As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Ana: from the hot Alicante to the freezy Canada
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hi! I’m Ana, and I’m a translator from Alicante, a small city on the southeast coast of Spain, right on the Mediterranean sea. I love languages (I’m currently working on German (C2) and French (B2) and I’m having some fun with Welsh (complete beginner!)), reading, comics, fiction podcasts, and winter sports.
My plans for the future aren’t clear, to be quite honest, but I intend on going back to Spain by the end of the year and maybe become a freelance translator (we’ll see what covid-19 has to say on the matter haha).
Why did you move to your current country?
I had wanted to visit Canada for many years, but seeing something as a tourist is way less interesting to me than living there, getting to know the culture and the people. So far I have lived in several places for a short period (from one month to one year): Belgium, the UK and Germany, and that’s the experience I wanted. Besides, I wanted to practice my French, but I wasn’t brave enough to move somewhere French was the only language spoken (I had a difficult experience in Germany), so that’s how I decided on Montreal.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I am a proof-reader and a translator, but I have worked in several areas as a teacher, a minute taker and a document drafter. The job market in Montreal is very dynamic and there are many opportunities (some better than others but there are many available jobs). I found a job quite fast as a video game localisation tester (I proofread videogames that have been translated into Spanish by playing them and ensuring everything works in the target language from all points of view). This job gives me a lot of flexibility to travel around the country (even if I haven’t been doing a lot of travelling due to covid-19!). The pages I used to find a job were: https://www.jobillico.com/ and https://ca.indeed.com/?from=gnav-jobsearch–jasx
Volunteering here is more structured than in Spain, as it actually counts as work experience in your CV. I have been trying to find volunteering opportunities, but I haven’t had any luck yet! You can find all types of offers here: http://cabm.net/. An important thing is that to find a job in Montreal, you’ll often have to be fluent in both French and English!
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Montreal is a big city with all kinds of people from all over the world. There are activities for everybody. I personally met people in a skating class and a French class. You can also meet people at work, volunteering, or through language exchanges (not only French and English, you can practice any language ever here). I haven’t had luck in meeting Canadians, though! Most of my friends are expats like me.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
Montreal is a wonderful city. It’s impossible to be bored here. There are all kinds of events all the time, many activities, cultural attractions and fun things to do! It’s also cheaper compared to other Canadian cities (Toronto or Vancouver). It’s beautiful all year round, has many parks and green areas. It’s also such a multicultural city. If you like trying different types of food, you’ll be spoiled for choice! You can find anything here. And people are just super nice.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
First join the Facebook group for your community in the city (there is one for sure). It will help you find similar experiences to yours, solve doubts (even before coming), and meet people. The Spanish group is quite active! For buying or finding anything, from a house to second-hand winter clothes, Kijiji is the place to go in Canada. It’s also very easy to use! And don’t forget to tip at the restaurants!
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
This is tricky, because in Canada it depends on the region. Anyway, with an open work permit like the working holiday visa, you have to come with private insurance or you won’t be allowed into the country. In Quebec, you’re technically eligible for the health care system after three months of work, but I haven’t had to rely on it and I’m not sure how it works.
On safety, Montreal is a very safe city. I haven’t been scared walking at night. One thing that surprised me is how everybody just leaves their bags and their things next to the rink while skating, for instance. In Spain (and anywhere) I’d be scared of somebody stealing my bag!
I’d point out not to walk, especially at night, unless you know for sure the path is clear since half the roads in Montreal are being renovated at all times and it may take twice as long as Google told you!
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
Canada is more expensive than Spain, but Montreal is quite affordable in some aspects, especially rent. I pay 550$ a month all bills included (about 350€) for a room in a cute house in a very nice neighbourhood. Five minutes walking to the metro and the bus, 20 minutes by metro to the city centre. Public transport is 86.50$ for the monthly pass (there are special fees for students though). For food, it depends, of course! Eating out is more expensive than in Spain (I just paid 30$ for a medium pizza and chicken wings). I spend around 100$ a week in groceries, but I’m also trying to buy local products from small producers, so it tends to be more expensive.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
There are some differences that can be grating at first, like the fact that taxes are added at the counter, so you never know exactly what you’ll be paying for the things you buy until you actually pay for them (unless you’re very good at math which I’m certainly not). Same with tips: they are mandatory, so you’ll always have to add about 15% to your bill in most restaurants (and then taxes! I just never know what I’ll be paying haha).
The cold would be an issue for most people. It wasn’t for me, as I love winter and snow, but this last winter was the warmest here ever and we still got to -25ºC several times. Learning how to dress for that was a bit annoying at first (so many layers!)
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
Climbing the Mont-Royal is a must. The views of the city and the river are wonderful. Besides, if you go in the winter you can do cross-country skiing and go ice skating at the top. Actually, ice skating in actual frozen ponds around the city is one of the coolest things ever! Montreal has some beautiful churches I wouldn’t miss (Marie Reine du Monde, Notre Dame, and Saint Patrick are my favourite). If you like sports, a hockey game at the Centre Bell is also an experience I wouldn’t miss.
Did you find Ana’s experience useful? Then check out the other upcoming expat interviews in other cities!