Almost six weeks have passed since we arrived in Canada as freshly minted immigrants. “What’s it like?”, people have asked – wondering about the reality of starting a new life in another country. I honestly don’t really know. We’re in transition. Neither here nor there. We’re unknotting Irish ties that have always bound us more tightly than we realised. We’re figuring out how to go about taking up the reins for our Canadian adventure. It all takes time. Even more so with two young children whose needs must be catered for, and who have strong opinions on the new situations they find themselves in.
We’ve been staying in Downtown Montréal – mingling mostly with suits or well-heeled tourists depending on where we wander. We’ve yet to spend much time in the suburbs of Montréal where normal families live their normal lives. Our apartment is adequate, but not a home by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing is child-proofed, nor can we change it to be. We’re living out of suitcases with a few priority air freight items and eating like we’re on a long semi-self-catering holiday. This life is temporary. This is not what living in Montréal will be, and we know it. There are some advantages to our current situation, but we’re anxious to get started into the real thing.
It’s been a strange few weeks of highs and lows, and overwhelming newness. New accommodation, new city, new language, new job; to list but a few. It’s a lot to take in. Meanwhile we’ve still been working through the remainder of what it takes to emigrate from a country. Being a landlord is painful in Dublin – it’s a lot worse doing it remotely and relying on an estate agent to do the job they’re being paid too well to do. On the flip side there have been other agents to deal with in Montréal where we don’t even know when we should chase people to do their job or accept that some things just move slower here. Cultural and social norms can vary greatly in ways that we didn’t expect. We remain ignorant of just how much more we have left to discover about living here, but I’m sure it’s a lot.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to live here, but I can tell you what this transition period is like. Everything is the same as before. I spend the vast majority of the days doing nothing but feeding, cleaning, (re)dressing two children, and hopefully getting them to nap/go to bed eventually. Not quite organised enough to plan grocery shops and meals more than a day or two in advance if I’m lucky. There’s never enough time in the day. Not enough time to sit fully alone and just be me for a few minutes. And yet everything is totally different to before. The weather is more extreme and the food is varied. The shops are unfamiliar and the people on the streets behave in a different manner. It’s chaotic as we all adjust. It’s painful as we discover unexpected extra items to add to the list of administration tasks we must do. It’s frustrating being without the basic items we’re accustomed to, or knowing where to quickly find what we need. It’s fascinating exploring new surroundings and making plans for a future here. It’s fun seeing the city coming to life as summer arrives in fits and starts. Every excursion (should we finally make it out the door) is an adventure in a vibrant and colourful place.
So much time has been taken up with legal obligations and a disheartening search for suitable rental accommodation that it has made taking advantage of this brief spell in the centre of Montréal much more difficult. Yet even shoehorned in between everything else we are seeing a side of Montréal that we won’t experience in quite the same way later. Streets thronged with tourists, restaurants packed as people take advantage of the first sunny evenings of the year. Brightly painted houses of all shapes and sizes nestle amongst greenery and soaring skyscrapers. Quirky sculptures jump out from nooks and corners. Splashes of colour everywhere. The air fills with the rumble of people talking and sometimes halting melodies from the pianos artfully abandoned in the road awaiting public use. Only a fraction of the wonderful and strange sights make their way to Instagram. A teaser of the best the city has offered so far.
Still, overwhelmingly, it feels that we have a house (apartment) here, but not a home. Not yet. That changes very soon and next week our shipping container will be freed from storage to make its way to our new apartment. Finally. It’s been a struggle to find a place to call our home. This one has potential. It lacks many things, but the space inside feels like one we could be at ease in. Once we buy some furniture that is. Much done, much more yet to do. This is the milestone though. Ask me again in another couple of months what it’s actually like to live in Montréal and I just might have an inkling.