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Finding an Apartment in Montreal

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Finding an Apartment in Montreal Powered By Docstoc
					Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit   Tobias Deml




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Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                                                                Tobias Deml


This is an unofficial survival kit aimed at people who want to go abroad and change the
world, written in 2008-2011 by Tobias Deml. www.tobiasdeml.com

         GENERAL..............................................................................................................3
Preface..................................................................................................................................3
Am I Right for this Job?.......................................................................................................4
How do I become a Gedenkdiener / Sozialdiener / Friendesdiener?...................................5
The Very First Things to Know and Do..............................................................................5
   Important Resources........................................................................................................6
   Your Future Workplace...................................................................................................6
I Arrived. Now What?..........................................................................................................7
   Temporary Place to Stay..................................................................................................7
   Internet Access.................................................................................................................8
   Bank Account...................................................................................................................8
   Cell Phone........................................................................................................................9
   Rental Car........................................................................................................................9
   Laptop............................................................................................................................10
   Your own car..................................................................................................................10
   Apartment......................................................................................................................11
Roommates........................................................................................................................11
Apartments.........................................................................................................................12
   Where to find them........................................................................................................12
   How to Use Craigslist for Finding Apartments.............................................................13
   Example of Searching for an Apartment on Craigslist..................................................13
   Responding to Apartment Ads.......................................................................................14
How to Buy a Car..............................................................................................................15
   Getting the basics together.............................................................................................15
   Know your Rights..........................................................................................................16
   What to Watch out for: The Car....................................................................................17
   What to Watch out for: The Seller.................................................................................19
Legal Things......................................................................................................................19
   Car Insurance and Accidents.........................................................................................19
   Paper Work....................................................................................................................20
Finding Friends..................................................................................................................20
         LOS ANGELES...................................................................................................22
Geography..........................................................................................................................22
   Places You Don’t Want to Miss in LA..........................................................................22
Cultural Differences...........................................................................................................23
   “Nice to meet you” - Superficial People........................................................................23
   Eating Habits..................................................................................................................24
   Consume Culture...........................................................................................................24
   Diversity.........................................................................................................................25
   Is It Dangerous there?....................................................................................................25

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Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                                                              Tobias Deml


  Car Culture.....................................................................................................................26
       MONTREAL........................................................................................................27
Finding an Apartment in Montreal....................................................................................27
  Resources.......................................................................................................................27
  Cell Phone......................................................................................................................29
  Insulation........................................................................................................................29
  Roommates....................................................................................................................30
  Price...............................................................................................................................30
Buying a Car in Montreal..................................................................................................30
  Resources ......................................................................................................................30
  Overview........................................................................................................................30
  What to Watch Out For when Buying a Car in Montreal..............................................32
Differences to Austria........................................................................................................32
Behavior and Society in Montreal.....................................................................................33
  Language........................................................................................................................33
  Population......................................................................................................................34
         A last Word from the Author...........................................................................34




GENERAL
Preface
Why do I write this guide? Because it is damn difficult to become a civil servant abroad,
and because it's crazy and fun and an amazing experience. I am completely convinced
when I tell you:
Your civil service abroad will be the best experience of your life.
That's what it was for me – and it was everything but easy. All the strain and
complications were worth it in the end, and so I want to provide a resource for you, a
becoming world citizen, to learn from and to skip the mistakes I made, or to make them
yourself. I wrote this 35-page unofficial manual because I believe in a world that is
connected and that learns from its inhabitants. And because living abroad is simply the
coolest thing you can do – in the civil service, you can even do that with a higher
purpose, with something that will affect you for the rest of your life.
This experience will change who you are – it will make you a better you. A more mature
you. You will become much more independent than your friends, you will become a real
adult, more adult on the inside than many “adults” on the outside. You will make a
difference in the world, and you will really enjoy making a difference – if you choose to
put your passion into it.
The Austrian Civil Service Abroad is not a duty.
It is a developing life attitude.

                                                                                                                                      3
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


Am I Right for this Job?
The Holocaust Memorial Service as well as the Social Service and Peace Service are jobs
of great responsibility and require a lot of maturity. If you have doubts whether you are
the right person for this job, relax. I may sound like an old man saying this, but you have
to take care of your duties.
I am one example of how things can go wrong…
When I was working at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, I did not behave
appropriately over a period of time which resulted in serious talks with the director of the
organization and finally, in my firing. Yes, as ridiculous as this may sound, I was fired as
an unpaid voluntary intern. Judge for yourself if the reasons sufficed:

    1. I had private files on a work computer, which was perceived as theft and abuse of
       company property.
    2. I tapped the shoulders of students who gave very bright answers during the
       museum tours I held and had physical contact; this was perceived as flirting and
       could have resulted in charges for sexual harassment of minors.
    3. I drew a stereotyped caricature of an Asian colleague and commented a pretty
       controversial Chinese exhibition with “This is propaganda” – both of these
       statements I drew/wrote on the blackboard in our staff room. It was perceived as
       racism and again abuse of company property.

All this may or may not be minor things in Austria – but I worked in California, and
people there were very offended by my actions.
My Gedenkdienst service at the Museum of Tolerance was terminated. Fortunately, the
AHMS gave me a ten-day-ultimatum to find a new service place. On the tenth day I got a
call from a friend and fellow colleague Lukas Schweiger, who invited me to work in
Montreal.
I was lucky. Very lucky.

I am telling you this story to give you awareness. Be aware that you can’t just go abroad
and have a hell of a time while not taking care of your responsibilities. As great as an
Austrian Service Abroad is, the responsibility involved comes close to a public figure or
diplomat. You are a representative of Austria and its way to cope with the past and
present; everything you do on the workplace may affect the perception of Austria abroad.
Be responsible on your workplace and respect the work culture in the country you are
doing your service in. Period.
But – and that I say in a three-year-retrospect – would I have not gotten fired, a lot of
great things in my life would have never happened. So, sometimes it can be the best
experience in your life to get fired. I would recommend you: Follow your heart and your
dreams, let your horizon be widened and widen the horizon of others.
You yourself will determine what is wrong and right, and you will learn what taking
responsibility really means.


                                                                                            4
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml


How do I become a Gedenkdiener / Sozialdiener /
  Friendesdiener?
Every man finishing high school/gymnasium in Austria has to attend the military service.
You can elect to do the civil service instead if you don't feel like following unnecessary
military discipline or you just don't like the concept of being educated as a soldier in
general. If you want to put in a lot of work and commitment, you can do your civil
service abroad, in countries on all continents except Antarctica. That goes for Austrians
as well as Germans, but since I had my experience in Austria I can only tell you the story
from an Austrian perspective. Also, since I was a Gedenkdiener (Holocaust Memorial
Servant) I will concentrate on that kind of service – the tips go for anyone doing a civil
service or even a university semester abroad.
How can you get started as a civil servant abroad?
First, you need to find a carrier organization; one that sends you abroad and is the
middleman between you and the Austrian government. There is multiple ones in Austria
and Germany, but the largest one is the “Auslandsdienst” - www.auslandsdienst.at.

The rules might have changed since 2006-2009 (which was my time to work there), but
generally, you first have to attend a meeting in the closest large city to you (every
province of Austria has one monthly meeting). Then, you sign up, become a member, get
a profile on the website, and take over certain responsibilities, which you work on over
the course of the next months and years next to what you are doing (studying in high
school or university). Inside the organization, you will learn more about the amounts of
funding available and other processes. I recommend you to ask a lot of questions in the
first meeting to see if you are a fit for the organization, and to become a member at least
two years in advance of your planned service, so you can do a lot of work inside Austria
for the AHMS and get a decent amount of funding from the Austrian government. The
amount of funding is dependent on how much you worked for the organization and how
long you were part of it. In other organizations, funding amounts are only dependent on
your rank in the waiting list. Only about 50 civil servants go abroad each year, because
government money is limited. If you decide to go to an expensive place like Los Angeles
or London, expect that you will have to invest quite some thousand Euros in your service
on top of the government stipend you will get.
Working in these organizations takes time, commitment, diplomacy and will be stressful
at times – in retrospective, this stress and diplomacy is a great way to prepare you for
what you will face abroad.

