12 Uncommon Issues Montreal Does Otherwise Than Different Cities

Anthony Bourdain may have said it best: “This is a great country because of this city. Without Montreal, Canada would be hopeless.” So what is it about Montreal that’s so special and unique? 

Here are 12 things we do differently in Montreal compared to almost every other city.

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We have a metro, not a subway 

We’re the only Canadian city to call our rapid transit system the metro rather than the subway or something else.

But that’s not the only thing that makes our metro unique.

It was the first subway-type system in North America — and possibly the world — to run on rubber tires rather than steel wheels.

According to the CBC Archives, this makes for a quieter, faster ride that can handle slopes better than conventional systems.

The Montreal metro is also known for its architecture — different for every station — and art.

In fact, art accounted for 1% of the overall budget during construction, inspiring the metro in Washington, D.C.

We’re the biggest city in the only Canadian province with French as its sole official language

As much as people love to hate on the “Bonjour-Hi” debacle, it also contributes to the unique tapestry that makes up Montreal culture.

It’s pretty special that our city is so bilingual that each interaction can be in either English or French — and is a nod to the interwoven English and French colonial history that makes us who we are today.

Our dominant style of housing is duplexes and triplexes 

Unlike other Canadian cities, which are dominated by single-family homes and high-rises, Montreal is a city of plexes — duplexes, triplexes, rowhouses and other low-rise multi-unit buildings.

According to Professor David Hanna of UQAM, the plex is a result of a 19th century “marriage of convenience” between French and Scottish traditions, with Scottish immigrants bringing the idea of “stacking one flat on top of another.”

And then there are those ‘twisty deathtrap’ outdoor iron staircases

The reason for those “twisty deathtrap” outdoor iron staircases, as Treehugger so eloquently put it, could be attributed to space-saving, building codes, French-Canadian settlers from the countryside or even an anti-adultery measure.

One thing’s for sure, they are now an iconic aspect of Montreal architecture.

We measure our apartment sizes differently

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As of 2017, 63% of Montrealers rented rather than owned their homes.

But renting a Montreal apartment can be a super confusing process for someone moving from out of town. They’re like, “What the heck is a one-and-a-half?”

Other Canadian cities outside of Quebec break down their apartments by studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, etc.

So it’s kind of like we have our own secret code.

We go to CEGEP 

Only Quebecers know the joys and the struggles of attending a whole other educational institution between high school and university.

People from outside Quebec are also super confused when you tell them you started high school in grade seven and finished in grade eleven.

We feed our squirrels way too much

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In case you haven’t noticed, Montreal squirrels are not normal.

They are overfed, chunky as heck, too friendly and too confident. As a result, they’re also quite destructive and are hazardous to properties and electrical wires.

As CBC put it, “Who runs the world [in Montreal]? Squirrels.”

Do not feed nor trust the squirrels!

We have one of the highest rates of restaurants per capita in all of North America

While the city with the most restaurants per capita in North America is up for debate, some sources claim it’s Montreal.

And even if Montreal isn’t number one, it’s certainly up there.

We pronounce the letter ‘A’ differently

Talk to people from other parts of Canada, and you’ll find out anglo Montrealers have an accent.

We favour the “soft a” over the “hard a.” So when we say “Barry” or “camp,” it doesn’t sound like “Berry,” “cemp.” That’s not true of our neighbours in Ontario.

We DGAF about snow

Snow does not impede our lives. Yes, this is true in other parts of Canada. But there’s something about Montrealers’ ability to go about our day-to-day routines as normal, without doing anything different to alleviate the huge mounds of snow and ice that have overtaken our paths.

Shovel? Why shovel when you can just drive right over it?

We’re sex-positive 

This is evidenced by the strip clubs, burlesque theatres and erotic cinemas that are part of the city’s fabric.

There are not many other cities that would give the Café Cléopâtre sign special protection, as a piece of our landscape heritage.

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