Digital nomads on a Working Holiday in Quebec

  • digital nomads in Canada
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  • living in Canada
    ©Planete3w
  • expats in Canada
    ©Planete3w
Interview
Published last month

Elodie and Thomas are digital nomads who come from Lille. Their passion for travelling led them to a world tour in October 2016 which included Asia, Australia, and South America. Today, they live in Quebec, Canada on a Working Holiday Visa. They spoke to Expat.com about their adventures, their everyday life in Montreal, and their long-term plans.

Hi Elodie and Thomas, please tell us about you.

We're in our thirties, and we come from Lille, France. We love travelling and tech. Elodie works in digital communication while Thomas is a web developer. Thomas is the calm type, and Elodie is full of energy – so we kind of complete each other.

We travelled a lot before moving to Canada on a Working Holiday Visa. At first, we used to take holiday trips, then one day we decided to go on a world tour for a whole year. From October 2016 to October 2017, we saw a lot of Asia, Australia, and South America. It was also the time when we started questioning ourselves about our long-term plans – whether we really wished to get back to our good old lives following this wonderful adventure. The answer was clearly no! It took us a second three-months trip to Asia to realise it.

Our new goal became to travel and discover new countries and their cultures, and this is how we came to Canada. Quebec especially has a dynamic labour market with opportunities for all in a range of fields.

During our trips, we also created a blog (it's in French only) where we share our adventures, findings, useful tips, and our mishaps which are many, unfortunately. We also talk about our Canada Working Holiday Visa.

How did you convert to digital nomadism?

Elodie had it on her mind since long, so we didn't even think twice before seizing the opportunity. We're lucky to be able to combine our work with our travel enthusiasm.

We would say freedom is what we were really looking for in the end. We wanted to be free to travel and work at our own pace. We chose Asia, especially for its pleasant climate compared to cold winters in Europe. We could thus plan our days and schedule – whether we prefered to work in the morning or after taking a stroll around the city and spending a couple of hours at the swimming pool. We could choose our clients and work. That's like a dream come true!

How long have you been in Canada?

We came here in May 2018, so it's been five months. However, we still feel like travellers in Montreal since we're exploring the city slowly. There are beautiful neighbourhoods here like Vieux Montreal and Plateau Mont Royal with its small but lively streets.

Quebec landscapes
©Planete3w

What brought you to Montreal?

Montreal is a fantastic place that looks like a big city in the US but has dozens of small and authentic neighbourhoods, each one with their own style. We chose Montreal for its diversity and the opportunities available. It's straightforward to find a job here, like Thomas who works in the IT sector.

Montreal is a lively city where there's a lot to see and to do. The weekends, there is always a special event or a festival going on. Also, Montreal is a bilingual city where it's not hard to adapt.

What was the process to obtain the Canada Working-Holiday visa?

It's a matter of luck. Every year, there's a lucky draw for those who wish to move to Canada on a Working Holiday Visa. In general, what you need is to meet relating conditions, fill in the online application form, and pay the CA$ 226 fees.

Once you get the good news, you just have to complete your application, make sure you have a valid passport and sufficient funds (at least 5,000 euros) and subscribe for WHV insurance. It's just some paperwork.

Tell us about what you like and dislike about Canada.

It's hard to say since we're still new to Canada and we're exploring the city. Everything looks terrific, and we like the local atmosphere. The people here are warm, welcoming and generous. Living here is less stressful than in France, for example. It's not a cliché: people here really queue up before getting on the bus, they don't cross the street when the lights turn red, and they don't fuss about having to wait for the next metro. These are just a few examples, but they show how cool it is to live here.

There's nothing yet we dislike, except for the fact that prices are high. Mobile packages, meat and cheese, are costly here. Like anywhere else, you have to adapt. For now, we're quite impressed by what the media say about winter in Canada. We'll tell you more about it in March.

living in Quebec
©Planete3w

How would you describe Montreal in a few words?

Montreal is a cosmopolitan city that you will come to love.

What surprised you the most about Canada?

There are squirrels and racoons everywhere, even in the city centre! That was amazing although locals warned that they would soon become our enemies. For now, we have no problem with that.

How easy or difficult is it to find accommodation in Montreal? What type of accommodation is available for expats?

Like most big cities, Montreal has a vast real estate market. Finding accommodation depends on your criteria, wants and budget. In general, it's easy to find accommodation in Montreal, but what you need to know is when and how to look for it. Montreal is a young city, so there's a lot of house sharing offers.

We were lucky to find accommodation within a month following a dozen visits. What you need to know is that rental contracts start as at July 1st. In short, people start moving on July 1st. It's easy to find an apartment in Quebec since there are many people with WHVs, and they move a lot between May and October, some go back home after their WHV, some go on a road trip, while others arrive in Quebec. Besides house sharing, you can also find individual houses, flats and newly built condos for rent.

adventures in Quebec
©Planete3w

What defines the local labour market? Is it easy to find a job there?

It's different from France where we've worked for more than ten years. Here, you're not judged according to your qualifications but about your skills. Interviews are less formal – it's more like exchanging views and ideas. Employers make you feel comfortable so you can do your best and prove that you're an asset to the company.

Thomas found a job in IT by taking part in a recruitment event in Paris – IT is one of the most promising fields in Quebec. Elodie had a couple of Skype Interviews and signed her employment contract on the next day we arrived.

How is the lifestyle in Quebec? What are the most popular festivals and social etiquette?

