If you want to discover precisely what the Bay Area is missing when people talk about "culture" - Montreal has it.
Note: I'm a 30+ year Bay Area native.
I'm curious what set of criteria could possibly take into account all the cities of North America and lead to such a conclusion. Montreal and NYC are not even remotely similar.
I no nowhere else on the North American continent that has as much nightlife (except Miami), as many restaurants (except NYC), as many universities (???) and young people (???) and just "stuff to do"
The city has a very lived-in feeling and great architecture. Completely the opposite of California.
But to live in Montreal is another ball game. Shops close at 9. On weekends by 5. Never ending construction. Old noisy apartments. Crazy drivers. Badly marked road signs.
The only good thing I have experienced so far is the metro system & the underground city.
I am not sure you can call it 'culture', but I find Québec is culturally friendly to "white French speakers"
All you need to do is learn “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French - but I’m learning!”
There are more, but here is the latest:
Some typically french lower class neighbourhoods have xenophobic francophones, but in the last 15 years they have moved off the main island or in the far east boroughs (Riviere des Prairies, etc.).
If you're on the actual island of Montreal, it's unlikely you'll face any problems for not speaking French. I've known dozens of people immigrate here speaking only one language and adapt fine.
I spent a few days there and by the end of my time was conducting the entirety of my simple shop purchases in French, despite not having studied it before.