Archive for the ‘Our Story’ Category

container-furniture-montrealWhen you move to Montréal you probably want to bring your personal items with you.Unless you’re coming from continental North America, your possessions will be coming by boat.


The first big question you need to ask yourself is: do I sell or do I ship? When you get a quote for your shipment, which will be around about €9000 / £6000 for a family-sized house you will ask yourself this question. So of course, sell and buy new! Stop though, second hand furniture is hard to sell and isn’t very valuable – yet new furniture can be very expensive.


Hence, when you add up the replacement value of your furniture, electrical goods, books and clothes, you’ll find that it is several times that of the cost of shipping your container.


How do you find a shipping company? Ask around or look in yellow pages for specialists in international residential shipping. Generally, try to avoid companies specialising in office moving because they don’t have the expertise in packing odd shaped home furniture and are likely to charge you more. Remember though the golden rule: shop around as prices can vary a lot.


Once your container arrives in Montréal it’s more than likely that Customs will inspect it. Montréal port authorities like to go through residential containers. The cost of the inspection will probably be around $600 but could be as much as $2000 so make sure you budget for the worst.


After the customs inspection you will need to go to the SAQ* to declare your alcohol. Unopened spirits bottles are NOT taxable. Open all of your spirits bottles before putting them in the container and empty out an inch. This will save you around $7 a bottle. Wine costs around $6 a bottle. For the SAQ you will need:

– a copy of your manifest (supplied by your Canadian Removals Company)

– your Permanent Resident or Temporary Work Permit card

– your B4 form you received from customs when you landed

– a copy of your goods to follow list


Once you’ve been to the SAQ you need to telephone Canada customs* for a meeting, and go down to the customs hall just before the alloted time. At this point, they will take your well prepared goods to follow list and determine how much extra you have to pay for your alcohol. You will need:

– a copy of your manifest

– your Permanent Resident or Temporary Work Permit card

– your B4 form you received from customs when you landed

– a copy of your goods to follow list


Apparently the British are very good at preparing goods to follow lists – this is effectively just a list of what’s in your boxes, on a high level, and the approximate value. For your spirits it’s worthwhile noting them individually as Canada Customs will ask what they are  and what their strength is in order to charge you appropriately.


Once finished, Canada Customs will give you a stamped copy of your manifest and you take this to your removals company who can then organise your move. If your container has been examined, ask your removals company to double check that it has been blocked before they move it. Blocking is placing wood barriers in the container to stop your belongings from shifting (and breaking) during transit.


It’s worthwhile double checking with the company you contracted with in your original country and the one in Canada to make sure that the Canadian end will respect the terms of the contract you have. We were surprised to discover that our Canadian removals company would not rebuild the furniture that the Belgians dismantled. After a lot of wasted time the Belgian company agreed to pay to have everything put back together, but it’s a lot of messing around when all you really want is to have your boxes unpacked!







H1N 3W5

TEL: 514-254-2020

Open: 8.30am until 4pm


*Canada Customs




H2Y 2C2

TEL: 514-350-6142


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Snow has arrived in Montréal

The first flutters of snow have arrived in Montréal. There is a small layer of snow on the cars and other items in the street.

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One of the things that Canada is known for is the poor quality of its healthcare. So lets get this into context first – Canada’s healthcare is ok, it’s just not as good as that of France, Belgium or the US. What it does have in its favour is that everyone can access it, unlike the US system where you need to pay.

In fact, Canada’s system is very similar to the UK’s NHS system and as you can imagine it has all of the same problems as the UK system. The one big difference is that the private industry here is strictly controlled so it’s difficult to queue jump without going to the US. If you’re not familiar with the NHS and Canada’s system, here it is in a nutshell:

Everyone has the same access to “high quality healthcare” free on point of delivery. The government is the principal healthcare provider. This means that you tend to get centralised, un-innovative, non-user friendly providers that…. well don’t provide much of a service.

In addition to this structural problem, one of the big challenges that Canada and Québec are facing is the USA. Next door doctors get paid oodles more cash than here in Canada, so if you’re a trained doctor why practice in Canada when you can get more money in the US? It’s worse out in the countryside – why live in the middle of nowhere and get paid less than you would in the states?