All right, let's assume you've been in the organization for two years, chose a destination,
and you're just weeks away from taking off to your new home...

The Very First Things to Know and Do
In the beginning of a service abroad, you probably met people personally who have
already been there where you go. If you didn’t met predecessors so far, then it’s about

                                                                                              5
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml


time to look at the list of people who served at your future workplace as Gedenkdieners
and get in touch with them. Meeting people personally is always a hundredfold more
helpful than to just email them.

While you are in Austria, you can only prepare for being abroad. You can look up
neighborhoods and choose where you want to live, you can compare banks and insurance
companies through their web sites – but that’s about it. There is neither need nor use to
try to find a permanent apartment prior to arrival; take care of all that after you arrive in
your future city. As for apartments, it is a very good idea to meet everyone who lives
there in person before you agree to move in. So don’t get stressed with preparing
something in Austria that you can achieve with more ease after your arrival abroad.


Important Resources
There are Internet resources that are essential for getting to know a city and using its
features.
    • Craigslist.org: In many parts of the world, this is the number one website for
        apartments, cars, jobs, dating, ride-sharing etc. – it is completely free. Often, you
        will find great furniture here for low-cost or sometimes you even get it for free.
    • Couchsurfing.com: This community gets the world connected. As a couchsurfer,
        you can meet extremely nice and open-minded people in other cities, explore
        them together and “surf” the other person’s couch. Also, if you are already in a
        city, the couchsurfing meetings are fantastic and an opportunity to find great
        people on big, organized parties.
    • Ebay.com: Ebay is an online auction site where you can sell things you don’t
        need any more, or bet for anything purchasable and often get it for a good price.
    • Meetup.com: When you are in a new city and you don’t know a lot of people,
        this site is perfect; it features community-organized meet up groups to all kinds of
        topics like movies, clubbing, etc.

It is recommendable to arrive 2-7 days prior to the start of your work, so you have
enough time to at least check out a transportation route to your workplace. You don’t
want to get stressed at the very beginning of your adventure, and at least solve some of
the eight challenges in the next chapter before your schedule tightens through work.


Your Future Workplace
Although this guide will help you with a lot of things you may have no experience in, it
cannot cover every possible situation since I can only base it on my personal experience.
Every Gedenkdienst workplace is different; hours you will work, behavior expected from
you, use of your skills, knowledge requirements etc.



                                                                                             6
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


Be sure to know exactly where your workplace is located and on which day you are going
to start working there. First impressions count a lot, so showing up punctually is a good
idea.


I Arrived. Now What?
Imagine, you would have already arrived in the city where you are going to live and do
your Gedenkdienst service. Now you are standing around with your luggage in front of
the airport and have absolutely no idea what to do next. Find an apartment? Buy a car?
Eat ice cream?
Out of my experience in Los Angeles and Montreal, I recommend you to do things in a
certain sequence in order to successfully settle and build a life in a country you barely
know.
Some of these points are optional or interchangeable (a car can be substituted by public
transport), but the order in which they stand here is very important.

    1)   Temporary Place to Stay
    2)   Internet Access
    3)   Bank Account
    4)   Cell Phone
    5)   Rental Car
    6)   Laptop
    7)   Your own Car
    8)   Apartment

As soon as you mark those eight things as “done”, you are entering a stage where life in a
new city enters a new level. These eight points are basically the foundation for a
convenient everyday life. You are building the “safe base” for your future adventures and
have to worry about less things as soon as you have what you need to survive.


Temporary Place to Stay
First and for all, you need a place to stay for the first few days or weeks. Maybe you
know someone in this city, a friend or relative – then stick with them for a couple of days.
Maybe someone from the couchsurfing community can host you for a couple of days.
Maybe a former Gedenkdiener can host you or organize a place for you to stay.
If none of these things work for you, then the way to go is to check in a hostel. You pay
20-35$ per night, depending on location, season and comfort level.
It is a good idea to look up hostels a couple of days before you need them and book them
over the internet. Gain basic information which neighborhoods are probably dangerous
and take in account that you want to find a hostel from which you have an easy way to
reach work.


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Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml


Internet Access
When I arrived to Los Angeles, I had no laptop; the Euro was strong and the dollar weak,
so buying it for 60% of the price in Austria was a good idea. I did not have a bank
account or brought enough cash with me to buy everything at first – which would be
more than 3000$ in cash – so I had to rely on other people’s help at first.
If you stay in a hostel, make sure this hostel offers free internet access. Free WiFi is
usually a guarantee that you will find people with laptops in the lobby, who you can ask
“hey, can I check my emails on your laptop for five minutes?”

In the beginning, for finding a car rental place, comparing cell phone providers, checking
out the public transport system or communicating with your workplace, a temporary
internet access – meaning, borrowing laptops – is okay. As soon as you start to look for
apartments and a car, it is really recommendable that you have your own laptop, since
you will communicate with about 20 people at the same time.



Bank Account
The first and foremost reason for a local bank account is that you need money but don’t
really make any by being a Gedenkdiener. You will get the government support over
three rates during your year of service, but the first one arrives only four months after you
start – and those first four months are the most expensive ones. You will have to invest
into your rent, probably a so-called “last month’s rent” and maybe a security deposit for
your apartment. You will need to buy a car if you are in a place where a car is necessary;
you probably will get a rental car for a couple of days, buy a bed, furniture, clothing etc.
etc. – so starting out is always a budget thing.
Get informed what the usual payment way in your new country is; whether checks, cash
or bank transfers are preferred.
Get a bank account that gives you good accessibility through ATM machines, and try to
get a debit card or a credit card for this account.

A debit card is basically like an ATM card, but with the difference that it has a
MasterCard, Visa, American Express etc. – logo on the front, and you can use it for
online purchases. An additional PIN code makes it safe in the case of loss (people cannot
use it to buy stuff at a store without knowing the PIN). In North America, having a debit
or credit card is extremely helpful.

Get a bank account at a major bank with a lot of branches in your city; preferably one that
has a branch close to your workplace or apartment.
Give your bank account information for international transfers to your parents or whoever
sends you your start-up money. You will need this money very soon for your first major
investments.


                                                                                             8
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml


Cell Phone
As important as it is to have internet access to find ads for apartments, cars etc., it is
important that you can reach people over the phone. In some places on this world, the
only type of phone that you can use is a landline (either there is no cell phone coverage or
cell phone rates are way too expensive) – then make sure you have access to a landline.
In North America or Europe, cell phones are pretty common and therefore usually
affordable.
The best way to find a good cell phone company is to ask people around you which
provider they use. Ask friends, ask the person at the hostel front desk, random people on
the street – whoever got a cell phone will be happy to share his or her thoughts on cell
phone providers with you, since they all tried to find the best once themselves.

You will need the phone to talk to people who want to schedule apartment tours with you
– a trust issue, and you get a little more personal. You will also need a phone to buy a car,
to stay in contact with people and to reply to all ads that only provide a phone number as
contact information.
Decide together with a shop clerk whether a contract or a prepaid phone is the best for
you. Usually, contracts are made for at least a year of usage, but out of personal
experience in Los Angeles I know that you can just stop paying and terminate the
contract therefore if you decide to leave the city before your contract ends.




Rental Car
This is one of the points that depends on whether you will be able to go to work and
apartment tour appointments by public transport or by car. If the city of your service has
a fast, reliable public transportation system, then do not worry to get a rental car unless
you like to drive around.
To the contrary, if your city has a poor public transportation, then getting a rental car will
cost you a considerable amount of money but will save you time, energy and nerves and
opens endlessly more possibilities to you.

Rental cars are usually given away on a daily, weekly and monthly rate, and require a
passport, a valid driver’s license and either a credit card or cash. Your Austrian driver
license may be valid in most parts of the world, and usually you will not require a
translated “international driver license”. If you have no driver license yet but want to get
one in the country of your service, ask people in your environment how to get a driver
license, what they can tell you about it etc., and consult the internet for further
information.




