Immigrant guide to Quebec — short version

First of all this document does not pertain to be an exhaustive manual on how to pass through the immigration filters, on how to prepare for immigration, on how to go around the existing laws… It will only show to the wannabe-Canadian what to expect in his/her endeavor.

Who should come to Quebec

  • Refugees should come. They probably don’t have a better choice.
  • People from conflict areas should come. They probably don’t have a better opportunity.
  • People who are not doing well in their country of residence because of economical/political turmoil. They probably don’t have a better option.

Who should not come to Quebec

  • Anybody who could make a living of any kind back home.
  • Anybody who could make a living and has some kind of possessions back home.
  • Anybody with education that goes beyond high-school.

And after arrival….

  • You need to speak and understand French. Never-mind the writing, the locals are not doing any better at that either. But you need to have a base in French so you could deal with employers, waiters, cashiers or bus drivers. In any case, the authorities will help you go through French classes that will instill the required minimum.
  • If you are not a refugee from a conflict area or an immigrant from the Third World you have to understand that the overall image of Quebec is completely different from the one portrayed to you in the flyers or the ads you saw in journals or magazines back home.
  • At arrival you will understand immediately your status and your position. The custom/immigration officers will treat you as a possible law offender; later on, the police will have the same attitude towards you in any encounter, either on a routine check on the highway or if your neighbor will call them because you shower too loudly….
  • First thing you will notice is that the cities are undeveloped and they rather look like big villages. No sidewalks, a wrecked downtown, no people on the street, no children playing.
  • The second thing it will pop into your eyes is the high price of every article in the stores. Also, the choice is limited, the quality is questionable. The “imported” beer has another taste. The swiss cheese has a different, diluted taste. Your favorite cigarette brand is something that nobody heard about here. Younger employees in stores have no idea what Marlboro means….
  • The wine you used to buy when you were still back home, for 5 dollars, it’s being sold here for 18 dollars in special stores controlled by the State.


The climate is harsh in the winter, but not only because of the extreme temperatures and the big quantities of snow. The main problem, especially after a few years spent here, is the lack of sunlight. There is a layer of clouds that interposes between the sun and the earth and this rarely goes away.

So, you should expect low illumination from November to April.

In the summertime, things are just slightly better. It is very humid and rainy most of the time.

Social life

Unless you are living in either of the two big cities, you have minimum interactions. Montreal is lively, crowded, dirty, with a hellish traffic, but with all that, because of the foreigners, immigrants or tourists, it has a nicer face after all…. A few years ago, it was really cute and pleasant. Unfortunately, things have changed for the worse. Anyway, it still has a nightlife, bars and stuff.

Quebec city is the second largest, with a european allure. Nice to visit a couple of times, but not more than that.

This is where the urban segment of the Province of Quebec halts. There are many other places the locals call cities, but then again, they probably use a different definition. In my opinion, they are just large villages, with no pedestrians, no sidewalks, no sharply dressed people to go out and all.

The children have no interaction except in school. You will not see groups of kids playing a game in a park, gangs of youngsters talking about girls, or groups of girls hanging together, discussing the latest fad.

You will see nothing of that.

If you were intelligent enough not to come here alone, you will just take your better half to a restaurant in the evening. This is your social life outside of the two main cities.


In Quebec, the mobile phone has been discovered by the masses in 2010. Before that, the usage was limited to managers, doctors, etc., because of the prohibitive prices and lousy service.


You have to understand that your degree or diploma worth nothing in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada, for that matter.

Yes, I know the advertising bait we all swallowed:

“Come to Quebec for a better life, a higher living standard for qualified people, this country needs engineers, professors, doctors…”

…and it probably does need all those qualified folks, but for doing small, poorly-payed jobs. Any kind of job. This is also part of the wrongful immigrant thinking that says one needs to pass through a purifying experience, through a Catharsis of underemployment. But it is not entirely due to that.

As an immigrant you’re not very well seen here, and to get the right position for your qualifications it is impossible. This is why in Montreal your cab driver is possibly your former lawyer or maybe one of your University professors from back home.

Another thing to consider is that here is not the 80’s America! You don’t find jobs around the corner and people willing to give you something to do. The jobs are not that many and they are never in the open. Forget about the old fairy tale of getting a job because you have a degree, experience and you are hard-working!

Welcome to the Networking! Not an open job marked, but a hidden one! The underground of employment. Something we used to call corruption in the old days. Or how else would you define positions occupied by people less qualified than you, less experienced than you, but better at pulling strings? Even the government admits that. Sure they are not immigrants, wha’did’ya think?

Working conditions and benefits

There is no financial compensation for working in a toxic or dangerous environment. Either you are in an office with a coffee machine and air conditioning or you’re washing sheets of metal with toluene, it’s the same. No incentives, no promotions either.

You get two weeks of paid holiday per year, after the first year with a company. That will increase with seniority. In 5 to 7 years that quantum doubles. But ONLY IF YOU STAY IN THE SAME FIRM! If you leave after 7 years, let’s say, you will be starting from scratch in your new working place.

Very few locals take their holidays to travel in the country or abroad. The inhabitants of smaller cities stay home and repair their houses or they do some upgrades of their property. The house is their only fortune in this life and it becomes the very reason of existing.

Except for the Government, the Police, some universities and schools nobody has a pension provided by the employer. For retirement you will be getting a fixed amount from the Federal Government supplemented by whatever you have contributed for the Regie des Rentes du Quebec (RRQ). Around a thousand dollars per month, maybe?

You have the opportunity to save money by yourself or to invest it in a tax free retirement fund. If you have that money, that is. You can see for yourself if you are part of that middle-class bandwagon

Just like in a communist state, being part of the playing band pays off. Working for the Government, the City Hall, the local Police is a lot better that being hired by a company. The salaries are better (sometimes double), the benefits are great! Stay calm though, you would probably never touch any of that.

In the end

If quitting your country is a choice, if you decided to go through the whole immigrating process, even if you already qualify for the preliminary selection… then, think twice! Ponder over your actions, weigh your capabilities, look at the balance of win/lose for the entire outcome.

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