Well, yes it's true that Montreal is French speaking, but I found that it's the most bilingual place I've ever seen. Of course, it's polite to attempt to speak a little French, but if you don't know how, you won't experience any rudeness. The people are extremely friendly.
The phones are also bilingual. Simply press the button for "English" and you'll be all set. The Canadian country code is 1, so to call the USA, you just dial "1" as if making a long-distance call in the States.
Learning a bit of French is helpful for reading signs, but you'll find that downtown nearly everyone is bilingual. You may find yourself trying to practice your French but the salespeople will insist on practicing their English!
If you are down town or at other tourist locations, you should have a very easy time getting around in English. Signs will most probably be in French though, in most places around the city, and some people may not be that good in English. Generally speaking, if you don't know French you shouldn't have a hard time.
Almost all restaurants will have bilingual menus, etc..
It pays to make an effort to speak some French in Montreal. When I got there, I was a bit apprehensive that Montrealers might snub me because of my pidgin French. But they were quite understanding and spoke to me in fluent English!
From the moment you arrive at Montreal's Dorval airport, or cross over any border into the Canadian province of Quebec, you will step into a multicultural, bilingual environment. You will experience the exciting dynamic of two old cultures, the French and the English, that have mixed and harmonized into an exciting and unique blend that is Montreal. Whether it is the taxi driver, or the Hotel concierge, you will have no problem finding someone to speak to you in English. Most signs as well will be bilingual, French first and then in English.
What about the culture? Well Montreal has it all! You name it we have it!
As far as culture goes urban North American prevails. If you're looking for log cabins, hunting, fishing, sugar-shacks or gig dancing you'll have to leave the city.
The majority of the population declares French as their mother tongue (over 60%) and the rest declare English (about 10%) and everything else in between to make up the full population.
Traditionally immigrants came from Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and Portugal. However today most immigrants come from Asia, Latin -America, the Middle-east and Africa.
Even though the Quebec Government depicts Montreal as being the second largest French speaking city in the world, the city is not like being in France. In fact most people speak English.
The city counts within its limits two english language universities, several english language colleges, three english language TV stations, several english language radio stations and a major english language newspaper. Therefore don't let the fact that you don't speak French stop you from coming, you'll be surprised how easily you can communicate and it can be an easy way of getting used to the French language before visiting a country like France.
If you are wondering why most of the signs are only in French (even the ones destined for tourists) the reason being that the Quebec provincial government put a law (bill 101) in place forbidding other languages on signs except French. The consequences of disobeing would be heavy fines. However successive court appeals and application of the federal charter of rights have had the effect of relaxing the law and allowed people to display other languages as long as it is 1/3 the size of the predominant French.
The two cheek kiss:
We don't do it as much as in France ( Most strangers won't do it between them when they meet, there has to be some familiarity )but we do it. Use it to your advantage, get to know people. it's fun!
Language. Quebec is a bilingual province and Montreal is multicultural. You'll almost always find someone that speak english, particullarly in touristic places. But a couple of french words will always bring you a smile: Bonjour (Hello) and Merci (Thank you).
Respect for the language is probably the number one thing! Quebec has fought for its language rights, some say at a great cost and many anglophones will find that they are treated rudely. I find rudeness only really happens if a tourist comes into an establishment with the expectation that english is spoken. Most likely it is, but simply asking in french, 'Parlez-vous anglais' demonstrates that you don't expect english to be spoken nor that they should speak english. Even better, speak french (many will reply back in english afer hearing the accent, and it is up to you to keep trying at the french or going into english)
You may find wait staff, especially in bars to be slightly rude and a tip is always expected. You don't have to be too generous but make sure you give something. Some will not be shy to remind you that 'le pourboire n'est pas inclus' (the tip is not included) if you have 'forgotten' to tip. It is just a part of the city...
Don't let the language scare you!!!! Most people speak English, and even though it might not be their first language, they'll be happy to communicate with you in English. You might have a little more problems when heading out of Montréal, but people are friendly.
Most people in Montreal are bilingual, especially in the tourism industry. It would be to your benefit to learn some French before you travel. I think it shows respect to communicate in their national language. We found most people to be very helpful if you are struggling with phrases.
One of the most intimidating things about Montreal for most outsiders is the feeling that you'll need to know FRENCH. Well, guess what, you barely need to know any more French than you would in say, New York or San Francisco. Anywhere within the main part of the city, all services are provided in French and English. Of course, if you know any French at all, try to use it, it'll give the locals a feeling that you are trying to fit in.
Don't worry about language. In downtown and Vieux (Old) Montreal, shop-owners will greet you bilingually, and in all of Montreal the populace is mainly bilingual. If you get far into the East End you may not want to go up to someone saying 'hello'...English is not the language of choice for East Enders. In Westmount, the area's English-speaking enclave, I've heard that shop-owners greet you in English and scoff at having to speak French. In immigrant restaurants the staff is usually trilingual, and you'll hear either Italian or Chinese or Portuguese along with the usual French and English.
Montreal is generally French-speaking, but they don't insist that tourists do. Sometimes we tried to speak some French, but the locals quickly learned that we were probably 'stupid Americans who don't speak any foreign language', and switched to English. They speak very good English there.