Living in Montreal as an anglophone

by Ana Cruz.

Throughout my four years of University, I was always set on moving to Toronto upon graduation. After all, I’m from London, Ontario. It just made sense to move closer to home and I’ve always been a big city girl so Toronto just seemed like the obvious choice. Then right as I was entering my last year of school, I met Kris.

If you’re not following me on Instagram, you’re probably wondering who I’m referring to. Kris is my boyfriend. He’s 5’6, has amazing hair and is the nicest person I’ve ever known. The only downside? He was living in Montreal when I met him. However, that didn’t stop him from visiting me every single weekend in Ottawa (if that’s not commitment then I don’t know what is). What I thought was going to be a small fling eventually turned into a long distance relationship and when I graduated, Kris asked me to move to Montreal.

Here are the first thoughts that were running through my head when he asked me if I would move in with him:

1. WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF 2. Damn it… I should’ve stayed in French Immersion

3. How am I going to move to a city where I don’t speak the language? 4. I wonder if he would follow me to Toronto…

Disclaimer: I actually did ask Kris to come to Toronto with me but he refused and still refuses to this day.

So eight months later, I collected my diploma, packed my bags and followed my lover to Montreal. I picked up and moved my life to a brand new city with a guy I had only known for eight months. Sounds crazy right? Luckily for me, Kris turned out to be an amazing guy and the complete of opposite of Joe Goldberg (if you know, you know).

The first couple of months that I was in Montreal were the hardest. In fact, that entire first year was hard. I had landed an internship at Groupe Dynamite which was pretty sweet but I was still having a hard time making friends. Kris had introduced me to his friends but I found it difficult to connect with them because of the language barrier. Even with five years of french immersion under my belt, I still couldn’t understand the Quebecer slang and whenever we got together with Kris’ friends, I felt very alienated.

Once my internship ended, I tried to look for a job but couldn’t find anything. I kept getting interviews but was always turned down because my French was not strong enough. Yet again, French was becoming an obstacle for me. I spent an entire month and a half unemployed, sitting on the couch while Kris went to work, miserable. Eventually, I managed to land yet another internship at a social media agency. French wasn’t necessarily required which is one of the reasons that I was able to get the job. Even though I had secured a job, I still felt beaten because I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. After all, the internship was unpaid and the only reason that I had accepted it was because it was all I could get at the time and I was promised a salary after three months.

Those three months ended up flying by and I started feeling a little more confident to carry conversations in my broken French with other people. However, I still felt shy around other Quebecers. I don’t know if it was the number of strange looks I would get whenever I spoke English, or the time that I was at Sport Experts and the cashier’s smile dropped as soon as I started speaking to her in English or if it was all those times when I ordered my food in French and would get a response in English (as if to say, don’t hurt yourself, I speak English). There was just something that I couldn’t shake off.

After my internship, I was able to land a job with Narcity Media. I worked in their sponsored content department as their editor and I was super excited with my new position because everybody was so nice and for the first time in a year, I was finally making my own friends. I wasn’t as intimidated to talk to my colleagues and join in on French conversations as I had been when I first got to Montreal. And then one day, I was on a phone call with a client when yet again, my confidence took a blow.

To give you some perspective, part of my job required me to speak with clients on a daily basis. Knowing that I could not carry on a conversation in French, I would always apologize and ask the client if it was ok to proceed in English. Well, there was one incident where the client responded with “you live in Quebec, you should be speaking in French”. I was hurt, taken by surprise, and frankly, a little annoyed because the person on the other line had no idea who I was or my story. That’s when I realized that I had to get used to people commenting on my English because after all, I was living in Montreal. I could either let it affect me, or move on.

This coming May, I will be celebrating three years living in Montreal. In the last couple of years, I’ve gained a lot of perspective. I’ve realized just how difficult it is to learn a new language at 24 and I’ve gotten used to the fact that I will always have an accent, no matter what. I’ve made new friends, most of who were born and raised in Montreal, and I’m slowly getting more comfortable speaking to other people in French.

While I admit that there are time wheres I still feel alienated, I never feel ashamed. I’m not ashamed that I speak English because I was raised in London, Ontario and after all, it is my first language. The only time you’ll ever find me apologizing is for my accent because tabernak, it’s bad.

It doesn’t matter that my French is not perfect because I’ve already mastered the most important language, and that is friendship. Friendship is a universal language. No matter what language I speak or what language you speak, there’s one thing I know for sure: a glass of wine will always bring people closer together.

Article written by : Ana Cruz

Instagram: @anacruz Ana is a Montreal based content creator & creative director

Pictures taken by: Kristian Cyr

Instagram: @kriscyr