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The most important thing that expats planning on working in Montreal should know is that the official language of business and daily life is Quebec French. While the city does have a significant number of anglophone residents, they only account for a small portion of its population.
The unique culture and politics of the wider Quebec province impact workers in the city in other ways, aside from language. While city residents generally have access to more state benefits than elsewhere in Canada, the average salary in Montreal is lower than that of other major cities. Taxes also tend to be higher. Expats interested in starting a business in Montreal will also face more government intervention and bureaucracy to contend with than elsewhere.
Job market in Montreal
Montreal’s economy remains one of the largest among Canadian cities. Some of its main industries include electronics, aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), and textile manufacturing. The city also has a strong service industry.
Montreal strives for innovation and creativity. Higher education is another key sector, with multiple universities serving the city, as well as research and development of artificial intelligence. The city is a cultural hub and is well known as a centre for film and video game production.
Finding a job in Montreal
Most expats who relocate to Montreal do so having already secured a position. In many cases, they are transferred by the company to an office in Quebec. For those who haven't secured a job, the best place to start the search would be online. Company websites and job portals are a useful source of information. The classified sections of online newspapers also have listings of job opportunities.
City residents have a legal right to be served in French, making it far more difficult for an expat who does not speak French to find a job in Montreal. There are part-time opportunities for foreign students studying at one of the city’s universities, such as McGill University, but it would still be easier to find employment if they speak the language.
English-speaking expats who don’t have any networks in the city are advised to start French lessons as soon as possible and to secure a job before they arrive. Many of the positions available in Montreal require their candidates to be able to speak, read and write in French.
There are, however, programmes aimed at migrants who are unable to speak French. Several non-profit organisations, such as YES Employment + Entrepreneurship, assist with finding employment and starting businesses.
Expats wanting to work in Montreal must have permanent residence or a work permit for Canada, as well as meet the selection requirements of the Government of Quebec. The Quebec Government is able to select which applicants can apply to the Canadian government for permanent residence in the province. Successful applicants will receive the Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), an official document for immigration.
Work culture in Montreal
Broadly speaking, Montreal has an interesting mixture of Canadian working culture and European influences. People in the city tend to be fairly fashion conscious both in work and in public life. More vibrant offices have casual dress codes but, even then, collared shirts are common. In more formal business environments people opt for a conservative yet stylish dress code.
There is a widespread emphasis on individualism and equality, but some firms more closely resemble the elaborate hierarchies found in larger, more traditional European corporations.
Typical business hours in the city are from 9am to 5pm and sometimes 7pm, from Monday to Friday. By law, local stores are allowed to be open from 9am to 9pm during the week, and 9am to 5pm on weekends. Getting to one's office should not be a problem as the public transport system is excellent in Montreal.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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