RE. Tech writing in Montreal?

Subject: RE. Tech writing in Montreal?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 08:52:28 -0400

Bob Goulder has been <<...offered a long term contract position in Montreal.
I would like opinions on what it is like to exist there.>>

Don't know what it's like to _exist_ here, but I'd have to say it's a great
city to _live_ in. <g> You don't say where you'd be coming from, so I have
no idea what kind of culture shock you're in for, but a few pointers:

Language: About the only time I feel any strong linguistic tension is when
the local hockey team (Montreal Canadiens) loses to our archrivals down the
road (Toronto Maple Leafs), and occasionally just before an election, when
the demagogues who run the PQ (our current, officially separatist
government) pump up the rhetoric. Language tensions are largely an artefact
of the government, not the people, though there are a few badge-wearing
language loonies here too. (Unlike in many other large cities, they don't
usually carry weapons. Montreal is a surprisingly safe city given its size.)
You can get buy easily enough in English, though French helps. (And how hard
can French be? After all, it's just English with a bunch of accented
letters, right? <g> Seriously, though, if you're immigrating from the States
and perhaps even from the rest of Canada, it's worth learning. Particularly
since the government will pay for your French instruction. Can't beat that!)

Culture: You get the best of both worlds (Anglo and Franco), which many
consider to be the equivalent of heading over to Europe without the hassle
of converting dollars to Euros. <g> We've got great parks, decent museums,
tons of bookstores, classic and modern theatre (including our annual binge
of Shakespeare in the Park), performance art, poetry slams, bars that
seemingly never close, the usual movies (in both languages, if bad
translations amuse you), and all kinds of hi- and lo-tech attractions. And
if you like dining, we've got an amazing array of restaurants.

Education: Two English universities (one world-class) with tuition costing
less than your textbook bill at a typical American state college. (OK, so I
exaggerate a bit. Just a bit. <g>) Good French universities too, of course,
though I can't comment on their quality from firsthand knowledge. All kinds
of technical colleges. One thing that might concern you: if neither you nor
your significant other were educated in English in Quebec, your kids can't
legally attend English school (even if you're American). So you're stuck
with either putting your kids into immersion, or home-schooling them. Yes,
that's primitive and fascist (to be polite).

Work: Lots of different options, from computer and software companies to
pharmaceutical and biotech, plus a few corporate head offices worth looking
at. Freelancers hereabouts never seem to want for work either. Unlike other
hotbeds of techwhirling, I don't hear about Montreal writers living in their
cubicles. Some of my colleagues put in pretty long hours around deadline
time, but the pressure seems to be far less than what I've heard about (say)
Silicon Valley. Pay is lower and taxes higher than in many other areas, but
the tradeoff is an enormously lower cost of living. A friend who just sold
her small house in the Valley area for $500K U.S. could have bought the same
house here for about 20% that price. Rents scale down comparably. I was
recently offered roughly three times my current salary (after converting
back to $Can.) by a Bay-area recruiter, but preliminary investigations of
living costs thereabouts suggest I'd have to accept a cut in my standard of
living. I'm not tempted.

Do I like Montreal? I spent nearly 15 years in several other very nice
places, but don't regret coming home for a moment, even when I read about
another government idiocy in the morning paper.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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