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From Montreal, avec amour

February 9, 2024

3 -min read
Young man poses in front of Montreal sign, giving two thumbs up.

The late Anthony Bourdain once commented, “[w]ithout Montreal, Canada would be hopeless. It’s where the cool kids hang.” We think Canada is a wonderful country all around—from its breathtaking natural beauty to its incredibly diverse cosmopolitan cities—but there’s no denying that Montreal possesses a special je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from other urban centers like Toronto and Vancouver.

Montreal is located in the south of Quebec, Canada’s French-speaking province, and is the country’s second-largest city by population. Just a stone’s throw away from Vermont and upstate New York, the city’s subtle European vibe makes it a popular tourist destination, especially during the warm summer months.

But Montreal is much more than Poutine and French colonial architecture. With Canada’s second-largest economy, it’s also a thriving center of industry and commerce. As such, it’s an attractive location for many Work & Travel Canada and Work & Travel Canada Young Professional program participants. 

Young woman in red scarf walks through snow-covered park in Montreal.
Molly recommends taking advantage of the government’s free French classes.

Here are answers to a few of the most common questions from those interested in exploring the MTL.

Can I work in Montreal through the InterExchange Work & Travel Canada programs?

Absolutely! The International Experience Canada (IEC) program administers the Working Holiday and Young Professional visas. It provides Americans aged 18-35 with a Canadian work permit that is valid in all of the country’s provinces and territories, including Quebec.

Is the culture really that different from the USA?

There’s a common misconception that U.S. and Canadian cultures are one and the same. This is certainly not the case in Montreal! 

Kentucky native Rima is especially fond of the city’s world-class art museums and the trendy Griffintown neighborhood. She also adds, “Mount Royal is not to be missed. Once you go up and see the view, it’s incredible, and especially stunning in the fall.” 

Jesus, originally from Connecticut, has also immersed himself in the city’s flourishing art scene and finds Montreal’s street art particularly impressive.

InterExchange participant Molly is partial to the hip Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood and sings Montreal’s praises as a pleasantly walkable city with a thriving LGBTQ+ community. “Montreal is a multicultural and open-minded place,” she says, adding, “There’s always something going on, but it’s not overwhelming.”

Smiling young woman in sunglasses overlooks autumn foliage in Parc national du Mont-Orford, Quebec.
Rima recommends the nearby Parc national du Mont-Orford for hiking.

Is this program only for U.S. citizens?

Although InterExchange can only enroll U.S. citizens, the IEC program aims to attract young people from around the world interested in a short-term Canadian work visa. As participant Katya observed, “Montreal is a thriving multilingual and multicultural city. I hear Arabic, Ukrainian, Spanish, and Portuguese, for example, every time I walk down the street.” 

This diversity is also reflected in the makeup of the IEC program itself. In fact, our participant Rima and her boyfriend from France are both on Working Holiday visas, establishing Montreal as a hub of connection for the english- and french-speaking world.

Do I need to know French to work in Montreal?

The short answer is yes. You can get around as a tourist with only rudimentary French skills. Still, an intermediate or advanced level of the language is almost always necessary to carry out the day-to-day tasks of a work environment. Katya explains that “the more French you know, the more competitive you will be in the job market.” In fact, a law was passed in 1977 making French the official language of business in Quebec. But don’t worry, the Quebecois government offers French courses to help you improve your speaking and comprehension skills.

Like many others, participant Jesus utilizes apps like Duolingo to keep his French on point but notes that the colloquial Quebecois language is a bit different from what you’d likely hear on the streets of Paris.

Smiling young man visits Montreal's old port with ferris wheel in background.
Jesus visits the city’s Old Port, with la Grande Roue de Montréal in the background.

How do I apply?

Visit our Work & Travel Canada and Work & Travel Canada Young Professional pages to learn more and sign up. Space is limited, so be sure to act soon!

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A fan of independent cinema and proponent of the Oxford comma, Matthew began his career at a Miami-based tech startup before returning to West Virginia University to pursue his M.A. in World Languages. He has worked at InterExchange since 2006 and currently serves as a Brand Marketing Manager.

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