I was blown away by how Montreal has changed to be a happier community.
My first trip to Montreal was for Expo 67 and I have been there many dozens of times since. In the 70’s and early 80’s, I was treated with rudeness and distain as Quebec struggled with identity insecurity, FLQ and separation. As an English speaking person, I was often refused service in stores and looked upon with disdain. In the later 80’s and 90’s as Quebec grew more confident in its own sense of self, people were more eager to take my money, but looked at me with ‘what do I have to do with their own pleasure’, and if the answer was nothing, then I again received a sense of coldness and rudeness. This wasn’t directed solely to me because I was English, but was more of a general attitude no matter whether I was a citizen or a visitor. . This showed up in many ways some subtle and some not whether it was casual encounters or how people drove. No one would dare cross a street without extreme caution and cyclers were few and foolish for putting their lives at risk as Montreal had the reputation of the most aggressive drivers
How Montreal has Changed
It has now been about 10 years since I was last in Montreal and what a difference. People have moved beyond self aware to awareness for the benefit of others. It seems that they have evolved to understand that their happiness is linked to the wellbeing of others in a way that is refreshing and inspiring.
This is most apparent on the public transport where it is normal for the younger or able bodied to offer up their seats to the elderly, pregnant or less able. With my grey hair and yet very able body, I was constantly being offered seating that I would gratefully refuse. (Perhaps my own sense of vanity?) One of the most inspiring examples of this was a mother who coached her young daughter to offer me a seat, something I have not seen in Toronto, New York or other subway cities.
This cultural shift is not restricted to the busses and subway. It is clearly obvious on the streets where there are ample public benches, in the parks, at restaurants and at public gatherings. More impressively, this concern for others shows up with drivers who are attentive to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. I never witnessed a single incident of a pedestrian jumping out of the way of a car and saw many examples of drivers yielding to their right of way even if it is jaywalking. I was shocked and delighted with the contrast to earlier years.
Montreal has come a long way in making itself a happy community.
People have moved past the behavior of looking out for number 1 to where they contribute to their own happiness by taking care of each other. It has become a pedestrian and cyclist friendly city filled with art, parks, statuary, trees, architecture, joi de vivre, and diversity. It is a joyful community where people look out for the wellbeing of others.
I was impressed and other communities can learn a lot from Montreal.