How the Québec weather made me appreciate life

Montreal winter

When you live in the tropics, life is easy. I am not thinking about economic development or politics, but the sweet weather all year long. Be it December or June, it’s easy to wake up, pick a t-shirt and only worry if it’s rainy or hot.

Those are my memories from Antananarivo, Madagascar or Nairobi, Kenya. Of course, there were chilly nights, rain that would last throughout the day, or a hot sun that would darken your skin for a few days. That was all though. When I think about it, the weather didn’t matter.

Even in France, I only made the difference between winter and summer. In December, you’d take your fashionable jacket from the closet, with occasional leather gloves. Friends would also get a scarf. When it snowed, it always made the news, but you learn that snow never lasts more than a few hours in a country like France.

What did spring mean back then? It’s mentioned in literature to recall love and renewal. Fall was for horror movies or memories of past life.

For cities like New York city, Tokyo or Berlin, I am sure the sentiment is the same towards the weather.

In Québec and in Canada, weather regulates people’s mind. It’s everyone’s boss and has deep impacts in business, economics of love or work & play patterns.

Winter brings in Québec the tragedy of extreme cold and mountains of snow. Temperatures as low as -35C come often each year. You can see your own breath, you feel the inside of your nose and throat freeze, and it’s an exercise to walk on dark ice. Fortunately, days around -15C are more common.

Consequences are vast. You can’t just stroll around or take your time to discuss in the streets. Winter is the season where Montrealers work and try to be efficient at what they are doing. If you want to go outside for fresh air, it’s a deliberate and well-planned outing, with proper equipment and timing. Cars have winter tires. People have real winter coats, a tuque, winter boots and other layers of warm clothing. And when not outside, a Montrealer is a refugee in his office or home, with heaters at full capacity, and all the comforts of modern 21st technology.

Summer brings heat waves. It’s around 30C, and sometimes humidity raises through the roof. If you’ve been to a tropical forest near the equator, such as central America or Congo, it’s the same sensation. A shower is welcomed every 3 hours.

What does 30C weather bring to the city? Montrealers have learned that you have to make the most of good weather, so music & art festivals are lined-up during the summer. The respectable Montrealer learns how be nonchalant on a Mont-Royal terrace. Friends mention sailing in a lake nearby while American and Chinese tourists flock streets. It’s an atmosphere like a popular Brazilian destination.

And between the two, we have the beautiful seasons of spring and fall.

Spring extends the days and melts the snow that was covering the ground, bushes and trees. It’s a slow revival that brings the sometimes foul but often beautiful smell of the nature coming back to life. With temperatures bouncing back between -5C to 15C, you see for the first time young girls in skirts or students chanting in the streets. There are couples with new love or animals like squirrels which have been hiding for most of the winter. A true revival.

Fall signals the end of the party. Days are shorter, and the color palette turns to shades of grey and brown. It’s also the time where students go back to school, or workers come back from holidays.

With its four distinct seasons, one begins to appreciate the season cycle. Birth. Life. Decline. Death. It brings raw emotions and makes you feel alive, either as a survivor in winter or as a hedonist in summer.

And ladies and gentlemen, that’s why I love the Montreal weather, any time of the year.

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