Thomas is the first Belgian expatriate developer in Montreal at Maplr. He joined Maplr from Belgium in December 2020.
He tells us about his journey to Canada and gives us his feedback as a Belgian expatriate web developer in Montreal for almost a year.
Discover his testimony and his feedback!
Belgian developer expatriate in Montreal since December 2020, Interview with Thomas.
Why did you become an expatriate developer in Montreal?
For some reason, I have always been captivated by America, that big piece of land on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean where so many exciting adventures seem to take place!
I find that there is a certain magic in these very large wooded and urban environments which incite to escape by their immensity. Driving through an endless forest, or skirting the skyscrapers to make you dizzy, so many opportunities to let your mind wander! This must probably be the main reason for the fascination mentioned above.
Expatriation also means duplication, a new and unknown part of you is about to start a whole new life, a new adventure. In a way, it could be considered as a second birth: You land alone in a place so different from what you have known until now, a new blank page is presented to you, and you are free to draw what you want! Change of culture, new influences, there is not a day that goes by without learning something new or questioning what you have been used to in the past.
(Also, the American continent looked cool when I was playing GTA Vice City).
How was your expatriation to Montreal?
Great! Leaving in the middle of a pandemic was not a given (nor was it planned), but this climate confirmed that I really wanted to go abroad.
It was a solo project, so I was well prepared and didn't expect to get any help. So how did I end up at Maplr? Well, simply because I fell in love with their project. We immediately understood each other around the values of benevolence and transparency. I know that all companies say that nowadays, but here, it's real (demonstrable, because it's fully transparent), and everything is put in place to keep it that way.
Did you encounter any difficulties during your expatriation in Montreal?
The only difficulties are related to all the things I had deliberately not thought about ! Paperwork, moving and integrating a new system is obviously not an easy task, but with patience, music in the background and above all the support of Maplr, one is more serene!
The expatriation process also involves certain moral difficulties, mainly related to family and loved ones, especially in the midst of covid. I must admit that not seeing my family for a year feels strange, but it's part of the adventure and it makes the experience all the more intense, because it forces you to see things differently, which in my eyes is very positive. Big kisses to my parents if they read this!
What do you think of the support offered by Mapl?
What do you like most about the Maplr community?
We're a big gang of friends, we see each other, we have drinks, no pressure (except beer). Would you like to go skating on Tuesday after work? Let's go! Little BBQ on Saturday at La Fontaine Park? Of course!
Belgian expatriate web developer in Montreal
What kind of reception did you get from the Canadians?
What do you think of the cost of living as an expat in Montreal?
What do you like most about Montreal?
First of all, I love that Montreal is an American city, I really like the wide open spaces and the feeling of immensity.
Equally important is the greenery. I didn't think I could find so much greenery in a big city, it's insane! What's more, some of the quieter areas on the edge of the city centre are like real urban jungles: 80% green, 20% concrete. I think that's splendid!
Speaking of greenery, the large natural spaces are also very easy to access. An hour's drive and you're in another world.
Last point: the English/French mix. I speak English at work and both outside work. It's the mix that suits me best. Montreal may officially be French, but there is a good portion of English-speaking people due to the international nature of the city. So if you are wondering if it is possible to improve your English and become bilingual in Montreal, the answer is a big YES!
What is your favourite neighbourhood and why?
The Plateau Mont-Royal for the win! This is, I think, the greenest neighbourhood around Montreal. The atmosphere is really nice! So many places to go out, but also to rest and relax in a park. I'll tell you, with all these advantages, the only problem is the higher price of course. But it creates the opportunity to make a nice roommate and meet great people!
As a Belgian expatriate web developer in Montreal, what are the differences with Belgium on the professional side?
Oh yes, but first of all, I want to make it clear that I'm not going to make any comparison with my personal experience in Europe. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work on some fabulous projects, especially in startups, which is not really representative of the majority of the tech job market in Belgium. So I'm going to give my opinion based on what I've heard around me, in general.
The work culture is very different. But it also depends on the company in which you work, and if it is purely Quebec or hybrid with a management made in US.
Innovation budgets are much higher, if we do a good job, we can quickly be trusted and promoted (and therefore get positions with more responsibility).
I also notice a very strong respect for working hours and privacy. Staying late at work seems to be frowned upon. I almost got told off for working 10 minutes too long, I found it magical! In some of the bigger companies, there are lots of little perks to make employees feel better, sometimes even gifts for the children's day if you have them, etc.
A final piece of advice for future expatriate web developers in Montreal?
DREAM BIG, THINK SHORT
Actually, this is bad advice in some cases, but personally I have always listened to my gut without thinking too much, just the minimum to have a plan in mind, rather an outline of a plan, knowing that you have to remain flexible.
But why cross the Atlantic and start all over again somewhere else? I don't know. What I do know is that now, every day is like a holiday, because I live in an environment that makes me dream.
There is no one best place to live on earth, some love Canada, some hate it. What matters is to find YOUR best place. So, what is your dream destination?
Anything to add?
GO CANADA ! GO MAPLR!
It has been a real pleasure to share this beginning of experience, and, as a small message to you who are reading me, I hope that it has brought you some elements that will help you make your decision (if you ever consider moving abroad).
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Want to try an adventure in Canada?
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