The Expat Files: New Life in Barcelona

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Expat Barcelona

It’s been a while since I’ve offered you guys a new interview with an expat around Spain! This week I thought we’d try something different, and instead of interviewing an American or British expat in Spain, the anonymous Norwegian lady  behind New Life in Spain has agreed to participate! As an American expat in Spain, it’s easy to relate to other Americans living abroad. We miss the same things, the same food, and the cultural differences normally impact us in the same way. But we aren’t the only people who’ve escaped to warm, friendly and welcoming lifestyle offered in Spain. What is it like for expats from other countries in Europe and around the world? See what New Life has got to say about life in Barcelona and Cataluña on this week’s Expat Files!

1. Describe Spain in 3 words

Sunny. Lively. Easy going.

2. What’s your favorite food in Cataluña? Where’s the best place to find it?

Without any doubt, arroz negro (literally Black Rice.) The Catalan version of the paella. It’s absolutely amazing. A normal Paella is colored yellow due of saffron. So, what gives the arroz negro its black color? Ink from cuttlefish! Isn’t that just very cool? And the taste of a well made arroz negro is fantastic!

I would recommend the arroz negro at a restaurant called La Taberna Gallega, located in Port Olympic. Although it’s a Galician restaurant, they make a mean Catalan arroz negro. It’s the best I have tasted here.

Expat Barcelona

3. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Cataluña? Where’s the best view?

Most beautiful spot… I seriously have problems choosing.

Barcelona itself is so pretty with its majestic architecture, beautiful plazas, board walk, beaches… But Catalunya, the region, really has a lot of gems hidden around here and there. Maybe Costa Brava deserves the spot, if I’d to choose something outside of Barcelona?

Costa Brava is the coast north of Barcelona, starting at Blanes and going up to France. Filled with beautiful little seaside fisherman’s towns, old forts, secluded (and not so secluded) coves and beaches. Cadaques for instance, is very beautiful!
Cadaques was Dalí’s town,  and I really enjoy the artistic feel and atmosphere there, along with the beauty of the whitewashed fisherman’s town. Perfect for a lazy weekend get-away from the city.

As for coves, there are so many beautiful ones I wouldn’t know  where to begin. But the nicest ones are found outside or between towns. I have seen quite a bit of the Spanish coast, and I really think Costa Brava is unique, and so beautiful.

Expat Barcelona

I think the best views in Barcelona can be enjoyed from Tibidabo. Tibidabo is the mountain located at the top of the city, and it offers amazing panoramic views all over Barcelona. Tibidabo itself is an attraction. At the top of the mountain there is an old amusement park. The oldest in Spain actually. Old, oh so charming rides, antique popcorn-carts and kids screaming with exhilaration. At the back of the park, an incredibly beautiful  basilica. It’s all a bit like taken out of a fairytale really.

When you climb up to the basilica, at your back you have Carretera de les Aigües and Sierra de Collserola, said to be the biggest metropolitan park in the world, (to give a comparison- it is 22 times bigger than Central Park in NYC), perfect for walking, running, biking. The air is pure, and the views breathtaking.

And in front of you…well all the glory of Barcelona! The towers of La Sagrada Familia, the Mediterranean, the green hills of Montjüic, Torre Agbar, Barca’s football stadium – you name it. It’s really wonderful to see the whole city in one panoramic, place every little park and tourist attraction in one frame. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and a bit lost down in the city centre, but from Tibidabo you really get to place every little thing. Very perspicuous.

Expat Barcelona

4. How did you end up in Barcelona? What made you decide to move to Spain? Why did you chose Cataluña?

I had wanted to visit Barcelona for years. When I finally decided to move to Spain, Barcelona was on the top of my list, but people (somehow) managed to talk me out of it because of the Catalan language making it harder to learn Spanish. I ended up choosing Málaga and went there for a month, but I had itchy feet and still wanted to see Barcelona, so after that first month was up I thought why not? If it wouldn’t work out I could just find myself another city once again. From the first day in Barcelona I fell in love! I really enjoyed Málaga too, but Barcelona was much more my city.

I have learnt so much about Barcelona and Catalunya that I had absolutely no idea of beforehand, and it really is a region with so so much to offer. But my initial fascination with Barcelona had to do primarily with the architecture, especially Gaudí. I had seen so many pictures from Barcelona and it looked so beautiful. And it really is!