Assessing the way of life is tricky. We arrived on the best days when the summer was warm. For three months, we enjoyed temperatures above 25 degrees Celcius. It's the time when everyone is living outdoors. Spring and summer are magical moments with a lot of festivals and events are going on – some of which are free.

Events and festivals include cuisine, street art, circus, trade fairs, Grand Prix, picnics, music concerts, etc. There's a vibrant social life in Quebec, and there's something for everyone. However, we do expect winter to be calm.

How is transportation in Montreal? How do you get around?

It's the same as in any other big city – cars, public transportation, bikes, etc. Since we work in Montreal, we have the Opus card which is a monthly package for unlimited bus trips and metro. It's a must! Bixi – which is a bike sharing system – is also very popular in Montreal even though we've never used it. If you wish to visit the countryside, car rental is cheap.

travel and adventure
©Planete3w

How's everyday life for you in Quebec?

We've managed to create our small world since both of us work. We can now go to work earlier and enjoy a range of activities when we're back around 4 or 4.30 pm, including parks, rooftops, museums, ice rinks, etc. We appreciate the nightlife much more than in France, especially since we're in the city centre and only three minutes away from the metro. There are a lot of free events in the streets. Also, « Juste pour Rire », and « Montréal en Cirque » are the most awaited events.

What do you do in your free time?

We have much more free time than in France, but less than when we used to be digital nomads. However, we managed to keep the travellers' pace both in the weekends. On working days, we try to see more of Montreal and Quebec whenever we get the chance. We're always planning our weekends to see more of Quebec and the colourful parks. In our free time, we also go to the gym, after-work events, and try to meet new people.

How is the nightlife in Montreal?

Montreal is a lively city – probably the best one throughout the country. Bars, pubs and nightclubs are open till late in the weekends, and there's always a festival going on.

What new habits have you adopted in Canada? What old habits have you quit?

Since we arrived, we tend to buy more healthy foodstuff. Norms are less strict than in France, so there's a lot of GMOs and pesticides – which almost forced us to switch to a healthier lifestyle. It's not so bad after all. However, we eat less meat since bio meat is much more expensive.

We don't watch TV anymore since it wasn't a priority. It's been a few months now. Actually, we were tired of watching more ads than movies. Netflix will be our next option, but for now, we get away with Replay.

Regarding our new habits, we now queue up at the bus stand and give tips. We've also started to complain less about every issue, even though it's hard.

Canada Day
©Planete3w

What do you think about the cost of living in Montreal?

In general, it's higher than in France, but we no longer make the conversion.

A bus ticket costs around CA$ 3.50 cash and you have to tender the exact amount. We don't buy bread unless there's a 50% discount and it hasn't gone stale. You can get croissants for CA$ 2 and a pain au chocolat for CA$ 2.50. For a beer, count CA$ 6. However, cigarettes and mobile packages are extremely expensive compared to France.

Keep in mind that prices displayed in Canada exclude taxes, and that tax rates vary from one province to another. In Quebec, there's a 15% value-added tax, and a 10 to 15% tip applies to all services. Tips are not compulsory but highly recommended.

Is there something you wish you could do in Canada but haven't had the chance yet?

We're planning a trip to the North since we've always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights. For now, we're seeing a lot of Montreal. There are so many things to see and to do here. We would also like to see more of Canada like its national parks, and cities like Ottawa and Toronto.

Share your most memorable experience in Canada.

It's hard to choose. Let's say that our first day out in Montreal was a memorable one. We got to see neighbourhoods like Vieux Montréal, Vieux-Port, Mont-Royal and Le Plateau.

moving to Quebec
©Planete3w

What do you think about the local cuisine?

The local cuisine doesn't compare to the French gastronomy. The most popular dish in Quebec is the poutine, that is French fries with cheese curds and gravy. It's a heavy one but can turn out to be addictive. Thomas loves the different varieties of poutine. Other popular dishes include the beaver tail which is a fried dough pastry, beignets, and the pouding chômeur (cake with eggs and maple syrup) and smoked meat sandwiches.

What do you miss the most since your adventure began?

Our family and friends since keeping in touch is complicated with our different schedules. Else, we can find almost everything in Canada even though it's often more expensive.

Have you ever felt like leaving Canada?

Not yet as we've just arrived. We're a couple of travellers exploring Quebec. For now, we're not even considering going back home. We'll probably decide after experiencing our first Canadian winter.

discovering neighbourhoods in Montreal
©Planete3w

Give us some useful tips that soon-to-expatriates in Canada will benefit from.

Just do it without hesitating, whether you're moving to Canada or somewhere else. Moving abroad is such a fantastic experience you wouldn't want to miss. Often, being away also reminds you of how beautiful your home country is.

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them in Canada, which would that be?

A camera to make memories, a raincoat or an umbrella as it rains a lot here, a SIM card as mobile packages are incredibly costly, some necessary medication and pictures of your loved ones as you won't want to move back anytime soon. Living here is so cool.

What are your plans for the future?

Our short-term plans are to travel around Canada, develop our careers and understand the local culture.

Our long-term plans are to move to another city, country or continent. We haven't decided yet.

living in Canada
©Planete3w

What is one thing that you would take with you from Canada?

The warmth of the people here, or squirrels that roam around our garden, or the work-life balance. There are so many things we wish we could take from here; however, our aim is to discover new cultures and lifestyles on the spot, so it would be of no use importing them anywhere else. We love Canada and its people. It's really worth moving here to enjoy all this.

What if you had to start all over again?

There's nothing we would change – even though we would be less stressed. Now we know that we can leave anytime and build a brand new life anywhere else in the world, so we have no regrets.