From Montreal to Tribeca

Sarah Mlynowski grew up in Montreal and moved to New York in 2004. Back then, this petite perky powerhouse had already published three novels, and she hasn’t slowed down a bit. Her latest, Gimme a Call, came out last year and she’s currently at work on a 13th; half are chick lit and half are teen lit. She literally—and literarily—embodies the spirit and energy of her adopted city. (The photo above was taken by her husband, Todd Swidler.)

So why did you move to New York?
For my husband, who was my fiancé at the time. We met in Montreal, where we’re both from, and later he came to New York to go to business school at NYU. After graduation, he decided to stay on and I joined him.

What were your first impressions of New York?
The crowds! I couldn’t believe how crowded it was here. I still can’t get over the sheer number of apartments, and the masses of people in the bookstores and on the streets. And the traffic. The traffic never fails to amaze me.

Did New York require a big adjustment in the beginning?
Not really. Since my fiancé was here, I visited often before I moved. Plus, I had a lot of friends here. At my wedding in 2004, everyone in my bridal party but one was someone I knew from Montreal who had since moved to New York.

So no cultural obstacles in the beginning?
There definitely were some, of course. I got teased a lot for my Canadian-ness. I say “zed” instead of “z” and put ”no” at the end of my sentences. Like I’ll say, “It’s freezing out, no?” And I’ll also say “gaz” instead of “gas”, because that’s the French way. There were times when my Canadian-isms got into my books, in dialogue said by American characters. For example, in my book Milkrun, my main character refers to an “expiry date” instead of an “expiration date.”

What do you miss about Montreal?
The food. There are some foods that are pure Montreal that I can’t get here.

Like what?
The bagels, for one. Everyone thinks New York bagels are so great, but Montreal bagels are the best. They’re cooked in a wood-burning oven and are sweeter, denser and smaller than New York bagels. But you can finally get them here, at Mile End, a restaurant in Brooklyn. Mile End also serves poutine, another favorite of mine, which is a plate of French fries with cheese curds and gravy. And don’t get me started on the chocolates—Caramilk, Cherry Blossoms, Smarties and Whippets—that you can’t find here easily. And free healthcare, of course! Also, the Frenchness of Montreal. In New York we are very career-driven and defined by what we do, but in Montreal there’s more of a joie de vivre, which I think comes from the French influence.

Is there anything about New York that reminds you of home?
Sure. The food at restaurants in Montreal is incredible, just like here. Also, I’m Jewish so the Jewish influence in New York is certainly familiar. I remember the first time I saw a huge billboard for JDate in Times Square and how it reminded me of home. And a little known fact: Outside of Mexico, New York City and Montreal are the only North American cities where you can’t turn right on a red light.

What was your worst moment in New York?
My mother-in-law was visiting from Montreal, and we were standing in the kitchen of our apartment. Suddenly a cockroach ran over her bare foot. It was disgusting.  I’ll never forget it. I was worried she would think I was messy.

Unfortunately, you can’t get away from roaches and rats in New York. What about your best NYC moment?
That’s easy. My daughter was born here, so the first moment I saw her.

What do you love about New York? And downtown?
The subway system here is amazing. It’s so easy to get around by subway. In Montreal, I would have had to take two buses and a subway from my house to get downtown. And Tribeca is great for kids. I love that everything you could possibly need for your kid is at your fingertips here. But two kids in the city I’m not so sure about. It would make me miss the suburbs and I’m terrified of the double stroller.

About the author: Anojja Shah (left) is a Tribeca mom who spends her days running after a feisty 2-year-old. In past lives she worked as a journalist and on Wall Street in equity research. This Q&A is her first in a series of interviews with immigrants who live and/or work in Tribeca.

Previous articles by Anojja Shah:
A playground Preview
Not Your Average Mama Drama


Comments are closed.