5. Name one thing to do or see in Barcelona that is not in any guidebook

I actually don’t own a guide book over Barcelona so I wouldn’t be sure, but there is this little place in the Gothic quarter that is quite unique. And I think it’s more of a secret than the obvious tourist attraction.

From the outside it looks like any bakery set in a beautiful local, located on a corner where the narrow street split into two new narrow streets.

But it’s not like any bakery. First of all, the baked goods for sale are made by monks and nuns from  different monasteries around Spain. That already makes it special, doesn’t it?

But there’s more. The lower floor of the café, were medieval Jewish baths in Barcelona. Brick walls, high ceilings, dimply lit by candles, people respecting the atmosphere by talking in a lower voice, rather than the normal ’competition of talking the loudest’! The atmosphere is so calm and it really is a sanctuary, a nice place to unwind from the busy city.

There is also a little sale for you to be able to take the cakes and sweets home.
Caelum  can be found at Carrer de la Palla 8.

Expat Barcelona

6. Name one think you don’t like about living in Cataluña

I should probably be politically correct and say something that isn’t all that bad, but I want to be honest here… Although I know this is something I shouldn’t’ say out loud, I am having a bit of a problem with the attitude of certain independentistas in Catalunya. The ones who want Catalunya to be independent from Spain, and don’t want to speak Spanish.

In the end, Catalunya is part of Spain. There are TWO official languages, and one of them is Spanish.  As Catalunya is bilingual, everyone speaks Spanish. So, why the need be rude about the fact that I don’t speak Catalan? I have learned to speak one of the official languages, why is that not enough? Why do some people insist on talking back to me in Catalan, when I am speaking to them in Spanish? Would it be ok for me to speak back to them in Norwegian? Or English? (No, I don’t think so.)

All in all, there is a bit of attitude. They are not happy when foreigners ”can’t be bothered” to learn their language. I am sorry – but I have more than enough learning the other official language here, the one that is used in the rest of the country, and also big parts of South America. I am sorry if you don’t understand that I find it more useful on a larger scale than the Catalan, and I am sorry you don’t understand that. To me it’s more manners than politics.

I know saying this out loud is bound to cause an uproar and reactions, but I think I should be allowed to have an opinion about it, shouldn’t I?

Expat Barcelona

7. Well said! It’s refreshing to hear someone be completely upfront about that. Name one funny cultural mishap, misunderstanding or downright ridiculous moment that’s happened to you in Spain

Maybe I should go back to the first weeks in Spain, as everything was so new. Nowadays, luckily there are not all that many shocking moments anymore. But I remember an episode from when I was flat hunting in Barcelona. I had just seen an apartment, and was about to leave as two other girls came into the flat. I said ”hi” casually as I saw them, and was completely overwhelmed when they both grabbed me and kissed my cheeks as they greeted me. To me, a quick hi was more than enough, I didn’t know these girls, I had never seen them before and would most likely never see them again. I didn’t know that this was the most normal way of greeting someone in Spain and felt that my personal space was totally invaded! Now I laugh of this, cause it’s become most natural to greet anyone, new or old acquaintance this way. It’s just that in Norway, when you don’t know someone, you would never hug them, or kiss their cheeks. You would just say hi and leave it at that.

Keep up with New Life in Spain’s adventures in Barcelona and around Cataluña on her blog and facebook page!

Have you ever been to Barcelona? Are you an expat in Spain or anywhere else around the world? Want to be featured on my Expat Files? Shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll feature you on my blog!
Expat Barcelona

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15 Comments on “The Expat Files: New Life in Barcelona

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  1. im so embarrassed to say ive never been to barcelona! i really do want to go 🙂 ive only been to madrid and while i had fun, i am definitely missing so many great places in spain by not having seen anything else. and some really good food 🙂

    1. Barcelona is amazing! It’s such a fun city, definitely worth visiting and it’s in an amazing area! I hope you go soon and call me when you do 😛

    2. Megan, I hadn’t been there either before moving there 🙂 But I promise, it is a really really great city!! I really like Madrid too, but Barcelona caught a piece of my heart the moment I stepped off that airport-bus.

  2. I don’t know Barcelona well at all, and this post is making me itch to go there! The Caelum experience, in particular, is on my to-do list, and walking around Tibidabo and the Sierra de Collserola is also a must.

    Thanks for such a thorough and honest interview!

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