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Ask Sherry: How hard is the job market for Anglophones in Montreal?

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

More moving to Montreal questions: I speak French and would consider myself bilingual (although English is my first language). My partner, however, only speaks English. Realistically how tough is the job market for Anglophones? Many Montreal friends say it’s not a problem, but I’m not sure I believe them! What kind of work is out there for English-only speakers?

Let me level with you here.

Bottom line: If you have skills that are in-demand, your lack of French will pose a minor barrier to getting a job. It really depends on what you do. I can’t advise you any further than that without knowing your skills and what you are aiming for, but I can tell you what happened with me.

When I started working, I was turned down for at least 2 contracts before one of them finally gave up and took me because they were just so desperate for help they couldn’t wait for a French-speaker. This is more common in “rural” areas like Longueuil or east of Montreal, basically areas with less tourists.

They are also concerned if you speak French or not because they themselves may not have a strong command of English sometimes (as strong I would say), and say that communication is an issue because if you have to work with them, you have to be able to talk about the finer details of things without getting frustrated and caught up in the language.

(All true.)

Also, a lot of companies (depending on your industry) work with rural Quebec, they ONLY speak French there, and it is a STRONG accent. A beginner Anglophone would not be able to understand what they are saying for at least a month or two (that was my experience), it is only in the context of things and other people helping you in the room (in the sense that they’re repeating back or responding back to them) that you get what they are saying if at all.

There are pockets of Montreal that are mostly English-speaking, and ironically, the richest areas of Montreal as well, such as Westmount, where having English is a requirement to work there.

You may also end up finding companies that are English who don’t mind hiring people who speak a passable French to sort of get by, but are 90% English-speakers. I know a few people who don’t speak ANY French and work in companies for years. It really depends.

If you work in the service industry or anywhere that you need to REALLY speak to customers all the time, French is pretty much a requirement, and English less so. If you work downtown in these industries, they wouldn’t mind that you only speak English and learn French on the job, as there are more tourists downtown Montreal and you DO need to speak some English if not be fluent in it.

It all boils down to: Do you have the skills they want / need to hire, and can overlook that you do not speak French? Also, once you live here, if you make an effort to learn and speak the language, it goes a LONG way. People appreciate that you are speaking French even if it sucks, and even if you think it sucks, sometimes it is a relief for them to not have to deal with English as could be worse than your French.

What brands do you recommend for basic cotton tank tops that are great quality but not too expensive? And how is the PIMA MODAL TANK TOP working out so far? Thanks in advance!

So this is an age-old questions.

I have tried American Apparel but I don’t love that their tanks are always ribbed (I like a smooth tank). I also once had a brief fling at H&M and bought the PERFECT basic cotton tank in organic cotton for about $10 that was not too low cut, but stupidly did not go back and stock up like a mofo because once my white cotton tank inevitably turned yellow and dingy, I had to relegate it to washing rag / home status. Sigh.

Lesson learned: Do not spend too much money on white cotton tank tops or tanks in general.

Thus far, the best brand I have found for tanks has been Grana (use this code for 10% off).

The Pima Modal tank is working out nicely. It is soft, comfortable, doesn’t stretch out, thus far has not shrunk in the wash and is a nice, basic cotton tank top in a good quality.

Love your money tip #36 about buying a used car. What car do you drive (I’m guessing you bought used!) and would you recommend it? Are there other vehicles you would recommend that perform well in snow and are good for safety?

I bought whatever car that was:

  • At least in the 2000+ year range (you know, 2000, 2001, 2002… I had a minivan before that was from 1993!)
  • In the $10,000 range (I went CHEAP at $5000 initially but had to double my budget)
  • At least a full-sized vehicle
  • Had a spot for my purse in the middle console (seriously)
  • Did not stink of cigarette smoke or wet dog

What that came out to, was a minivan or an SUV. Does it matter the brand? Not really.

I wouldn’t recommend Kia as a brand only because I rented it once at an airport (the SUV) and it had this weird start/stop jerking sensation that triggered my motion sickness.

Your best bets are minivans at car dealerships. They are used pretty well and kept in a decent condition by families who then trade in their car or upgrade to something else.

As for brands, the cheapest are American ones – Dodge, Chevrolet, etc. They always have the best price per pound, last a decently long time for the price you pay, and you don’t really care if the winter salt eats away at it, it will still keep truckin’ along.

The best quality ones are the most expensive: Mercedes, BMW, Audi obviously as they last a long time and feel good, however during winter, the salt will EAT UP YOUR CAR, so I am always hesitant in buying a “nice” car to drive because our winters here are hard on cars.

The most expensive I’d go is probably Honda or Volkswagen as they are are good mid-priced brands, if you don’t want or cannot find anything American. I have very much liked their handling and quality. I have not had any experience with any other brands – Toyota, etc.

The cheapest and worst brands for me, have been South Korean — Kia has really been the worst one I have driven in all of my renting / purchasing days.

At the end, I just bought whatever met my criterion above (can’t be picky in a secondhand market), and my partner spent about 8 weekends driving to look for my car for me (what a guy!).