                                                                                               9
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml


Laptop
From the moment on where you established a good transportation for yourself, have
access to a phone and a bank account to receive money, you want to start looking for a
long-term accommodation and probably your own car. You will be surfing and looking at
endless rows of housing ads, responding to many of them, follow through with email
conversations, etc. – that takes hours and hours of choosing, borrowing internet access
from someone else for that is pretty impossible and just costs nerves. If you additionally
look for a car, then your computer time doubles, and there’s not really anybody I would
know who wants to lend his computer for five hours to a stranger.

The solution: Get a computer, get independent. If you already have one, perfect!
If not, it is time for the good old method of asking people around you where to get good
computers. You can try eBay, but at this point time is everything and the faster you are
settled, the sooner you can start to really live in that city.
This implies to buy the computer at a local store.
When you have found a good store, look at you bank account balance: How soon and
how much money will you need for buying a car or paying rent and security deposit for
an apartment? How much money do you need for food etc. until you get your next money
transfer from Austria?
After all, don’t buy a too expensive computer as your budget is not very big. A good idea
to get about 20% off the retail price is to ask to buy the showcase model (the computer
that is displayed in the store). It will maybe have a couple of scratches and greasy
fingerprints on it, but is a lot cheaper than a “fresh” one.




Your own car
Again, this is only for those Gedenkdieners who are doing their service in a place that has
insufficient public transportation.
What first? A car or an apartment?
I recommend to buy a car first for several reasons:

    1. If you are young, rental cars are very expensive. I paid for my one-week-rental car
       in Los Angeles about 500$ since the insurance cost for “underage drivers” –
       under 21 years old – is very high.
    2. You can use the car as a “base” for becoming mobile, you can put all your worthy
       stuff in, like your laptop, and still use the pretty cheap solution of a hostel as your
       sleeping place.
    3. If necessary, you can sleep in your car – but you can’t drive your apartment.

See further instructions in the chapter “How to buy a car”.


                                                                                             10
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                     Tobias Deml


Apartment
Your permanent living situation comes at last. Now you have transportation to go to
apartment appointments, internet access and a laptop to surf through craigslist & co., a
phone to call potential future roommates and a bank account to afford the rent: You’re
good to go!
For details about finding an apartment and what to look for, see chapter “How to find an
apartment”.



Roommates
First and for all, your future roommates should be the number one criteria why you would
move in a certain place. It is an extra added bonus if the apartment looks nice or has a
stunning view, or your room is big and bright, or the subway station is right next door –
but the ultimate decision whether to move in a place or not should be based on your
future roommates, if you plan to spend there more time than just for sleeping.
I did not follow this first when I moved to Los Angeles – and moved into an apartment in
Hollywood for a reasonable rent price and a stunning view of whole LA. My
roommate/landlord turned out to be a paranoid schizophrenic that betrayed me for 1200$.
Don’t make a similar mistake.
The choice of the right roommates depends a lot on what you expect from a roommate
situation.
     1. Parties
     2. Learning Opportunities (like a new language)
     3. Good friends
     4. Quiet people
     5. People who don’t intrude your life

Number 4 and 5 appear to be pretty common; this is for the case that you are a loner and
want to stay one. If you, on the contrary, want to meet a lot of people, find friends,
become involved in social situations, then you better look out for fun people who know
where to find parties or how to throw parties in their own place.
You will meet a lot of people over your roommates; so choosing social, outgoing
roommates is always a plus that will enrich your social life.
To avoid number 4 and 5, simply look in the craigslist-ads for the keywords “quiet
person”, “no noise”, “separate” etc.
There are apartments where people live together but never really do something together –
you can sort those out when you get showed around by a roommate or the landlord, and
all he shows you of the other roommates are their closed doors.
As a rule of thumb, always ask to meet every single roommate and talk a bit to him or her
before deciding whether you like a place.



                                                                                           11
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                     Tobias Deml


It simply doesn’t make sense to move in a place without having an idea of how the
people are like that you will spend so much time together with in an intimate
environment.



Apartments
The apartments I am talking about are shared apartments or houses. I recommend a
Gedenkdiener to move in with roommates for three reasons: First, because he hasn’t got a
lot of money. Shared housing is usually cheaper than renting a whole apartment on your
own.
Second, because living alone in a city where you know hardly anybody is a bad idea.
Through roommates, you already have a couple of “friends” that you can go out together
with, you will meet new friends through your roommates, and you don’t feel lonely.
Third, because you share responsibilities. Paying bills together, buying groceries
together, maintaining the apartment together, cleaning together … you get the point.


Where to find them
This really depends on the country you are going to do your Gedenkdienst service in. If
you happen to know people in the city, then ask them if they know someone who needs a
roommate soon, plans on renting an apartment with someone else and so on – through
friends and contacts you usually get reliable and often cheaper offers.
Another way is to post a request in the according couchsurfing city group forum. Maybe
one of the couch surfers looks for a roommate – and having a couchsurfer as a roommate
will bring you a lot of fun.
Those two possibilities both feature people that you either know or can judge as
trustworthy – but jumping in the cold water of anonymity and moving in with someone
you hardly know requires a better judgment but can be far more exciting since you will
probably meet people that you would have never thought of hanging out with… and this
definitely widens your horizon.
If you happen to be in North America, it is a common approach to walk/drive through
neighborhoods and look for signs saying “For Rent” in order to find available apartments.
The cheaper way to find housing, probably saving you money and time, is to look on the
internet. In North America the number one online resource for this purpose is craigslist.

In all those cases, be careful and do nothing which threatens your safety. Only move in
with someone that you feel comfortable around.




                                                                                          12
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


How to Use Craigslist for Finding Apartments
Go to craigslist.org, choose country and city, and depending on your budget, click on one
of the “housing” categories:


Sorting out
Depending on the place you are going to do your Gedenkdienst, you will have either a lot
of choice in terms of finding an apartment, or just a handful of housing options. Are there
just a few offers, then go through each of them with care and schedule as many visits as
possible before you decide.
If you are planning to attend the service in a huge city like Los Angeles or New York,
you will not even have the time to quickly look at every ad on craigslist, because there
are so many. Therefore, this chapter is about sorting out the apartments that don’t fit your
needs, and deciding between the top choices.
Important is:

    1) What you want
    2) How much money you can spend

The right way to go is to put your wishes first, make a list of all the apartments that fulfill
those wishes, and then sort them out based on your price preference.
It would make no sense tough to add apartment ad to your list that costs 2000$ per month
although you want to pay 300-800$ – so first of all, you limit your search by your
personal, absolute maximum of money that you want to pay for rent.

With search engines of craigslist&co., generally speaking, look up apartment descriptions
including keywords like “awesome”, “loft”, “amazing”, “party”, “bright”, “fun”,
“rooftop”, “Jacuzzi”, “hot tub”, “pool” etc. to find outstanding apartments that will make
your year abroad memorable.
Let’s see an example:


Example of Searching for an Apartment on Craigslist
Let’s say you want to live in an apartment with a rooftop terrace, if possible a loft, and
you are able pay 500-900$ per month. On craigslist, your input should look like this:




                                                                                              13
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


Your wish: Here, you put in a keyword that someone who is renting out your dream
apartment would include in his/her description.
Always use the “has image” checkbox. Everybody nowadays has a camera, and someone
who is serious and legitimate will also include photographs into the description.
There are some people with great apartments who don’t want to show photographs online
for whatever reason; at the end of the day you have to decide whether it is worth it for
you to contact those people too (If you have a lot of time, or you want to widen your
search results).

Now you will get, let’s say, 35 results.
15 of them have by chance one of the keywords in them, but in a different context. 10 ads
have a rooftop terrace, but you don’t like the rest of the apartment. 2 ads look suspicious,
and the remaining eight look cool – those are the ones you want to contact (see next
chapter).


Responding to Apartment Ads
As a rule of thumb, you will not be the only one who responds to this ad, and you will not
be the only one to visit the apartment. Because your future roommates usually look for
personality, and will probably live together with you for months, it is of huge importance
to be honest at any time. That means age, nationality, occupation and so on. Keep in mind
that these people don’t know who you are and their only way of figuring you out is
through your initial email.
Think of responding for an apartment ad as applying for a job. You should include the
following things in your email:

    1) An introduction; who you are and why you came to this city.
    2) Specific things about the ad: Although it is legitimate to use a standard email that
       you send to every recipient, it is a good idea to personalize every email to a high
       extent. Not just the name of the person, but also what you like about the
       apartment, what you noticed on the photographs etc.
    3) What you are looking for: Tell these people your wishes and why you chose their
       ad to respond to.
    4) A photograph of yourself! Let your future roommates see who they are dealing
       with.

