Britt: Expat In Spain
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Barcelona, etc.
I’m originally from California, but I attended University in London and in Heidelberg Germany, then later spent a year traveling through the South Pacific, worked on a cruise ship, lived in Hawaii…so up and moving to Spain wasn’t a completely insane decision in my case. Though I did come to Barcelona sight unseen in 2008 – I’d been to Spain but never even visited Barcelona before.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve actually been blogging regularly since 2003, and irregularly since before even then. I created a blog of sorts in 1998 – before the word blog even existed I think! So naturally when I came here I started a new blog to record my experiences. It was a personal blog, mostly for my friends and family that I later turned into an expat focused blog after receiving weekly emails from other expats or would-be expats asking questions about Spain and Barcelona.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my most popular entries is a post I made about Christmas in Catalonia. I also have a lot of “Open Letter” posts that I like writing:
- An Open Love Letter To Barcelona
- An Open Letter To Spain On Your Failure To Inform
- An Open Letter To Girls In Barcelona
Tell us about the ways your new life in Barcelona differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Let’s see…the biggest difference by far is that I don’t have nor do I need a car here. This is something that after spending collective years upon years behind the wheel of a car in the US is more than welcome and appreciated. I do have a scooter, but mostly get around by bicycle or metro. I also live in a much smaller space than I did in the US, which is good and bad I suppose. Good in that I don’t collect a bunch of junk I don’t need, but bad in that my little apartment here requires that furniture either be small enough to fit in the narrow elevator (at least I have one) or that come disassembled. This means that I don’t really buy furniture that I enjoy. I really love antiques and had a house full of them in the US. Here, even though I’ll build furniture that I will then treat or paint (so that I don’t have a houseful of Ikea), and I decorate with vintage posters and maps, my place isn’t a space I love – it doesn’t feel totally mine. Otherwise, my life isn’t so very different. The Spanish times for everything seems to be made for me: I’ve always had lunch around 2 or 3pm, and eaten dinner late. I am pretty flexible with plans as well, so it doesn’t bother me so much that “plans” here are always tentative.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Barcelona? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No, I wasn’t prepared, but I knew that at the time.
Had I known better, I would have been more patient in looking for an acceptable first place to live. I got desperate to get out of hotels and I rented a room in a flat that wasn’t great but I thought was “good enough”. I soon found out I was living among crazy people and drama – in the one month I was there, there were fights, police visits, flat mates kicked out for not paying (only to break in and refuse to leave), broken windows and appliances – it was chaos. It is tough finding a decent place if you don’t know anyone here and don’t speak the language (which I didn’t). But I think a little more time would have landed me in a much better place; it couldn’t have been much worse!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My name seems to be difficult to understand when I say it. So I have found an unfortunate but effective way to announce myself in Spanish: “Britt, like Britney Spears, but just Britt”. At least it works.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Barcelona?
- If you go with the flow and allow your well made plans (daily and long term) to be altered, broken or altogether forgotten, you will be taken on journeys you never could have planned for. Be flexible.
- If you are feeling isolated as an expat, get out to the many expat centric events put on by or through Internations, Meetup and other expat organizations, like American Society of Barcelona. But then don’t stop there, once you’ve met a few people, put yourself out there and make the first step to organize a get together with a person or two. It can open up a whole new world of friends.
- Salaries here are very low. If you have any sort of skill you can exploit online – data entry, translating, business writing, web or graphic design, programming, research - you can supplement your income (or make it entirely) through the many different online contracting sites that exist on the web.
How is the expat community in Barcelona? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here is great, it has saved me! I have made great friends through the community and definitely identify with it.
How would you summarize your expat life in Barcelona in a single, catchy sentence?
Living simply and fully every day.