If you're new to this blog you might not know how much I love Montreal. The answer is a lot a lot a lot. The cool thing is, it's been a relationship just like any other - that has taken work. When I moved here in 2008 I left my whole reality behind. My family, friends, language, and small, comfortable town. Sure some people speak English here, and my family and friends have visited, but I knew if I was to fully love my city, there was no looking back. Today, you couldn't pay me to move to a suburb, the country, a small town, nor another great city (though Vancouver and New York are my two favourites, other than Montreal, to date).
Montreal is my heart and my home. The city is my heart and my home. But this love affair took time and work.
If you live in a city, particularly if you're there to make a difference, I'd say it's imperative that you learn to fall in love with your city. If you don't - the hard times will surely come and harden your heart to that place. Like any place, really, but the City is a place of extremes and likely has more Hard and Marvelous, both at once.
1. Know the geography well.
My first year in Montreal I rarely left my small borough and it's no surprise that I had a vapid opinion of the city. Study a map, explore on your days off, get up and out! I gradually gained more ownership of the city when I knew my way around.
2. Ride public transit.
Over 50% of Montrealers ride public transit to work, and many hot spots don't even state their intersections but rather the closest metro stop to their establishment. Riding the subway or bus will get you all over your city quickly and help you learn the lay of the land. You'll realize that whole neighbourhoods revolve around one metro station, and each one has it's own vibe, unique to the borough.
|riding the Metro with friends (and kids!), 2012|
3. Speak the language.
For me, this meant learning French when I moved to Montreal, but it's also in the way we speak. Does your city have any catch phrases or slang that only the insiders use? Learn them and use them! If you're around natives of that city enough, their accents will rub off on you too. Just listen to my voice after two months in Louisville, KY. #accidentalsoutherntwang
4. Cheer for the sports teams!
This one is fun and easy if you're already a sports fan (and in my case I was lucky enough to move to Montreal, already a Habs fan), but it's still really important. Sports are such a central theme in all great cities and they sweep across boundaries of age, gender, and socioeconomic status. I'm often thankful we don't live in a city where baseball is popular (we don't even have a pro team!) because I don't love the sport, and I'm convinced that if we did, I'd have to learn a thing or two as one way to love and be a part of my city.
|Canadiens game at Centre Bell, 2009|
5. Stick around.
My first year in Montreal we went home very often. I was homesick, a newlywed, and felt very alone. I think that's understandable, but as time has passed we've learned the importance of being a physical presence in the city you love. You can only practically love and serve a city that you're dwelling in. Last year was big for us - we spent our first Christmas in Montreal. We went for a walk on Christmas day in the snow with our children and greeted our neighbours with cookies. We did miss our families but we'd celebrated with them earlier in the month and of course still made phone calls of glad tidings. The correlation is hard to ignore - the longer we are here, the more we love it. The less we're present, the more our minds are elsewhere.
head on over top read part 2.