Depending on way the ad is written and the kind of person you are writing to, you can
make your email funny or serious, use a good-looking or a crazy photo and so on.
The email should have a length that is readable in a fair amount of time but at the same
time conveying that you took enough efforts in getting these peoples attention (no one-
liners please).



                                                                                           14
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                           Tobias Deml


How to Buy a Car
Getting the basics together
The first thing to consider is the reason why you want a car. Let’s assume you need one.
Do you want to use your car mainly to get to work and back home? Do you want to do
road trips with it? Do you want to transport others in it, if yes, how many? What shall it
look like?
The first thing to do and see is to estimate your budget. Purchasing a car does not
necessarily mean to give away the whole sum you pay, like you would do when buying
groceries – the money you invest in a car stays to a large part in the car, until you resell it.
For a safe estimate, assume that you will get 60% of your money back (in case you have
an accident and damage the paint). Usually, you will get back more, depending on your
sales talent and luck.

When I started off, I insisted on having an old American muscle car, like a Firebird or a
Mustang out of the late 60s. By finding out more about cars, I abandoned this idea; the
older the car, the less reliable it is. It may be a great status symbol and fun factor to have
a classy car out of the sixties, but to possess such a ride you should bring expertise
knowledge on the field of car mechanics with you, and be wealthy enough to get a rental
car for while your Mustang is at the body shop if something happens.

Out of my experience in Los Angeles (which is driving a car all day long), I advise you to
think about your wishes with great care, and let looks be the secondary factor in your
choice. The first thing to look for in a car, the most important one, is reliability. There is
no better car than one that runs well and keeps you and the people around you safe.
It is also an option to purchase a motorcycle, especially thinking of high gas prices it may
be a good option. I am sure if you are serious about buying a motorcycle, then you
already know this, but let me emphasize it: With a motorcycle you are the “little” man on
the road, and in cities like Los Angeles it is often out of your control if someone hits you.
In countries where there is a lot of rain or cold weather, a motorcycle is not a good idea
either. In terms of fuel efficiency, a motorcycle is often three or four times more efficient
than an average car. Although you save costs this way, additional to a motorcycle you
will need to buy a helmet, a motorcycling jacket and protectors.

The next step is to find one. Act in similar ways as you did in Finding an Apartment –
using online classifieds, list your options, do research on them and contact the people to
schedule appointments.




                                                                                               15
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml


Know your Rights
You’ll spend money. That is the most important thing. You are spending anything from
800$ to 6000$ to get a reliable, used car. There is absolutely no reason to rush a decision,
even if the seller pressures you directly or indirectly. If he says there is another buyer and
you need to make a decision fast – within minutes – then get suspicious. This is usually a
selling technique. A legitimate seller will give you at least a night to sleep over it, and
you should do so.

There is also the case that another person is actually interested in the car. When I bought
my car, this was the case, and the seller told me that if I come again on the next morning,
it may be gone. This seems a little naive now, but I had 500$ in cash with me and gave
him a first rate payment. I wanted to leave, but he asked me to sign two sheets of paper
which indicated that I gave him 500$ - and this was a great advice. Always have two
written statements, signed by both you and the seller, that acknowledge the receipt of a
certain amount of money – one copy for you, one for the seller. The next day I arrived
with the rest of the money and got the car and the papers.

Before you buy a car, you should let it check by a mechanic. You can get a 24-point-
check in most car mechanic shops (for example PepBoys) for about 20$. The test takes
about an hour in most repair stations, during which you can hang out with the seller and
talk about cars. Always do this – even if you know a lot about cars, having a mechanic
quickly check the brake pads etc. is essential to a good purchase decision.

Apart from the mechanics test, test-drive the car yourself. There’s nothing that makes a
test drive unnecessary. If the car shows problems or damages, that does not necessarily
mean that you should not buy it. Your budget is limited, and every day you don’t have a
car, you probably have to pay for a rental car. Ask yourself: Can I repair these issues
myself? Do I know someone who can? Is it necessary? Is my safety at stake?
When you get the results of the 24-point check back from the mechanic, he will tell you
which difficulties/problems the car has and how much they will cost.

Based on what the mechanic tells you and what your impression of the car is, you can
negotiate and think about resale options; if you will be able to sell the car after your
service for an acceptable price.


Once again, your rights:
  1. Taking time for the decision, if necessary “reserving” the car with a refundable
      fee.
  2. Test driving the car yourself
  3. Bringing the car to a mechanic and get a 24-point check



                                                                                             16
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


What to Watch out for: The Car
There is nothing better when planning to buy a ride than educating yourself about cars
beforehand. During the 24-point-check the mechanic will list most of these points if there
is an issue, but knowing yourself about them is always an advantage.
    1. Rust
         This can be a major issue in reselling the car. While you drive the car yourself,
         rust is a minor aesthetic factor (depending on the severity of the rust it can grow
         to a mechanical issue) - but the importance of rust is when reselling the car. Rust
         is a major argument to lower the price during a negotiation – so if you buy a car
         that has rust spots, use them as an argument to get it cheaper. If you see bubbles
         in the car paint, this is because of underlying rust.
    2. Tires
         Look at the profile thickness of the tires. If they are too flattened, you will soon
         need to purchase new tires. Tires are expensive, especially winter tires – another
         argument to negotiate a better price.
    3. Brakes
         This is a security issue. Your health is at stake if you buy a car with insufficient
         brakes. A car that cannot decelerate quickly enough is a threat to you and
         everyone around you. During the test drive, make a full brake at high speed (on a
         lonely road or a big, empty parking lot), and see how the brakes react. If the car
         slides, this means it has no ABS (Anti-lock braking system), in which case you
         should educate yourself about how to make a full brake with no ABS while
         keeping control over the car.
         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadence_braking
         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threshold_braking
         If the brakes seem not to have enough power, probably the break pads have
         become too thin. Consult the mechanic who will hand you the finished 24-point
         check – he can tell you how many percent of the break pads are left.
    4. Oil
         The motor oil is an important indicator for the “health” of the car’s engine. You
         can check the motor oil by opening the car hood and pulling on (usually) a plastic
         ring to which a long metal strip is attached. On the bottom you will see the oil.
         How to check the oil
         If the oil is low, maybe even empty, or in a very bad condition, it is a sign that the
         former owner did not take much care of the car. The engine can be damaged if the
         oil is not changed and refilled regularly.
    5. Dents
         Evert car who had an accident, major or minor, has dents. If the seller states that
         the car has never been involved in an accident, you want to make sure he is telling
         you the truth – otherwise your resale revenues sink with each dent. To find out if
         the car has dents, look at the reflections in the car paint. If the reflections are
         perfectly smooth, then there won’t be any dents – if there are bumps in the


                                                                                              17
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml


        reflection, there are bumps in the car body. Dents lower the worth of the car, and
        since you get less on the resale, you can use the dents as an argument to negotiate.
    6. Lights
        In most countries, all lights of a car have to be working legally, at least during the
        night. Check all of the lights, including those of the interior.
    7. Acceleration
        Watch out for how the car accelerates. Are there irregularities? Hammering
        sounds that shouldn’t be there? If yes, consult the mechanic after his 24-point
        check.
    8. Gaps between car parts
        Even if the car seems to have zero dents, you can find out if it has been involved
        in an accident in the past. The gaps between car parts, for example the gap
        between the hood and the front door, always have to be symmetric; the gap has to
        have the same size on the left and the right side of the car. If not, these parts must
        have been moved by force and therefore been part of an accident. Another good
        indicator is to look for forcefully bent parts of the chassis, which you can inspect
        when opening the hood. A car with a crash history is less worth – for you as a
        buyer and for you as a reseller.
    9. Interior
        The interior is usually a prestige question. What’s important is if there are sticky
        places, or if something is smelly. Bad smell is often hard to remove. See if the car
        has a car radio – which is about 100$ when you buy a new one. No car radio
        means you can negotiate a better price.
    10. Seat quality
        The seats are the parts of a car where you spend most of your time in. Therefore,
        they should be absolutely comfortable and in good condition. If they aren’t, you
        probably have to buy new ones or drive with pillows in your back, if they are held
        by broken columns, you have to fix the columns with poles and risk that you get
        your kidneys pierced by the pole when someone crashes in your car from behind.
        I mention this because both happened to me – don’t let it happen to you. My
        kidneys didn’t get pierced, but it was very inconvenient.
    11. Sun damage on the paint
        Yes, our beautiful can damage cars. In places where there is a lot of sunshine, the
        car paint gradually loses quality when maintained poorly, and the danger of rust
        rises. You can easily identify sun damage: The paint seems to fall off like skin
        falls of after sunburn, and the color is faded. Sun damage on cars is caused by
        improper maintenance of the wax layer – and it’s possible that the former owner
        generally didn’t take much care of his car.
    12. Irregularities
        Whatever seems weird, out of place or makes you doubt the car’s reliability, bring
        it up when talking to the mechanic.



