Welcome to Paradox Island

This blog will be devoted to expatriate life in Montreal, where I live.
I’ve worked as a reporter in some pretty interesting areas. I wrote for a newspaper in Mexico’s second city, Guadalajara, I covered crime in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I covered courts in perhaps the wackiest city of them all, Miami (which, as everyone knows, is quite close to the United States).
Those places all had their quirks. But the layers of culture, language and politics here definitely put Montreal in another category. That’s why I dub this island city of 3.7 million Paradox Island.
Internationally Montreal is the face of French Canada, a city as full of joie de vivre as ice and snow. It’s a culinary capital where future Parisian chefs get their chops together to make the jump to France. It’s a centre for cutting edge film and music that usually attracts serious respect and rarely ends up being pre-fab or overcommercialized.
But within Quebec Montreal is the redoubt of English Canada, with a downtown core where English is the lingua franca. The biggest city of an officially French-speaking province boasts a top-flight university that draws a student body from across the rest of the country to learn in the language of the Saxons.
Though no one seems to know for sure, encrypted in the flags of the city and the province appear the watermarks of two different forms of cultural currency.
In many ways Montreal is an international city, a former host of the Olympic Games, a metropolis where more than 20 percent of the populace is foreign-born (including one scribe I can think of), and a cultural switching post for two of the world’s major languages. In other ways it’s an inward-looking town that’s never outgrown a provincial atmosphere, a place where homegrowns who’ve hit the big time are perennially celebrated, even if Hollywood Beach, Hollywood, Cal., or Paris is now their home.
In the coming weeks I plan to delve further into to this city’s kinks as I read them. And I want to shape a dialogue with this blog; please send any comments along the way.

-- Billy

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