I've moved so many times I've lost count. Sometimes it's within the same city, others within the same country, others it's to different countries. Geographical distance does not matter as much as cultural distance, it is more difficult for me to move from Mexico to Canada than it is to move from Mexico to Spain. A move to another neighborhood can feel as a different city if it there is enough cultural contrast.
The degree of cultural difference dictates the amount of cultural shock one experiences. The pattern is well established by now: at first you experience the difference with curiosity and delight, but then, as you encounter frustrations dealing with day to day chores you experience homesickness, which then fades away as you form a new relationship with the place you're living. Once settled down, the sense of familiarity grows on you and you embrace the place where you're living.
The first time I lived in Canada as an adult I came to Toronto. Having lived in latin cultures all my adult life, I was taken aback by the emotional distance Canadians exhibited towards me. They were kind but distant, never candid or warm. In contrast Spaniards felt harsh but candid. In many ways it is more difficult dealing with indifference than it is dealing with coarseness.
I was prepared for this indifference when I arrived to Montreal a week ago, but I've been consistently surprised at the candidness of the Québécois. On the first day I arrived, a person at the supermarket approached an employee stocking cans, she said "Oh my god I've been searching for these during the holidays! They're finally here!", in Toronto the employee would have answered with a grunt, but to my surprise they entered conversation with a natural ease that was unexpected.
Yesterday I went for a long walk around this snowy city. People would look at me to the eye and smile. I genuinely thought I had something on me which caused them amusement, I even looked at my zipper to see if it wasn't down. They say Montréal has the politeness of the Canadians with the latin passion of the French. I was skeptical, but I'm now seeing there's truth to this.
Yesterday, after picking up some books from the library I was crossed paths with a middle aged woman. From afar she said out loud "Oh my god! aren't you cold?", I had just shaved my head and ventured out without a hat. "Not much", I answered. To my surprise she stopped and said "you're tough man!" to which I answered "Thanks, but I think it's foolishness, I just arrived from Mexico and I don't know how to dress for the cold"--"Oh really? Well, put on a hat because you'll lose a lot of heat through your head!". I thanked her and we said goodbye. I was elated, no longer invisible in Canada, as I experienced some years ago in Toronto.
It seems Montreal, the city where I was born, is well suited to my own cultural heritage. My father came from the English part of the city while my mother is Mexican. Just as Montréal is Anglo-Latin, so is my cultural and genetic make-up. It is too early to tell if I will feel at home here, but what I've experienced so far is encouraging.