                                                                                             18
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


What to Watch out for: The Seller
Trust is the most important factor in a buyer-seller relationship. If the seller is a friend of
yours, you are lucky – but usually, you will buy your new car from a stranger. So-called
“social skills”, are essential not just to build a base of trust with the seller, but also to
judge him. Look for irregular, sleazy behavior. Most people in this world are nice, but the
more experiences you collect, the more weirdos you will meet – simple statistics. Look at
the neighborhood where the seller lives. Ask for the reason why he sells the car.

Get all the paperwork done together in a relaxed environment. You will get ownership
transfer papers from the seller, which you will later register at the official motor vehicle
institution (for example, the DMV). Don’t let yourself pressure to make decisions or give
money. You will feel if the seller tries to hide something. See if he is stressed and tries to
sell the car no matter what.
This advice is not meant to make you approach the situation with a basic suspicion, but
with care and responsibility.



Legal Things
As you probably enter a very new stage of your life with the start of your service, there
are a couple of inconvenient things that your parents took care of while you were on high
schools – now is the moment to educate yourself about this part of life. You will need this
knowledge, no matter if you are an Austrian servant abroad, a banker or a painter.

Car Insurance and Accidents
Unfortunately, accidents happen. This also includes those that are not caused by you. In
many countries and states it is a legal requirement to insure a car to drive it. Someone
who has no insurance and gets involved in an accident may be liable to pay off huge
amounts of money – and to protect yourself and others from this financial danger, getting
insurance is essential.
The way to get insurance is to call a general insurance agent, or one that works for a
certain insurance company. You request a “quote”, which is a very accurate estimate of
what you are going to pay monthly for the insurance. Before you call any agent, ask your
friends and acquaintances if they personally know an agent - this usually saves you
money. Car insurance costs vary strongly, usually based on the number of accidents you
had in the past, your age, driving experience, and type of car. The insurance agent will
also ask you for a credit card number if you get the insurance via telephone.
To find the right insurance company, ask your colleagues at work and friends who have
cars what they would recommend.
Also, you can buy insurance online. Make sure that whenever you give someone your
credit card number that the company is legitimate – there are a lot of betrayals, rip-offs
and scams out there.

                                                                                              19
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml




Always have your insurance number in the glove compartment of your car – in case of an
accident, you can exchange insurance information quickly with the other party of the
accident and the insurances will take care of the case.
If you cause a minor accident, don’t get insurance involved – give the victim of your bad
driving skills your phone number and address so that they can contact you and tell you
the cost for repairing the damage. On the long run, this is the right tactic, because your
insurance will get more expensive if you have an accident.
It is not mandatory to contact the insurance in case of an accident – insurances are there
to prevent you from paying the damage for major accidents. If someone hits you and asks
to not get insurance involved, respect his request and make sure you get his information
(ask him for an I.D., call his number to check if his cell phone is ringing etc.) and contact
him as soon as you got an estimate from a body shop or car mechanic.

Paper Work
That’s what you could enjoy while being dependent on your parents – they did the
paperwork for you. Now that you are on your own, you will have to fill out endless forms
to master life in our modern world.
Examples:
    • Landlord-tenant contracts: This is what you sometimes have to read and sign
        when renting a room or an apartment.
    • Car ownership papers: This is what you will get when buying a car.
    • Work contract: Confirming that you will do the job for a certain time etc.
This all may seem trivial, but if you don’t trust a person, then get as much paper work as
possible when you feel you want to deal with them. Never buy a car without ownership
papers.


Finding Friends
There are some people who are loud, and others are quiet, some find friends fast, some
are shy and have a hard time. Friends don’t appear out of the blue, and friendships need
to be maintained – but for all the hard work of meeting strangers and people you don’t
know, you will get rewarded.
A good place to start is your apartment and your workplace. When you know hardly
anyone, your roommates and your colleagues are most likely to become your friends.
Invite them to join you at events, trips, hikes and concerts. Find someone that you can
work out/do sport together with. The best way to find friends is to spend a lot of time
outside your room and to look for adventures.
When you are adventurous, loyal and have a good sense of humor, you won’t have
difficulties to find new friends.




                                                                                            20
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


Also, you can play the Austrian ace card – simply say you are from Austria, and people
will think you are completely exotic and gather around you to catch a glimpse of the
newly discovered stranger from overseas.

Another great place to catch new friends is at film sets, as unpaid extras. Extras are
“background actors” and often have to wait for hours on the set before they are being
used for their scene. In these few hours no one of them has anything to do and usually
everybody forgets to bring something to read, so you fall into automatic conversation –
and that's how you meet a big amount of people. Some of the people I met years ago on
film sets when we were extras are still friends of mine and we keep in contact. You can
find extra work on craigslist in the “gigs” section.
Meetup.com is one of the fastest ways to get connected to people with similar interests,
and unlike most web networks, meetup.com is all about meeting people. Similarly,
couchsurfing.org is a great way to meet people in your city on organized parties – and
couchsurfers are all from the same fruit tree – some of the friendliest, most open-minded
people there are. Sign up on couchsurfing, sign up on meetup if you have specific
hobbies or interests (photography, rock climbing, eating in restaurants, going to the
movies etc. - for each of these things there are a dozens of groups) and you will find
friends in no time.

In different cultures, friendships may be working differently. Sometimes they are more
shallow and friends are offended if you ask them something too personal. Sometimes
friends have a certain, unwritten honor codex which you have to figure out by yourself.
As long as you put passion and attention to a friendship, you are doing the right thing.
For the case that you offend someone, play again the Austrian card – say “Oh, I didn’t
know … in Austria we do that all the time.”
You can’t do that too often tough, at least not with the same person... eventually they will
figure out that you are mocking them.




                                                                                           21
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                     Tobias Deml




LOS ANGELES
Geography
There are three workplaces in Los Angeles where you can do your Holocaust Memorial
Service:
    • The Museum of Tolerance / Simon Wiesenthal Center: Located in the southwest
        corner of Beverly Hill, close to a large Golf Course.
    • The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust: Between West Hollywood and
        Beverly Hills in midst the Pan Pacific Park.
    • The Shoah Foundation: To be found only a few minutes southwest of Downtown,
        in the beautiful University campus of USC.
Here is a map, showing the proportions. The city is absolutely humongous, from the left
of this map to the right you'd take 2-3 hours to drive in normal traffic conditions.




