I don’t speak French, but when I visited Montreal for the first time this summer, I was completely immersed in a French-speaking environment. I couldn’t tell the difference between tourists or local people because the only language I heard on the street was French. Montreal’s cityscape – with its old sandstone churches, Victorian buildings and storefront patio restaurants — seems European to me, rather than North American.
Americans often seem to think of Canada as another state in their country, rather than a foreign country. Canadian students who study in the U.S. don’t consider themselves international students. However, I saw lots of differences between the two cultures.
Quebecois are proud of their French heritage. Many places are named after saints, so the road names tend to be very long. If I didn’t look Asian, the waitresses or the cashiers wouldn’t have spoken to me in accented English.
Montreal is a biker-friendly city. Many residents ride bikes instead of driving cars. In Montreal, you can borrow bikes right on the street from the public bike racks which are all digitally programed. Once you start the rental, the digital timer also begins. All the bikes have a global positioning system. So it’s easy to locate the lost bike. You can return the bike anywhere in the city. I heard this bike rental system is similar to that in France. No matter subway or buses, Montreal provides very good public transportation. I think this is what most American cities lack.
Perhaps because more people choose to ride bikes or walk, Montrealers are quite fit. During my three-day visit, I saw only a few overweight people on the street – unlike America where almost everyone is overweight. There were lots of young people in Montreal, thanks to several big universities like McGill and Concordia in the city. The nightlife flourished in summertime with visitors from everywhere.
Montreal is like a little Paris in North America during summer. All kinds of festivals are held one after another. While I was there, the Comedy Festival was on. Street performers played music and told jokes in public. Some even entertained the passersby through games. It was so much fun. I think I will return to Montreal for a long stay next time.