Starting off the day with a "Bonjour" and a "Merci" is certainly unexpected in North America, but on the island of Mont Royal (yes, Montreal is an island) it's the perfect place to brush off and practice your college Francais.
Montreal is unique. Located in Canada's largest province of Quebec, this city stands out as a financial, fashion, and cultural hotbed. And while Europeans may not think twice at conversing in various languages during their inter-country travels, most traveling North Americans are accustomed to hearing/speaking their native English tongue, although Spanish is undoubtedly on the rise. However, amidst this geographically tiny, yet vibrant section of Quebec is one of the largest French speaking areas in the world, 70 percent of Montreal's population (1.5MM) are "Francophones", or French speaking.
Travelers unlearned in the French language need not worry, however. While interpreting the occasional street-sign may present a minor challenge (most include both French and English translations), nearly all residents are well versed in English, and most speak it as well (if not better) than U.S. citizens.
Locals are proud of their French heritage, yet readily adopt and borrow customs and practices from their English-speaking neighbors. For example, all downtown Montreal restaurants, bars, and public places recently banned smoking. Can you imagine puff-happy Paris following suit? At Montreal's prestigious McGill University coeds are more apt to don common U.S. campus-wear such as flip-flops and sweatshirts than the more formal Parisian attire. And, American-style football competes with hockey as the preferred spectator sport, not soccer.
Of course, in this neck of the woods hockey is more than just an athletic event, it's part of the Canadian culture, especially in Montreal. And why not? The Montreal Canadiens are the oldest established National Hockey League (NHL) franchise and the second most winning professional sports club in all of North America (NY Yankees are #1). The Canadiens have racked up 24 Stanley Cup trophies, more than any other hockey team. The spelling of their team name, "Canadiens" instead of "Canadians", is a tribute to the region's French heritage; and the club's nickname (the "Habs") is short for the French term "Les Habitants", chosen by early settlers of the Quebec region to describe themselves.
As a temporary inhabitant of Montreal, you will find a number of worthwhile diversions, such as historical attractions, fine dining establishments, unique festivals, and impressive nightlife. And, of course, we have your athletic-minded pursuits covered as well.