I don’t think that there are real plans to get this sorted out here in Canada any time soon and unfortunately the clock is ticking because the population is aging.

A bit of a story

I took my daughter to see the doctor this week with a minor problem. We went to a drop in clinic as we don’t yet have a family doctor. At 8:15am there was a queue outside. At 8:25am the doors were opened and we all trooped in. My daughter was about 5th on the list.

Around 9:45am the doctor arrived and started seeing the first patients. Yes, you read correctly, the doctor arrived over an hour after the clinic was opened. Each patient gets around 8-10 minutes with the doctor. The one we saw didn’t even want to correctly examine my daughter, we had to push him to do so.

Overall, not a good experience so we’ll be avoiding the Centre medical Mont-Royal on Papineau (near ave. Mont-Royal) in the future.

Cost of the consultation $125. I wish I earned so much for so little work! The insurance company were rather good though. You have to call them before seeing the doctor to open a case, and then call them back afterwards. I hadn’t done so by Saturday afternoon so they called me to see what had happened! I found that amazing.

Why did we have to pay? Well new residents aren’t covered by Québec’s health scheme until they’ve been here 3 months. This is to prevent health tourism. So we had insurance from Manulife for the three months at a cost of around $850 for the whole family with a $0 deductable.

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Looking for a car in Québec is pretty easy – if you’re looking for a second hand car go to autos123.com and you can see most of the dealer based market there. Once we’d decided what we wanted, we found a dealer with a good selection of models and went to visit.

So we arrived at Mazda Longueuil, looked over the vehicles with the sales rep, Jonathan Lasnier, were happy with the car, but went away to think about it. We returned about three times to finally choose the car we wanted, Jonathan gave us good advice although we had to double check some of the things that he said. Mazda has specs for its older cars on their Canadian website, so it’s good to validate as it’s difficult for a sales rep to remember the features of an older model. Jonathan was a very nice chap, told us about his family, holidays, steered us away from cars he felt were a bit dubious, seemed fine.

Once we settled on a car, negotiated a deal we were happy with, we gave a deposit and everything was fine…. except we had to see the Commercial Director to finalise the deal which would only take about 15 minutes…. and we waited, and waited and waited for over an hour until the children had to go home. During this time Jonathan disappeared from view and we ended up left in the middle of the showroom. This was the start of a pattern of events. Eventually Jonathan and the Commercial Director, Jean-Vincent Bunel arrived and said that they needed an hour with us to explain how things worked in Québec…. but as we had to go we should return the next day.

Of course, we expected that this double-act was some kind of sales trick to get us to buy extras for the car. Over the next few days we tried to get a meeting with Jean-Vincent Bumel and he didn’t return voice mails (always with clients!) and Jonathan didn’t seem to be able to get him to reply either. Of course, the idea of spending another hour waiting in the showroom with the kids was not appealing. We also wanted the serial number to have the insurance put in place, but they wouldn’t let us have it until we’d seen the Commercial Director! How many companies try to make it this hard to complete a purchase?

Eventually we manage to fix a meeting with Jean-Vincent, but of course he is late and we’re…. waiting. Of course he tries to sell us an extended warranty and security etching and…. we said no, of course. Had Jonathan asked earlier, then maybe we’d have said yes. Then after the meeting with Jean-Vincent we had to wait again for the car to be made ready, and then there was no one to sign a cheque for the SAAQ and we waited, and Jonathan disappeared… then we learn that the car is not fully ready as we’d been told earlier it was and we’d have to come back again… and there was still no one to sign the cheque.

So the next day we went back and they weren’t able to finish preparing the car and the cheque still hadn’t been signed and the only person who could do so was out, but he’d be back in 30 minutes… that turned into an hour and of course Jonathan disappeared again….

Eventually we talked to his boss Pierre Lascelles, who sorted out the final bits so the car was ready and we could register it.  

Then we went to the Société d’Assurance Automobile de Québec (SAAQ) at Place Longueuil to register the vehicle only to be told we were missing a piece of paper. So back on the ‘phone to Pierre Lascelles who, to his credit, sends someone to us to bring us the paper within 15 minutes. He then tried to help us register the car, but we couldn’t because we didn’t have Québec driving licences and our passports.

