Archive for March, 2008


A love story

March 31, 2008

Photo by: Kornum

I have passed it a few times on Rue Rachel, and every time it puts a smile upon my face. Je t’aime. I don’t know, what the true story is, but I know that I like the story I have made up in my head about the Je t’aime just above this grey looking letterbox.

It’s the story about how the young handsome man wins over the love of his life by painting the Je t’aime above her letterbox, reminding her every day of his love. (I know that I’m very much affected by a lot of very non-realistic love movies).

Perhaps you know the real story, but if it’s not as good as mine, I’m not sure I want to hear it…


The classic issue of tipping

March 31, 2008

Photo by: Aubreyarenas

In Denmark I would only tip if I had eaten in a restaurant more fancy than a café and if the service was worth paying for. Perhaps that makes me cheap, but it also makes me pretty typical Danish. I read an article about an investigation of how tourists from different countries were looked upon – the Danes were, sadly enough, some of the tourists that behaved worstly.

Thanks to my travel guide – Lonely Planet Montreal I knew before coming that tipping is custom here in Montreal. So in every restaurant I go to people might wonder why I’m sitting with a strange look on my face, when I get the bill; I’m just trying to figure out how much 15 percent of the amount is. I will be embarrassed, if I do not to give enough and I’m living on a student’s “salary” so I can’t afford to give too much.

The tipping can still sometimes make me feel uncomfortable, because, as I wrote earlier, I’m from a country, where tipping is given only for the good service and there are no rules about the amount. Here I find it difficult to tell by the expression of the waiter’s face when he or she takes the money, if I tipped ok. An example could be if I should pay 21 dollars including the 15 percent tip, but I just round the bill up to 20 dollars because it’s easy, should I then really break a 10-dollar note to get the last dollar for the tip?

I heard somewhere that the reason why tipping is customary here is because the salaries for waiters, bartenders etc. are very low and the tip is a big part of their earnings. I tried to find out what the average salary of waiter in Montreal is, but I had no luck. The average monthly salary for a waiter in Denmark is 4,529 dollars (remember we pay around 50 percent in taxes of the amount) I wonder how big a difference that is to the salary of a waiter in Montreal?


Just a little one about the kissing

March 27, 2008

Photo by: B Tal

Being a Dane use to firm handshaking and slightly loose hugs (only with your good friends), it was kind of a surprise for my cheeks coming over here and being spoiled with all those kisses. Not a bad surprise. I know it is obvious when you are in Quebec, a French province you will be greeted the French way. My cheeks and I just came a little unprepared. And most of the kisses came mostly from other exchange students…

In Lonely Planet – Montreal it says this about cheek kissing:
“As in France, it’s customary among French Quebecers who know each other to exchange bises (kisses) as a greeting (men do this occasionally, too) While two to three kisses on each cheek are typical in France, the usual ritual in Quebec is one glancing peck on each cheek. Any more will get you weird looks.” (Page 29)

As an exchange student I find it interesting how all the exchange students has picked up on this cheek kissing; even if they are not from a country where this is the normal way of greeting.

It is not that I don’t like it, as I have said before “when in Montreal do as the Montrealers”, but it makes me wonder, if “real” Montrealers look at us, the international students, kissing like crazy on each other’s cheeks with the weird look that Lonely Planet is talking about.

I guess I’m just not sure how big the cheek kissing really is in this city. Is it really something everybody does? Or is it just the wannabe Montrealers?

I would love to get some comments on this from some cheek kissing or non-cheek kissing Montrealers!


Now that Montreal is melting…

March 25, 2008

Photo by: Butterflysha

Now that Montreal is melting, I would like to salute the “winter-inhabitants” of Montreal. I know, it is not with joy in their mind and praise in their heart that Montrealers shovel through meters of snow to get to their car or put on clothes on top of clothes just to get some milk or bread. Still I have felt a winter-love in this city, which I have never experienced before.

It has been snowing in parts of Denmark the last few days, and I see how the snow is the subject to many news reports in the newspapers, I also see, in these Facebook days, how my Danish friends update their status with complaints about the snow, As if life cannot be lived fully when it snows. But I know it can, I have seen it the last few months.

Even during the really bad snowstorm here in Montreal a couple of weeks ago (March 8th) the taxies didn’t stop driving, the shops didn’t close and the city didn’t stop turning. The day after you could see not just a few people outside enjoying the weather. Perhaps they would have preferred the snow not to be there, but now that their Sunday once again turned out to be a white one, it seemed to me that the Montrealers just chose to live and embrace the snow.

I checked the Danish Meteorological Institute’s webpage to compare the average precipitation in Montreal and Copenhagen. In January, February and March Montreal has had 232 millimeters precipitation, while Copenhagen had 94. In the same period Montreal had 44 days with precipitation, while Copenhagen had 27 of those days. Remember this is all in average.

I found the numbers interesting because you would think that the people with the most precipitation would be the ones to complaint the most about it. But then again you could argue that you get more use to living side by side with the snow, when it is always there. I know of cause that Montrealers also get sick and tired of the snow, but it can’t change the way my eyes see the relationship between this city’s inhabitants and the snow: like an old marriage kept together by love and a good screaming quarrel once in a while.


