gets better” and that was it ! As they say here, "There are no such things as bad temperatures. Only bad clothes”.
Getting used to cold weather was therefore not that difficult. Good winter coats, good boots, enough to cover the ears, not to mention the fleece gloves! It was during this period that we discovered Montreal: its underground shopping centers, its buses and subways transporting disciplined citizens, its Mont Royal and its sugar shacks!
At the end of the second week, we signed our first apartment lease for less than $ 700, located four blocks away from our Airbnb, then we moved all of our things (three suitcases, two desks and a dresser) under the snow.
The Old Rosemont district. Home, sweet home! In the heart of the Promenade Masson, a commercial artery where everything is concentrated: supermarkets, parks, swimming pool / ice rink, grocery stores, postal services, gyms, dance studios, banks, dentists, and so on: EVERYTHING is there ( or almost ... no cinema ^^). But close to our church.
We took advantage of the magic of this first beautiful winter to celebrate our second wedding anniversary and went sliding in the Valcartier Village. The cold was not ultimately an obstacle to activities, as long as we were well equipped!
F I R S T S P R I N G
Doubts, then Relief
Jo went on working on his Concept Artist portfolio in video games, while I took the opportunity to subscribe to M ta Région, in order to benefit from discounted rates to discover the city, in particular its coffee shops and local brands. April was the time of reunion month: my parents visited us for almost a month!
After a short but necessary visit to Toronto to see our family, the date of my return flight of my Tourist visa was approaching and doubts began to spread. As of early May, Jo still hadn't found a job in his domain of expertise and our savings were shrinking.
A difficult yet teaching moment though: with our own strengths, despite our highly-developed and calculated plans, we would not succeed alone. It was in June, when I had already come back to France, that it looked like God opened the gates: Jo found a job as an Illustrator in a video game studio in the Old district of Montreal and I was drawn for the Working Holiday Visa! The message was then clear: our first 5 months in Montreal were just to get used to the city xD
I said goodbye to my loved ones, again and with a heavy heart, but I came back to Montreal at the end of June, completely boosted!
F I R S T S U M M E R
As much as winter had smacked us, our first summer felt like we literally were INTO the sun. Montreal was like a real sauna. Very little wind, the months of July and August were hot and humid; my arms still remember those mosquitos’ bites !
We still enjoyed the evenings, which were much more pleasant. First pay days, first glasses of Coke in the sun. I loved how Jo enjoyed working at his studio: he felt creative and was given real responsibilities. As for me, I was still loitering in the city and the region, especially with Christine, who came visiting us and wanted to discover our Montreal life on a daily basis. So we went to different places: markets, cinema, shops, museums, restaurants, swimming pool and watched some fireworks.
Summer ended with wonderful news, which was the birth of our niece in Toronto. Hinata R, was born earlier than her baby shower, which meant that we could already meet her :) A real blessing for her happy parents !
My 8-month vacation ended with our trip to Toronto, as I went to the border between the USA and Canada, in Stanstead, in order to validate my own Working Holiday Visa (temporary work visa 2 years). As Jo did at the beginning of 2019, I then signed up for a 1-week free workshop, during which we were taught the Quebec way of life and work, to help us find our first job. I got to know about fifteen other French and Belgian people, who recently arrived in Montreal via the WHV. We bonded very easily.
F I R S T A U T U M N
I don’t know if the autumn leaves did that but I kind of felt down at my birthday. When my loved ones wished me a Happy Birthday, I was not that happy. When I was used to celebrating it with others, but that year, it was just the two of us. When even those who seemed close to me forgot about it, I ended up saying to myself "Meh, that must be time difference". I guess I knew at that moment what it felt like to be away from everyone. Fortunately, Jo managed to cheer me up: with a Japanese restaurant!
After a month spent sending resumes and having interviews, I got my first job at Renaud-Bray bookstore’s Customer Service, with a temporary contract. The CITIM workshops helped me enormously, especially preventing me from wanting to apply my own French corporate culture.
Jo validated his trial period after three months at the studio. We went exchanging our two French driving licenses into Quebec licenses. We signed our next rental condo lease for the summer of 2020, and we finally started to glimpse new projects. We really started to see ourselves staying here, for good.
Despite a tense climate in terms of immigration policies, we can say that if it is not in Montreal, then it will be someplace else. It has always been our state of mind since the beginning. We are not the ones you should feel sorry for, as students are having harder times than we are.
Fall, however, offered us a magnificent landscape, which we discovered at Mont Tremblant and which went beyond what we had imagined. If I tell you that I had Pocahontas' song in my head all along our hike "Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest", wouldn’t you believe me? We came back there a few weeks later with Alexandra and Nathan, my best friend and her man. We greatly cherished this reunion, filled with open and respectful discussions. It was important - at least for me - that they could see our life here with their own eyes, because I know that the seed of expatriation has been planted in their heads, and I can only encourage them to live their dreams !
T H E F I R S T N O E L
Even if technically it was our second winter, we had great family holidays, amply deserved, around a beautiful Christmas tree. Seeing again Ariasy, Elvin and Hinata, who traveled from Toronto to Montreal, was amazing. They also had taken the plunge of immigration to Canada, through the Express Entry and the Permanent Residence. So, being the 4 of us, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, within the same year: it was a true blessing! Spiritual moments, Overcooked on the Switch, Christmas movies, Church choir, Sugar shack, Raclette,… all ended up with so many laughs <3
F A M I L Y
For many, distance from family and friends seems to be the worst part of immigration abroad. Obviously, we were not an exception. I personally had the chance to welcome in 2019 many close ones, who came from France to visit us. But that was not the case for Jo, whose family plans to come rather sometime in 2020.
The difference that we noticed on the other hand for us, is the new family that we have here: our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. From Rosemont to Laval, via Ahuntsic, they are our new Family, in Montreal. The ones who, from the first days we arrived, welcomed us, helped us to move in and even fed us with good dishes ^^. The ones who took us on vacation. The ones who lend us their car. The ones who invited us to pray, play, eat and skate. The ones who accompanied us in our efforts to become members of their church. The ones we sang the birth of Jesus with. The ones who continue to exhort us and with whom we communicate, not for our good conscience but because we really need it.
F R I E N D S
Before arriving in Montreal, we said to ourselves "We will not try to stay with French people, on the Plateau district. Why? Because we did not come for that". I can tell you that we held 9 months like this ^^ I thought at the beginning that it was going to be the case with Jo’s acquaintances from his free workshop, back in January 2019, but in the end, the chemistry was really there with other people, in September.
Assistance, pieces of advice, beers (Yes, great first for me!), dancing evenings and other skating nights,... We naturally support each other. After spending the New Year’s Eve together, we spent a full weekend in a cabin at Mont Tremblant and it was great !
J O B S
2019 was the year where a lot happened for Jo. First job in video games, validated trial period, first paid vacations and new responsibilities.
I think 2020, could rather be my year xD See below why
A N Y W A Y S ... !
Once again, we are grateful for this first year spent in Montreal. Not everything is pink or blue, we went through the same difficult times whether we are in France or Canada. We still have a lot to discover, the surroundings but also soon Ottawa. We will welcome Jo's family very soon, and maybe a little dog ...?
The years 2020-22 will focus on our Permanent Residence. It will allow us to get a new 5-year work visa, but there is still a long way to go until then ... :)
Thank you all for your continued support!