At some point Pierre Lascelles did apologise, but nothing from Jonathan. We do feel let down by him – it’s a shame as at the beginning of the process this blog posting would have been positive and Mazda Longueuil had a good chance of getting another car out of us…. shame.

I don’t want this to sound as though it’s any particular person’s fault. There is a process problem at this company and it’s clearly that the sales rep is not allowed to completely finish his sale from start to finish. If this was the case, I’m sure that Jonathan would have made sure that everything was done on time as agreed, but his hands seemed tied by the need for others to be involved.

Moral of this story: Avoid Mazda Longueuil, if you need to go there speak with Pierre Lascelles and be wary.

When you deal with the government, always take your passports and visa cards/paper with you!

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Today we’ve been shopping. We started out taking the métro to McGill to pick up the hire car. A Hyundai Sonata: fab car, easy to drive, but it’s been smoked in and is thus a bit smelly.

As we were downtown, we had a quick wonder down Rue Saint Catherine, Montréal’s main shopping street. It feels a lot like New York and the architecture is very similar… except everything’s in French.

After walking a couple of blocks we went for brunch at the Eaton centre foodcourt – had Japanese Edo stirfry. Really good to have some veggies after the plane food the day before! There are 32 “restaurants” in the Eaton centre foodcourt. Wow!

We then went to get SIM cards for our cell phones – 30 EUR each! And then one didn’t work 🙂 After this, home to get some sleep (in theory) and out to Walmart to pick up some stuff… well we filled the car’s trunk, but discovered that there’s no fresh food there. Fortunately there was an IGA down the road so we filled up there. 

IGA has some great stuff, organic food is a bit lacking though. The layout is really good, each fruit has a description to help you choose and there is a lot of choice. There are varieties that aren’t seen in Europe – looks like we’re going to have fun trying it all out.

Oh and the Bagels… they’re so good! Not at all like the rubbery things that you find in Europe. They’re crustly on the outside, soft on the inside – really great!

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We’ve made it! We’re now residents of Canada.


Yesterday morning we left an emptied house and took a taxi to Brussels airport. Despite bringing a van, the taxi driver had problems getting our seven suitcases and two strollers in! Eventually we made it to the airport and proceeded to shuttle the two sleepy but excited girls as well as two trollies of suitcases to check-in. This did not amuse a police officier who thought he might have a bomb to deal with, but he didn’t offer to help either.

We boarded our flight to Frankfurt, and all went well, however the flight to Montréal was delayed for a couple of hours so we had to amuse the girls quite a bit. Eleanor visited a business class area and Valentine worked on her walking technique. The Air Canada flght to Montréal was fab: the hostesses were great with the kids, films good, food excellent (I would recommened the Asian Vegetarian option).

Once we arrived at Montréal airport, we went through passport control, told the agent that we were arriving on permits and then passed through to immigration. They took our papers, asked for the flight number and our available funds qnd then we waited for about 20mins whilst she prepared the papers.  After this we went to Québec immigration who were really, really friendly, invited Laurence to an info session and that was it really. But they were really, really friendly.

Then down to the baggage reclaim where we managed to get all the baggage, strollers and car seats onto two trollies. A porter even helped us to move the trollies down to the customs service, to who; we had to say that we were new immigrants. We then had to provide our “Goods to Follow” list which enables you to bring in stuff without paying duty. 10 minutes later we joined the taxi queue, managed to get everything in the car without too much trouble and were brought to the flat.

Unfortunately the estate agent had given us the wrong flat number so we were a bit confused…. but seeing a building that looked like the one in the picture I knocked on the door and it was the right one! What luck!

The flat is great, really well looked after and has a lot of character. It’s five minutes walk to one of the most hip streets in Montréal (Ave Mont-Royal) but is really quiet and very charming.

So here we are, settled into our first days in Montréal.

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Moving to Montréal

In two weeks time the whole family will be starting a new life in Montréal. We’ll be posting pictures, our thouhgts, what we’ve done, the people we’ll meet, what we think of the things we’ve seen, so keep checking back.

Hopefully if you’d like to move out to Montréal, or even elsewhere in Canada, our experiences can be a help for you. Let us know what else you’d like to know or see.

At the moment though, it’s back to the boxes and the preparation! See you soon in Montréal.

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