Places You Don’t Want to Miss in LA
There's an insane amount of cool stuff to see in Los Angeles and its surroundings. A short
list of things you can easily visit within one year of living there (I recommend them):
     • The Hollywood Sign hike (you hike to a radio station right above it)
     • Grauman's Chinese Theater / The Egyptian Theater
                                                                                         22
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml


    •    Venice Beach Drum Circle (happens every Sunday night)
    •    Santa Monica Pier at night
    •    Rodeo Drive and the rich mega-villas of Beverly Hills and Bel Air
    •    The LA Library in Downtown LA
    •    The Museum of Tolerance (great exhibitions)
    •    The California Science Center
    •    South Central trip during the day (beware, only do this inside a working car. This
         is possibly dangerous but worth it – definitely don't go at night)
    •    Skid Row trip during the day (same laws as South Central, but instead of
         gangbangers you will see homeless people)
    •    The Mexican Market in Downtown LA (Olympic&Central)
    •    Flower Market in Downtown LA
    •    Bunker Hill & Skyscrapers
    •    Chinatown & Little Tokyo
    •    LAX The Encounter Restaurant
    •    A trip to Malibu and one of its beaches
    •    Manhattan Beach for swimming and a beach town experience
    •    Big Bear for a weekend in the snow or a jacuzzi in a lodge
    •    The Mojave Desert
    •    A weekend in Palms Springs
    •    Salton Sea (a dead lake, can be combined with the close-by Palms Springs – don't
         forget your camera, there are ghost towns and millions of dead fish here)
    •    A weekend trip to San Diego or across the Mexican Border
    •    A day trip to Santa Barbara
    •    A multi-day trip to San Francisco, by bus, train or airplane (parking is impossible
         in San Francisco, and they have great public transport, so don't even think about
         bringing your car along)

Cultural Differences
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, features an innumerable amount of cultural differences
to, say, Vienna. Here is an overview of what you can expect:


“Nice to meet you” - Superficial People
Los Angeles is a city full of movie actors and creative people. Some people in LA are
called “fake” – superficial in terms of relation- and friendships. It is common use to greet
each other with “How are you?” but not actually meaning to find out how the other
person is feeling. I often got greeted by people on the street with “How are you?”, and I
thought that was very nice, so I stopped to tell them about my day – but they were
already gone. I was confused. Why would people ask something but actually not want to
find out?

                                                                                            23
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml




You will notice that in California, people are generally very nice and pleasant to be
around; they invite you to their houses with nearly not knowing you at all, they take the
time to actually show you where you have to go when you ask for directions etc.
This nice behavior is embedded in the Californian way of life. Now, there actually are
many people who are genuinely nice and open to help strangers. This is something you
will rarely find in Austria, much rarer than in California.
On the other hand, this niceness can be entirely superficial; a social mask people put on
to function in their society. People who tell you “Nice to meet you!” when saying
goodbye with a big, friendly smile may actually think “What an asshole…” about you.
They were brought up to be nice to others tough, so they simply hide their negative
opinion about you. Don’t be offended by that but be aware that not everyone who tells
you one of these friendly standard phrases actually means it.

Eating Habits
The food consumption in the United States greatly differs what you may remember from
Austria. In Austria, there are usually three meals a day and maybe a coffee break
somewhere in the middle. In Los Angeles, people are generally very educated and
knowledgeable about nutrition; nevertheless, they eat junk food in big amounts, much
more than their body needs, much more than they would compensate with sports.
You will notice many obese as well as perfectly shaped men and women. Don’t fall into
the trap of eating all day long snacks and chips; engage in a regular sport or workout
routine at home, take care of your body. Convenience is your biggest enemy in Los
Angeles, so don’t make a habit of driving your car two blocks down to buy ice cream just
because it saves you five minutes of your precious time.

Consume Culture
Buy, buy, buy. That's a very American thing to do – and it's omnipresent. America has a
lot more advertisements than European countries do, and buying things is a more
common commodity in the new world. That makes the economy thrive, but leaves people
often in devastating financial situations, where credit cards simulate wealth that is not
there. Also, there's a lot of people who are beyond rich, and you might be friends with
them; don't get pressured to follow up with shopping trips or similar ways of wasting
your money.

It's a good test in terms of self-control and independence to learn to control one's habits
of wanting to possess things, and it's critical to get a good sense of what is a necessity and
what is a commodity or luxury. Also, my personal recommendation is to never ever get a
credit card, since that is you personal opportunity to fall into a spiral of debt. This
devastating financial collapse only happens to a small fraction of people, but keep it in
mind as a thing that is possible. Your annual budget for a life in LA will be greatly
influenced by your consume behavior.


                                                                                             24
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                         Tobias Deml


Diversity
When you walk on the streets of Austria, you see a very distinct picture: 95% of the
people are white, and 95% of the people are heterosexual. As for the latter, many of them
may live their sexual orientation hidden from the public eye. The only people that look
different are mostly eastern or southern Europeans.
Generally, Austrians base their racism less on skin color but on nationality or religious
orientation.
Not so in L.A.: You will see every skin color you can imagine, and suddenly you don’t
represent a clear majority any more but find yourself in an incredibly interesting pool of
diverse looks. People show their sexual orientation much more openly; it is not
uncommon to meet transvestites, openly gay people, transgender people, and lesbians.
In the beginning I lived together with a bisexual man (he never tried to pick me up). I
have friends with all kind of skin colors; I have gay friends, bisexual friends – things, that
I wouldn’t have had if I were living in Vienna.

Although Los Angeles is very diverse, racism is an everyday issue. There are many
Latinos and Mexican people in Los Angeles. Some people complain about this fact and
feel threatened by the continuous immigration stream from California’s southern border –
and many people get along with them very well.
Viewing people differently who don’t look like you as well as having stereotypical ideas
and prejudices is natural. Be aware tough that these prejudices and stereotypes are
something your mind makes up to simplify life for you. Be open to people who are
different from you and you will notice that most of them will enrich your life with
interesting and unusual experiences.

Is It Dangerous there?
It is not generally dangerous in Los Angeles. There is no constant crisis of violence or
gangs all over the city. Much rather, there are certain areas that are much more crime-
infested than other parts; usually, everything north of the 10 Freeway and close to the
beaches is safe. Of course there can be violence anywhere, but gang wars (which usually
happen between gangs and are not targeted against outsiders) happen only in certain parts
of the city. These can be explored during the day – with caution and preparation, and an
exit plan – but should be absolutely avoided during the night. These city parts include:
     • South Central
     • Compton
     • Inglewood
     • West Covina
     • anything that looks all too shady
Stay safe. Violence can occur anywhere, and while it's better to live realistically –
meaning, nothing will really happen to you – it's good to watch out for yourself and be
careful about the areas you are in.


                                                                                             25
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


I myself lived for two months really close to South Central, together with a former gang
member and drug dealer. Although I was scared to death in the beginning, he turned out
to be one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, with a fascinatingly existential
system of values and feelings that I would have never expected. Lesson learned: Always
be open to explore new things – they will often blow your mind and open your horizon
immensely –, just do it with the necessary care.


Car Culture
It’s the American way of life to drive everywhere with your car. Especially in Los
Angeles, where public transportation has been killed ever since GM had a great
conspiracy with oil companies in the 1920s. There is a public transit system – Metro, Big
Blue Bus and a few others – but they only consist of a lot of buses and a few subways.
Subways are fast and convenient, buses are widespread and nearly as fast as the general
traffic – but if you need to get somewhere specifically in little time, you probably won't
get there until an hour after your estimated arrival. Simply put: Get a car, if you want to
get a life in LA.

The only problem here is that everybody in LA had the same idea, and there is a lot of
cars. A LOT. Meaning, you will – as does everyone else who has to drive to work –
spend a large chunk of your life in the car, and you will also spend a large chunk of your
budget on gas. Watch out for the judgment that comes with car culture: You are your car.
If you drive a dirty car, you are a dirty person; if you drive a nice car, you're a nice guy or
girl... that's simply how it's being interpreted in Los Angeles. Maybe not as radical as I
just showed it, but generally everybody buys the most expensive car they can just about
afford, they maybe take a loan or two to get it. Don't fall for that – get a car for around
1500$ that is reliable, put a big bumper sticker on it that says “I am European” and voila,
you're in business, everybody is going to love your crappy car.


PS: Hollywood is not as glamorous as you think. But it's a pretty damn unique place.




                                                                                              26
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml




MONTREAL
Finding an Apartment in Montreal
The same way that Craigslist is popular throughout North America, it is highly
appreciated and frequently used in Montreal as well.
Look for an apartment when you arrive! You can look at some ads when you are still in
Austria, but it makes practically no sense to schedule appointments before you arrive in
Montreal. Scammers often ask for money prior to moving in – never pay before you have
physically visited the spot.