There wasn’t much choice to be honest. He said my budget was a limitation, and I could have easily put more money and found something that fit, but I was really not keen on wasting money if I didn’t have to.

For my next used car, I am thinking I may try an SUV instead of a minivan and put more money into the budget, probably a Honda ($30,000) or a Volkswagen ($20,000). I’ve also dabbled in the idea of trying a used Mercedes ($50,000) but honestly, I can’t stomach the price tag yet.

Keep in mind that the bigger the car, the more ridiculous the gas price will be.

As for snow and safety, the bottom line is that these two things are what matter the most:

  1. Tires – Buy the best you can, do not cheap out on your winter tires
  2. Heft – Your car can’t be a Smart Car or a Mini. You will get crushed in an accident. The bigger the better.

More on the heft part, I see cars slipping and sliding when they aren’t at least SUV, minivan or truck-sized. It also depends on how you drive of course, but the best cars are always the biggest ones.

Even during wild winds, I have driven smaller-than-SUV cars and found myself really fighting to keep the car on the straight and narrow on the highway. It depends on what kind of driving you do of course (city only?) but if you do highways often like I do, you DO NOT want to be the smallest car on the road especially during winter.

In a fight on the highway between a huge truck and a sedan, the truck is always going to win. All you can hope for is not to get killed in the crush, which means you need a bigger car that can take some of the impact.

As for the maintenance part, I just change the tires, brake pads, oil, and that’s it. I don’t repair anything, I don’t add anything fancy, and I DO NOT CHANGE A SINGLE PART ON THE CAR.

It goes as it goes. I do not spend money on something that is depreciating daily. Once the floor rusts out and I am stepping on snow when I climb into my car, I’ll buy another one.

Hi, I see you spend your money mostly on fashion and food. How do you avoid buying small home stuff (decoration, utensils, plants, flowers etc). Maybe I can learn how to prioritize like you 😉. Thanks, like reading your weekly money diary! D.

Yes, I absolutely prioritize fashion and food. I think it is a good and bad thing, honestly. I just went through my closet and there is nothing like cleaning out your closet to make you think: OMG…… HAVE SO MUCH STUFF.


As for avoiding buying small home stuff, I just don’t do it. I have a real urge to buy cute bowls, cute platters and blankets but the only things that stop me are:

1) I do not have the space – our cupboards are FULL of bowls, plates and so on.

2) I don’t need any of it – I have everything for the kitchen and for “life” that we don’t need to buy anything.

3) I hate knickknacks around the house – I love the idea of a LOVE sculpture, or little tiny succulents, or decorative items, but in reality, I hate having them in the house. I don’t like the visual clutter, I don’t want to deal with tiny little things that I have to dust and clean off and if they have zero sentimental value and even worse, have zero purpose (e.g. just to decorate), I am less hesitant to want to keep or buy it.

For instance, I have this beautiful antique jewellery box that I keep my rings in. It’s pretty, decorative, and it makes me smile every time I open it. That’s as decorative as I can get pictured here in my Minimalist Bathroom:

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


  • SarahN

    I was a little surprised with your car advice – generally you have pretty European ideas, and whilst I’m aussie and therefore TOTALLY unknowing of snow driving conditions, I do know that Europe gets some snow, and largely they all drive hatchbacks. I suppose I’m aghast you ‘go big’ which is gas guzzling. And I do try to see your points, but… yeah… wow. I don’t think a sedan is that light and airy. Just my two cents worth

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Europe doesn’t get the snow, wind, buildup on major highways and ice like we do here in North America. Some cities are great at clearing it like Toronto but in Montreal snow can reach up to the door handles and you can get bogged down easily.

      A sedan is pretty light and airy depending on the size. A Smart car, will get crushed in an accident. Good luck surviving that one on a highway at high speeds.

      The smallest car I’d ever buy for our conditions is a 4-door car, but unless you’ve driven here, there is no way you can know how insane the roads are (we have no grids, everything interlocks into each other, lanes turn off after 2 car lengths, and people cut across 4 lanes to get to an exit).. it’s a total nightmare.

      For me, the SUV, minivan or truck, are the only cars well suited to snowy conditions here. All the rest of the time, a 4-door car is fine.

      They are big enough to crush the snow to get around, and to make it through these conditions without being blown from side to side. I have lost control a few times in cars that were not heavy enough or well made (KIA was the brand), and I could feel the car swaying back and forth as I fought the winds.

      I’ve gotten stuck a number of times in my minivan in the snow, and have had to get out to shovel the snow away, and put some traction to get the car going again. In the middle of a snowstorm with a child in the car, you DO NOT want to get stuck in a car in the highway they way they did last winter or get into an accident like this one where 300 people were left for 14 hours last year.

      I HATE how much my car guzzles in gas, but I am not going to be stuck or crushed in an accident if I can help it.

      No smart cars here, nothing compact. I am looking into an electric car next time though, if I can find an electric SUV but for now, I’m sticking to big bad and heavy to make it through winter and stay safe.

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