Moving Day: A Montreal Tradition

Last Saturday, Braden and I stopped at a fruit stand to buy some strawberries for dessert on our way home from running a few errands. Apropos of nothing, the vendor asked us, “vous déménagez?”

Huh? Are we moving? No… we are here visiting – we just moved in down the street, we told him. He switched to English and explained: here in Quebec, on Canada Day, everyone moves. The streets will be full of trucks! It’s tradition.

I’m glad we had that conversation, because the next day, we would have been highly confused to see signs of people moving out on literally every street. It looked like a mass exodus. There actually weren’t many trucks – most people were taking the DIY route, stuffing their cars full of household belongings as well as leaving piles of unwanted furniture on the curb. It turns out that with 7% of Montrealers moving on the same day, there aren’t enough moving trucks to go around – you have to reserve a moving truck or hire professional movers six months in advance.

Moving Day has its roots in the province’s colonial past. In 17th- and 18th-century Quebec, there was a fixed date – 1 May – for many legal agreements. It took until the 1970s for the Quebec government to abolish this law for housing leases, and then it moved all existing leases to 1 July because too many kids were being pulled out of school to help their parents move.

THE GUARDIAN | Montreal Moving Day: what happens when a whole city moves house at once?

It seems a bit nutty to me to have everyone move on the same day, but it seems to be a well-loved tradition. Plus, summer would be a popular time to move, anyway – no way would I want to carry furniture down an outdoor metal staircase in the snow and ice.

When it comes to housing, Montreal is known for being one of the cheapest Canadian cities. There’s a culture of renting, with two-thirds of Montrealers renting their homes. Apparently it’s super common for people to move every year, even if it’s just across the street. Another tidbit I learned: security deposits are illegal!

$835: Average spending on housing, including rent, electricity and heat, in the city of Montreal. The average apartment in Montreal has 4.5 rooms, which normally means two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom.

THE GLOBE & MAIL | How does Montreal maintain its enviably low rents?

Compare that to the average rent in Houston of $1401 for a two-bedroom, although you have to take into consideration that most Houston apartments are newer-builds and include amenities like elevators, pools, free parking, and exercise rooms.

We are paying about CAD $1250 for our cute, fully-furnished 2-bedroom apartment off Rue Ste. Catherine. It feels like an absolute steal – that works out to just USD $950 a month! It seems that the odd quirks of Montreal, like Moving Day, add up to make it a very livable and affordable city.

(Photo by Claude Boucher used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

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