6 months ago, I relocated from the UK to Barcelona, Spain with my girlfriend (she whose blog this is). And it is truly wonderful. I love it here. There are so many things to do, places to go, people to meet and, very recently, cats to pet. It is a beautiful place to live with lovely, friendly people all around. In short, I would recommend it to anyone.
Now that that is out of the way, let us get to the national pastime of us Brits. Complaining. I consider myself a dab hand at it too. You would think that moving to such a dream of a location would make one forget the small problems and start to enjoy life at a relaxed pace. Unfortunately that is not in the DNA of an Englishman in Barcelona.
Baby it’s cold outside (but mostly inside)
I was naive. For some reason I believed that moving to a country renowned for the temperature would mean that it is warm all year round. Somehow the concept of the Earth’s rotational tilt causing seasons in other countries too did not seem sensible to my irrational mind. I was, clearly, wrong.
Winter in Barcelona is freezing. That is not strictly accurate, it is significantly warmer than winter in the UK is, but for reasons I cannot fathom many flats in Spain do not have central heating. I would understand if it wasn’t cold in the winter but in the 6 months I have been here I have been freezing inside for the majority!
In our small flat we have a grand total of 3 heaters. each of which allegedly emit heat. Not that you can tell unless you have your body plastered directly to them.
We also have an air conditioning unit that can enable a heating mode wherein it makes the sound of a hairdryer and, coincidentally, also emits the heat output of a hairdryer too!
I have honestly no idea how the locals survive every year like this. The first thing I will do when purchasing a flat is install central heating!
Well, I went on a bit of a rant there. This is all very therapeutic for me, I can feel the mild annoyances all bubbling to the surface. My second minor inconvenience of being an Englishman in Barcelona is to do with the most English of things. Politeness.
Don’t get me wrong, Spanish people (and Catalan!) are generally really polite and extremely friendly and welcoming. There are just a few cultural differences that really step on my toes, so to speak.
The main difference is thus: when walking down the street people here tend to take it fairly leisurely and, if walking in a group, tend to take up the whole path. Nothing wrong with that, of course. However, for some unknown reason whenever I try to go past in a hurry (and I always walk in a hurry, something to do with bad timekeeping!) and say something along the line of “Perdon/Disculpe/Lo siento/Excuse me” the response tends to be a slow look around at me in slight bemusement then back to whatever they were doing to begin with.
It slightly. Slightly. Drives me nuts.
The funny thing is that I have heard from Spanish acquaintances about how odd they found visiting England where people seemed annoyed at having to go around them. Perspective is everything.
Do you speak English?
We moved here not knowing any Spanish at all. Perhaps not the wisest move. Being an Englishman in Barcelona is certainly not as challenging as being literally any other non-English speaking countryman here as nearly every person below the age of 30 speaks at least some English. Which to me is amazing as a very much monolingual person. It is amazingly helpful, except when you are trying to learn Spanish! Because as soon as you start to visibly struggle the kind person talking to you switches immediately to English. Very helpful but it does somewhat stifle your ability to learn the language.
Of course, for someone wanting to learn Spanish, Barcelona has an added difficulty. They speak two languages here! Spanish and Catalan. Though similar the two languages are as different as French to Spanish, so not exactly easy to learn both! I spent the first month here learning words from the street that I thought would build up the basis of my vocab for Spanish. Well, turns out I know a bunch of Catalan words now. Useful but, not what I had intended!
You’d think that living in a nation that is famed for having lovely food would mean that I would be unable to complain about food. Well, you’d be wrong. I am happy to inform you all that I can complain about nearly anything, if I get going. And by this point I feel all warmed up!
Living in the centre of Barcelona means that around us are a plethora of little shops, all selling lovely artisanal foodstuffs from cheese to meat to chocolate and fancy fruits. All sounds delightful doesn’t it?
You know what they don’t have? A big supermarket. Somewhere I can visit just once a week to buy all, or at least the majority, of what I need for the week instead of going from shop to shop buying one particular item at a time, no matter how fancy it is! Ain’t nobody got time for that!
A slight disclaimer here is that I am sure there are in fact plenty of supermarkets around Spain, probably even around Barcelona too, albeit ones that you would require a car to get to. And we are most certainly only going about by foot or public transport.
To be fair to the Spanish food, it is ever so slightly better than English food. I know. Shocking.
As you have probably realised by now either I am the most dramatic person alive or these are not huge issues in the grand scheme of things. And, you’re right. I am dramatic. I mean these are small issues. Which is why even for an Englishman in Barcelona, even a very moany one trying to find every problem to complain about, Barcelona is an amazing place.
I absolutely love the fact that I live near the beach, that every day I can just pop off for a swim in the sea at a moment’s notice. That is truly special. The weather is beautiful for the majority of the year, and with the good weather come people who seem so much so more content and happy. This translates to one’s own mood too, as I find myself reflecting the emotions of those around me. So happy people breed more happy ones.
I will leave you with a small and insignificant element of living in Spain that brings me a silly amount of happiness. The tomatoes are huuuuge. Like gigantic. They barely look like tomatoes anymore and they taste of such juiciness.
In short: Come to Barcelona. Visit, live, holiday. Whatever! It is truly worth a visit, despite my slight grievances!