Resources
http://montreal.en.craigslist.ca/roo
http://montreal.kijiji.ca/f-housing-room-rental-roommates-
W0QQCatIdZ36
http://ca.easyroommate.com/Montreal-roommate
“A LOUER”-signs on houses


In Montreal, there are specific features that you have to look for in your future apartment.
Besides the basic rules (described in the chapter “Finding an Apartment”), there are
special ones for Montreal:

Location
The KFF is located in the
West of the city, “near”
Vendome station. The
MHMC is found near the
Cote Saint-Catherine station,
which is in the northwestern
part of Montreal.

Although both workplaces
are located in the west, it is
                                                                                           27
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


not a recommended area to live in; everything else apart from work is happening in
Downtown Montreal and in or around the Plateau.


The following areas are recommendable:

Berri-UQAM
This is where I lived during my Gedenkdienst service.
Subway stations include: Berri-UQAM, Saint Laurent.
UQAM is a huge university and at the same time the main center for public transport.
The national library is connected to the subway station, the central bus terminal as well.
Rue Saint Catherine is also located right next to this metro station and gives you a good
opportunity to go shopping. The proximity to Saint-Laurent Boulevard is an additional
bonus for going out and going shopping. However, the area is a bit shabby and seeing
drug abusers and prostitutes on the streets is not uncommon. Also, there are no major
supermarkets in this area – you have to rely on smaller chains or depanneurs.
The area encompasses everything south of Sherbrooke and east of St-Denis.

The Plateau
This is where my predecessor Lukas Schweiger lived.
Subway stations include: Sherbrooke, Mont Royal, Laurier, and Rosemont.
A lot of Nightlife is happening here; many bars and restaurants, countless little shops, and
also a very residential area with classy, typical Montreal-style houses. Most supermarkets
are smaller chains or family-run depanneurs. Many house parties and Couchsurfing
meetings are happening on the Plateau.
The Plateau is a relatively big area. It reaches from Sherbrooke Street in the south to Mile
End/Rue Bernard in the North and from Papineau Avenue in the East to Parc Avenue in
the West.
The most important street on the Plateau, where the concentration of shops and going-out
opportunities is the highest, is St-Laurent Blvd. (between Sherbrooke and Laurier). But
also don’t underestimate St-Denis Blvd!
The area is very safe, but how easy it is to get there depends on how far the apartment or
location is away from the nearest metro station. Getting around by bus during the winter
can be very challenging, night buses are even more complicated. The subway should be
your main transportation. Very important, too, is the distance to supermarkets and
pharmacies – for the same reason; you don’t want to wander too far through the snow just
to get toilet paper.

Downtown / Old Montreal
Subway stations include: Saint Laurent, Place des Arts, Mc Gill, Peel, Bonaventure,
Square-Victoria, Place des Armes, Camp des Mars.
Getting an apartment in this area means finding yourself surrounded by skyscrapers or
the cultural-architectural heritage of Montreal. Rue Saint-Catherine covers every

                                                                                             28
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml


consumer wish in the downtown area, and nearly all sightseeing attractions are to be
found here. The whole underground city, located under downtown, gives you endless
shops and a warm surrounding during the hard winters. The bars and clubs in downtown
are very decent. Everything seems to be closely packed together. During the night it
might get a little scary when you wander through narrow alleys since, especially on the
nights before a weekday, Old Montreal and Downtown seem to be abandoned. On the
contrary, it can get pretty noisy during the day.
The Downtown/Old Montreal Area stretches from Atwater Avenue in the west to St-
Denis in the East and from Avenue Des Pins/Mont Royal in the North to the Harbor in
the South.



Cell Phone
You will find many people in Montreal not having a cell phone and exclusively using
their stationary home phone. This is mainly because Canada is a gigantic country with a
low population density and cell phone companies have to pay a lot of money to provide
coverage in far-off territories.
Cell phone usage is expensive therefore, and a lot of people will advise you not to get one
because it is a rip-off. In my experience, the best way is to get an ordinary cell phone that
you use outside of your house – when being at home, you can use Skype Out or a
stationary phone to call people. No matter which company you take, always check the
correctness of your billing; it is fairly common that Canadian cell phone companies
charge you for things you did not consume. The large companies are Telus, Rogers and
Bell.


Insulation
Montreal is a warm place during the summer, and a cold place in the wintertime. Around
December, January and February, the temperature is usually below -10 degrees Celsius,
can go as low as -30° C (together with wind can feel like -45° C). Therefore, after
shivering through the snow, you want to relax in a warm apartment. Heating costs are
high, so keeping the warmth in the apartment is a good idea.

When you visit the apartment for the first time, look at the following things:

    1. Windows: Are they old and don’t fit into the frame, leaving gaps? – this might
       become an issue and you have to insulate it yourself.
       How many layers of glass do the windows have? – This is of huge importance.
       Double-layer windows are far better in terms of insulation.
    2. Doors: Is there an entrance room or an inside staircase with two doors? –This is
       also very important to keep the warmth inside the apartment.


                                                                                            29
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


    3. Heating costs: Ask your may-be future roommates or landlord how the cost for
       heating changes the rent price during the winter.

If you like a place and the roommates there a lot, then don’t let yourself hinder by minor
insulation issues to take the room. You can make double or triple windows out of single
windows by using plastic sheets as additional glass panels, and gaps can be filled and
sealed with foam or expanding caulking material.



Roommates
First and for all, your future roommates should be the number one criteria why you would
move in a certain place. In Montreal, there are basically two categories of roommates:
French speaking, and not French speaking.
Choosing roommates depends largely on your French skills, your openness to learning
French and their English abilities.


Price
Rooms in shared apartments in Montreal have an average price range from 300-600$ (by
experience, dated 2008-2009) per month. Utilities add 50-100$ to the rent price, changing
a lot from summer to winter. Your budget as a Gedenkdiener may be very limited, but
with a bunch of effort it is very well possible to find a good apartment with a good
location and a cheap price. I paid 320$ for my rent, 50-80$ for the utilities, and was
located one minute by foot to the Berri-UQAM station. Price is, if you have the guts to do
so, usually negotiable with the landlord.
See if there are additional monthly costs (like washing and drying clothes).



Buying a Car in Montreal
Resources
http://montreal.en.craigslist.ca/cta/
http://montreal.kijiji.ca/f-cars-vehicles-W0QQCatIdZ27


Overview
Since both the MHMC and the KFF are pretty far away from the city’s center (about 40
minutes) and if you also want to travel a lot in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern US,
you might consider getting a car. Gas prices are falling and so is the exchange rate (as of
December 2008):

                                                                                           30
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                        Tobias Deml




The gas price in CAD is decreasing…




…while the EUR-CAD exchange rate changes in favor of the Euro.

Used, functioning and decent cars can be found for as low as $1000. If you take a cheaper
apartment and save the $70 each month you would pay for the public transport ticket,
getting a car is not a luxury even if you don’t have an enormous budget – given the fact
that you will sell it again. Although public transport is not non-existent like in most part
of North America, compared to European standards it is pretty dreadful.

Since Montreal has snow for many months, a huge factor in the decision of driving a car
is the maintenance cost and the very real possibility of rusty spots. In Montreal, the
officials use a special kind of salt to melt the snow on the streets away. This salt is known
to be extremely aggressive, damaging everything from shoes to car paint. The salts acid
power is strong enough to “eat” parts of the car paint which protect the underlying metal;

                                                                                            31
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


due to the loss of protection those metal parts start rusting. It is extremely common to see
rust spots all around car’s wheel cases in Montreal; even car cases that start to lose their
shape due to rust are not seldom. Selling a car with those rust damages is not easy.

Also, calculate that you will need to buy winter tires for your car. If you want to travel
cheaply to other cities without having your own car, look for ride share offers on
craigslist.org or couchsurfing.com.
In Montreal itself, as long as you stay within the subway system’s bounds, you will not
need a car; it is also likely to cost you more than using public transport (which is about
70$ a month).
Keep in mind that if you want to do road trips with others to remote locations in Canada,
you don’t necessarily have to be the one owning a car; on couchsurfing there will be
people regularly posting ideas for taking trips, and some of them own a car. Maybe your
roommates have one. In Montreal, there is absolutely no rush in getting a car.