The missing sound – part two

March 22, 2008

Photo by: fa73

Since I wrote the first post about The missing sound, I have got an e-mail response from Sara Jane Friend McDonald, who is specialist in Orientation & Mobility at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. She gives a lot of good and interesting answers to my wonder about how blind people cross the street. I wonder what the thoughts are about using the “bibbing sound” in Denmark – perhaps it is not necessary to use it as much as we do in Denmark.

Me: “I noticed the other day standing at a traffic light next to a blind person that in Montreal (and perhaps in all of Canada) there is no bibbing sound indicating when you can and can’t cross the road (as there is in Denmark).”

MAB: There is in fact what we call “Audible pedestrian signals” installed at many intersections in Montreal as well as many other cities in Canada. They may not be noticeable to the general public as some models require a special activation in order for them to work. There is an audible pedestrian signal located in front of the MAB-Mackay at 7000 rue Sherbrooke o. for example.

Me: “I read on your webpage that blind people use their dog to figure out when they can cross the street. But why do you not use sound to indicate when you can and can’t cross, so you shouldn’t be dependent of a dog?”

MAB: It is often perceived by the general public that it is the dog guide that is in charge that makes the decision as to when to cross the street. That is NOT true. I am not sure how you received that impression from our website. A dog guide is trained to follow verbal commands from their master, avoid obstacles, stop at stairs or curbs and follow sidewalks, etc. A dog guide is a dog first and dogs do not have the intelligence to be able to understand traffic controls, understand an audible pedestrian signal, nor can they plan routes nor know what bus to take.

So what is actually happening when a dog guide user is crossing the street is; the person is listening to the traffic, analyzing the traffic pattern or waiting to hear the audible pedestrian signal. When the person decides it is safe to cross they then give the dog guide the command “forward” to start crossing the street. While crossing the street, the person is continuing to listen to the flow of traffic to make sure they are crossing in a straight line and the dog guide is going where the person wants to go. The person using the dog guide is in 100% control the entire time.

Me: “Is it a political decision not to use sound?”

MAB: For years Orientation & Mobility Specialists from vision rehabilitation centres in Montreal, users from the RAAMM (Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal métropolitain) and Engineers from the city have been working together to install audible pedestrian signals throughout Montreal. Not all intersections require an audible pedestrian signal as people who are blind and visually impaired are able to analyze traffic flow by listening to the cars and know when it is safe to cross the street.

Audible pedestrian signals are also very expensive and require sometimes a complete rewiring of an intersection. They also need to be installed exactly the right way, which can be difficult and time consuming.

It is also important to point out that Quebec is the only Province or Territory in Canada to directly fund vision rehabilitation services to a general population and all age groups, from infants all the way to senior citizens. The number of vision rehabilitation specialists that work in Quebec surpasses by far the numbers in the rest of Canada.


The missing sound

March 20, 2008

Photo by: fa73

Something was missing as I stood waiting to cross a side road at Ave Mont Royal. Normally I wouldn’t notice it, but I was reminded by the blind or visually impaired person who stood waiting next to me. She didn’t say anything to me; she just stood there with her dog waiting for the light to change, as did I (even though that apparently is not custom here in Montreal…).

This was when I noticed what was missing. The sound. That bibbing sound you hear everywhere in Denmark, when you cross a road with traffic lights. How does a blind person in Montreal know when to cross the street? I also got me thinking about how difficult it must be to manoeuver in this city as a blind person during the winter, but that is another story.

I wrote an e-mail to the The Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB) so ask them, why the bibbing sound is not used in the city – if it is a political decision or just custom. But they never answered me. That was then…They answered me almost the time as I posted this blogpost – it resulted in The missing sound – part two

I was though able to solve a little bit of the mystery with this information from the frequently asked section on the MAB’s webpage:

Do guide dogs use traffic lights when crossing streets?
No, the decision is based on teamwork. Guide dogs are trained to stop at every curb to indicate to the visually impaired or blind person that the sidewalk has come to an end. The visually impaired or blind person then listens to the flow of traffic to determine when it is safe to cross and gives the guide dog the “forward” command in a suggestive tone. This lets the guide dog know to assess the situation visually, at which point the guide dog will go forward if it is safe, or disregard the command if the situation is not safe (this is called intelligent disobedience).

I my eyes (or ears) it seems much easier and perhaps more safe the rely on a sound that indicates when the light says, “Go!” But then again it’s hard to say, when you have never tried it.

Later that week I went to eat at O.Noir (the restaurant where you eat in the dark). I asked the visually impaired waiter, what he thought of the “missing sound”. It didn’t seem to be something he wondered a lot about, he said that he had heard the sound in some of the suburbs, but that he was not totally blind, so it wasn’t as important to him, as it would be to a totally blind person.

So now I find myself listening if I can hear the missing sound whenever I cross a new street in this city. Blind or not perhaps I the only one wondering about it.


An older Dane in Montreal – Audiointerview

March 20, 2008

Photo by: Lilith121

43 years ago a young Danish girl named Kirsten moved to Montreal, she originally planned to stay in the city for a year to learn French and just enjoy life and then go back to Europe, but she fell in love with the city and ended up staying.

Why Montreal and not Copenhagen? How did Montreal appear in the eyes of a foreigner 43 years ago? How has the city changed? And what would a “Montrealish Dane” show Danish visitors?

Listen to the interview!