Mr. Stephan Pastis
Cartoonist, Pearls Before Swine
San Francisco (soon to be Montreal)
Dear Mr. Pastis,
This past weekend your relocation plans were made public to Montrealers in Bill Brownstein’s piece in The Gazette. We Montrealers are a proud lot, so your decision to move to our great city is a pleasure to behold.
Anyone moving to a new city, let alone a new country, can use a few pointers to help fit in. Just as your current city San Francisco is more than mere trolley cars and Rice-A-Roni, Montreal is much more than smoked meat and bagels. With making your transition as smooth as possible in mind, I thought I’d put together a handful of tips (fingertips?) that may give you a leg up.
Right off the bat we have the matter of how to correctly pronounce the name of your new home in English. Although spelled Mon-treal, we English-speaking locals say Mun-treal. Think of MissourA, CincinnatA and BalMORE and you get an idea of the kind of twists folks put on their city’s name. Those saying they live in Mohn-tree-all are easily singled out as newcomers or lying visitors!
We are a bilingual city (shhhh … don’t say that too loudly, true though it is, it irks some people that we are not, in fact, solely French). You will, I imagine, want to immerse yourself in that warm linguistic pond. Take a French class by all means. But don’t be surprised if you rarely get a chance to use it. You see with so many fluently bilingual people, folks tend to switch to your language when you make an effort to speak in theirs. But making that effort is the key! By the way, you are no longer English, nor English-speaking, you are an Anglophone. English people come from England, Quebec residents who speak English are called Anglophones, or Blokes, or worse.
Our police officers and firefighters are in an almost perpetual state of conflict with the City Brass. However, having been deemed essential services, they cannot go on strike. To express their crankiness, they festoon their vehicles with stickers and wear camouflage pants. Pink if available. Evidently the logic is that by making themselves look like arseholes, they’ll make the city look likewise. I hope they don’t up the ante and turn to self-mutilation in an attempt to show up the city.
The unofficial start of summer in Montreal is the annual visit of the circus known as Formula One. It’s loud and crowded, but this event pumps millions of dollars into our economy. We have added a bit of local flavoring to the actual Grand Prix race with the introduction of bicycles. Naturally being Montreal cyclists they go in the opposite direction to the race cars and swear at the drivers who complain – were there sidewalks on an F1 circuit you know they’d be on them too.
While the rest of the country (or ROC – Rest Of Canada – as you will come to know it) sits around on July 1st celebrating the nation’s birthday, many in Montreal move house – traditionally leases end on June 30th. Both festivities involve the consumption of beer and groups of people hanging off vehicles as they make their way down the street. Speaking of beer, don’t forget our higher alcohol levels, the cause of the downfall of more than one US tourist I can assure you.
When you go to a restaurant or bar, and it comes time to leave don’t ask for the check. Checks, or cheques, are for cashing, they provide you with money. What you want is your bill. Bills are for paying. And very importantly, you will notice at the bottom of your bill an amount referred to as TPS. This is not a misprint for tip, but a tax; we like tax here. Tips are expected, but are rarely included in the bill. Friends of mine in the service industry tell me there are two types of American tippers: those who don’t, and those who go overboard. Here’s hoping you’re the latter!
Finally there is the question of religion. While the world is in the grips of umpteen wars and terrorist situations fueled by religious fanatics, we long ago solved the problem. While you will find worshipers of every deity under the sun – and a few under the moon – in Montreal, there really is only one religion: hockey.
Welcome to Montreal!