What to Watch Out For when Buying a Car in Montreal
First of all, read the chapter about buying a car in the first place, to be found under
“GENERAL” in the first section of this Survival Kit.

Apart from all the general issues, in Montreal one thing is affecting cars a lot, and
therefore the purchase of cars: The acid salt that the city of Montreal puts on the streets in
the winter to melt ice and snow in subzero temperatures. Snow usually gets stuck to the
wheel cage of the cars while they drive through the mushy snow-mud in winter, and
when the car stands around, the salt inside the snow starts attacking any weakness in the
car's paint layer. As soon there is a hole in the paint, the salt can flow inside and cause
enormous rust damage on the car – even brand new cars already have rust damage after
only one winter. Meaning, you have to carefully examine the car's conditions on its
bottom, focusing on the wheel cages. If there is massive damage already done by rust, I'd
recommend to not buy the car.


Differences to Austria
The biggest difference is that Montreal is bilingual, and that it has an incredibly strong
French touch. No just that most of the street names have French origin, that many
immigrants come from mainland France or that French and English alike are taught in
school – no, there is actual laws about the preservation of the French language. The
francophone population of Montreal and the province of Quebec in general has a
minority complex that affects all social life: They fear to be overrun by the English-
speaking population. With reason: While most francophone children in Quebec learn
English as a second language, only a fraction of anglophone children learn French as a


                                                                                              32
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml


second language – which leads to a slow extinction of the French language. To
counterbalance this development (which is mostly rooted in the education system), there
are laws that any public signage has to be French or bilingual, and the French word has to
be on top and in a bigger font. Sounds too much? The people of Quebec will disagree –
it's a good measure.
Other than that, Quebec is actually pretty similar to Austria and other European countries
– people curse often and without hesitation, people are pissed off when they are pissed
off (no Californian poker faces here), and people that treat you nicely are genuinely nice.
In Quebec, there's a bunch of offbeat foods (like frozen Maple Syrup) and offbeat sports
(like eating frozen Maple Syrup); there's a ton of parties in- and outdoors, regardless of
temperature.
Montreal is probably more open-minded than the rest of Quebec (which can partly be
quite conservative), and is far not as homophobic as Austria. There's a large gay district
close to Berry-UQAM (I lived right next to it), with lots of rainbow flags, fun restaurants,
nice people and once or twice a year, there's a huge parade.

Behavior and Society in Montreal
Language
Montreal is a very francophone city. That means, most of the people there speak French
as their mother’s tongue. Lots of them are able to speak English, but you will meet people
that either never learned English, have a poor English or simply pretend to not speak it.
Therefore, if you plan to stay in Montreal for a year, it is quite a good idea to be either
capable of speaking French or learning it. Therefore, having French / Quebecois
roommates is a huge plus; you will be forced to practice your French every day. From my
experience, it is impossible to learn French just by talking to your roommates – that’s
what I did – and taking a language class, for example in a college in Montreal or in a
language school in Austria is a really good idea.

You will probably also encounter negative experiences by not being able to speak
French; most people in Montreal are very proud of their French and many see the
arrogance of someone who is not willing to learn it, as a threat – and will confront you
the same way with arrogance. They may pretend to not be able to speak English at all, or
are simply not able to do so. The thing to do is to tell them that you are from Austria
(Autriche) and that you are learning French since you are in Montreal – and sometimes
they reply in perfect English: “Then let’s just continue in English!”
Many people are also pleased to teach you French, so asking random people on the bus or
subway what this and that word means in French, is a sign that you are interested in their
language; therefore, you will always get a good answer and a pleased smile.

Bottom line: If you want the full Montreal experience, you have to speak French. If you
cannot speak French yet, sign up for classes and move in with francophone roommates.


                                                                                           33
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                       Tobias Deml




Population
Montreal is full of young hipsters and students. Major universities supply endless college
students’ house parties, and the city has an incredible amount of festivities, organized
raves, festivals, shows and concerts – Montreal can be easily considered the
entertainment capital of Canada. Therefore, most people are really pleasant to be around
and give you an adventurous sense. You will encounter the real openness people have
here; and unlike California, here are no fake people. That means, if you behave like a
douche bag, people will not be artificially nice to you.

On the other hand, if you are fun and respond open-minded to what you get offered, you
will soon feel that people treat you like a family member. People in Montreal are
definitely not as shy or reserved as they are in Vienna, so prepare for some funny
encounters and conversations on public transport. You will be amazed how many people
are speaking German or show an interest in learning it.




A last Word from the Author
The world is an amazing place, and it will bring you all sorts of joys and sorrows. Drink
out of the bottle of experience in big gulps, and be open-minded, be an explorer, be
tolerant to people other than you, and be a good person.
Being a good person is the essential message that you are representing when you do your
service – you help the country you come from, and you help the people you encounter on
your experience abroad. Be courageous to speak up when you feel that something is
wrong or unethical. If you are serving a Holocaust Memorial Service Abroad, then it is
because the Austrian government admitted the role of being a perpetrator in the second
world war and in the Holocaust – and they only admitted it because people spoke up
against “just forgetting about it”, because people's moral compass was strong enough to
urge them to speak up.

The following, last paragraphs are my personal account, perception and opinion, and I
don't represent anyone else or any institution with it (in case someone would assume
that). Why do I pack my personal opinion in a survival kit? Because it's important you
keep your morality alive while you adapt to a foreign culture and stand between
assimilation and alienation; I want to give you a first-hand example.

There is no such thing as a perfect institution, even not a Holocaust Memorial institution
can avoid having politics in its structure; when you feel like something is wrong it is your
choice to speak up. I propose to you that it is your reasonable duty to speak up, even if it
means that you could lose your job – which was the case for me. I spoke up against an

                                                                                           34
Gedenkdieners' Survival Kit                                                          Tobias Deml


unbalanced exhibition of the relationship between China and Jewish people, which
showed about twenty panels about the great things the Chinese government did during
the 1940s: it was one of the only countries to accept Jewish immigrants fleeing from
Nazi-occupied Europe in its harbors and gave them shelter. The exhibit's next panel
moved on to 2006, effectively leaving out 40 years of history – including the decade in
which Mao Zedong's government let millions starve, and the Chinese government
forbade any sort of religions, burned down churches and synagogues and later committed
atrocities against political and religious freedom like the Tianamen Square massacre of
peaceful protesters in 1989.
I asked myself: There is a period of 40 years that the curator just left out in the
exhibition, which will be shown to young school children that might have only little prior
information about China and its political and ethical history – such practice is
irresponsible. The efforts and humanitarian generosity of the Chinese in the 1940s are
commendable and important to share with the world. But not mentioning the context of
what happened right after is effectively making China look much more innocent than it is
historically. Why? Shouldn't exhibitions be journalistic, objective and inclusive of
important surrounding facts? Well, next to the 2006 panel in the exhibition was a list of
sponsors – which included the Chinese Government. I leave it up to the reader to make a
judgment, maybe it was just incomplete research, unintentional or I am biased - but my
moral compass was pointing south – that was wrong to me, that was propaganda. And
that's what I wrote on the whiteboard in the staff room right under the announcement of
the China Exhibit and that was the final contribution to let me lose my job.

I loved to work at the Museum of Tolerance, and I love its message – I can recommend
absolutely everyone to visit it. One of museum's the core values is that it teaches its
visitors to be vigilant against injustice, to practice their freedom of speech, to be tolerant
and to watch out for wrongdoing and propaganda. I'm not some sort of saint – I was
definitely too easy on taking risks and having too much fun at my workplace, and my
method of criticizing was not appropriate – but I felt I had to speak up against this
misrepresentation.

Now, three years later, I am living in Los Angeles, thanks to my parents and my
girlfriend (which I met because I got fired), I finished an Associate's Degree in Film and
founded a film production company – and am basically doing that what I always dreamed
of. I can, without reservations, recommend anyone to put in the commitment and hard
work, to face all difficulties and responsibilities, and do a civil service abroad, to teach
young children about the atrocities committed by the Nazi empire (which includes
Austria and its people), and to give them the tools they need to shape their own world and
country to become a better place.
You can teach them tolerance.
You can teach them to learn from the past.

And you can teach yourself what it means to take responsibility.

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