You Have Questions? We Have Answers
Instead of just the usual update on how things are going, I'll first address some of the topics I've been asked about.
First question was: what are the grocery stores like? Answer: not great. In Atlanta, we were used to enormous and pretty clean grocery stores filled with virtually everything all in one store. Here? Not so much. The grocery stores are mostly small (and not particularly clean), but even the bigger ones in more suburban areas are fairly disappointing. First and foremost, groceries here are incredibly expensive compared to the U.S. I haven't figured out why, since most of the products seem to be Canadian-made, but every person I've spoken to about food here has been quick to say, "Yeah, food here is really expensive." One told me she pretty much burst into tears when she went to her first Trader Joe's on a visit to the states when she saw how cheap it was to buy organic food. But second of all, the major grocery stores just don't have the same types of endless options we have in the U.S. There aren't 14 different brands of canned tomatoes or 9 different brands of paper towels. Lots of brands I was used to simply don't exist here. So it's a matter of trial and error to find new products we like. But also, even in a major grocery store, you're just not going to find everything you're looking for all in one store-- especially when there's a specific somewhat "unusual" (translation: ethnic) ingredient you're looking for. Fortunately, because of the diversity of Montreal, there are lots of Asian markets and Eastern European markets, so you can find what you need-- you just probably will have to go to several places to get everything you want. For us, we've also decided to take the incredibly lazy route of just ordering most of our groceries online, letting the employees shop for us, and then just picking it up. We also joined a local subscription company that has rooftop farms in town growing produce where we can order what we want and pick it up down the block from our apartment.
Second question was about whether businesses here seem more environmentally conscious. The answer: somewhat-- but really it's more that the people seem more environmentally conscious. Most noticeably, people always carry their own reusable bags. Most stores charge you if you want to use their plastic bags (about 8-10 cents per bag), but I almost never see people buy them. In the cafe where I work, we serve freshly-prepared lunch everyday in take-away containers, but several of our regular customers bring their own containers to fill instead of using up disposable containers. A lot of them bring their own personal coffee mugs to fill. There are recycling cans next to every garbage can you see in the city. There are lots of television commercials about recycling electronics and light bulbs. There are also commercials reminding people to vaccinate their children (yay for science being real!), but that's a different topic.
If you want to know about other stuff, please ask. OK, on to our update:
We finally had our first legitimate snowfall yesterday. One that stuck to the ground and forced me to take my snow boots out of the box. Shockingly, it did not result in the entire city shutting down (I'm looking at you, Atlanta). The buses ran as usual (I take buses now! It's a whole new me), and just as many people were outside on the street. It's already starting to melt since the temperature isn't that low, but it was a good first snow experience before shit gets real.
I finally got my car registered after 3 months of inspections and paperwork and border crossings, and was gifted the surprise of not having to pay any import taxes on the car after expecting to have to cough up thousands of dollars. My new license plate is officially on my car.
I also got my medical card so that I can finally take advantage of all that free health care I've heard so much about. I'd show you but my photo on it is hideous.
Another fun thing we learned is that even though Canadian Thanksgiving was back in October, they still do Black Friday here on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving. What I've been told is that they have the same kinds of big sales, but way less trampling of people in stores. Also, I've seen signs calling it "Vendredi Fou" which translates into "Crazy Friday". Much more apt, I think.
As for work, things still seem to be going well and the people I work with are all very nice. I'm also at the point where I'm not sure how much longer I will continue working since I need to sign up for French classes soon. While working has certainly improved my French to an extent, there's only so far it can go without actual instruction. I understand a lot more than I used to, so what happens is: they ask questions in French, I mostly understand, but have to answer them in English. And also my ego prevents me from admitting to people when I don't actually understand them completely, so instead they probably just think I'm dumb. The problem I'm having is that the overlaps in French class times and my work hours mean I likely can't do both at the same time. And while the money I make isn't much, I'm actually enjoying the job. Who wouldn't enjoy working around all these pastries?