Things I Will Miss About Barcelona

10 Jul

Boston

I’m back in the States.  After an eleven hour layover in Dublin and a seven hour flight during which I alternated between sleeping and over-tired crying thanks to all the sad movies I chose to watch, I stepped into Logan International Airport more than a little disoriented.  But just in case I had any doubt that I was back in the US, there have been ample clues over these last twenty-four hours.  My last few weeks in Barcelona, anytime spent in my flat was spent with a fan pointed directly on me and an ice pack on my forehead as I melted into the sofa.  While as I write this, I’m sitting in my mother’s house wrapped in a blanket with a sweater on to stop myself from shivering thanks to the AC.  I’ve found a new nickname to add to the list: America, The Land of Air Conditioning.  I’m on the fence as to whether this is a good or a bad thing.  Now that I’m feeling emotional and sentimental about leaving Barcelona, I’m sort of romanticizing those suffocating days when the only relief would be to meet everyone down at the beach for a swim in the sea and some cheap beers.  But I have no doubt that just a few days ago I would have sold my soul for air conditioning in a second.

I’ve had some more clues, as well.  I had a family dinner last night at Legal Seafood… at 6:30pm.  After spending the last few years eating anytime between 9 and 10 at night, that felt a little strange.  I walked into a Verizon store to buy a new phone and was immedietly greeted by three employees standing at the door eagerly offering their help.  Just twenty minutes later, the shop assistant held the door open for me to walk out, exclaiming “No, thank you very much!  Have a great night!”  Though I’m sure that was a mixture of that American customer service training and also the fact that he had just signed a new customer to an Iphone contract.  And having cable TV of over 800 channels has been nothing if not overwhelming.  One of the first programs I turned on was a hybrid episode of the Jersey Shore and Pop-Up Video.  Someone is going to have to explain to me when Pop-Up Video came back.  Thankfully, I stumbled upon about fifty Spanish-speaking channels.  I spent an hour this morning with some Latin American morning program called Al Empezar el Día in the background for comfort.

I made the list for this next post during my last few weeks in Barcelona.  It’s making me a little sad to be writing it here, but I’m hoping it will help me put this weird mix of emotions into some sort of perspective.  And because it ended up being so much longer than I expected, I’m going to have to split it up into two parts so as not to bore everyone to death.  Here is part one.  I hope you enjoy it!

Things I will Miss About Barcelona

Dos Besos

I love how affectionate Spanish culture is.  While I would sometimes feel the American come out in me as I would get a little panicked with the close talkers, I love the affectionate gestures between friends, families, and couples young and old.  I’m going to miss walking into a party and making the round of two kisses in order to warmly greet every single person.

Cheap Wine & Always Available Cerveza Beers

Uclés, Spain

Drinks are cheap in Spain.  A glass of wine at a restaurant is normally about 2€.  And if you’re feeling particularly tight in the wallet, you can get a bottle of fairly decent wine at the supermarket for about 1 or 2€.

For a city that parties until morning, it’s interesting that shops must stop selling alcohol by 11pm.  But don’t worry, a solution, albeit illegal, has been found.  While walking the streets of Barcelona at night, it’s not uncommon to be bombarded by beer sellers offering “Beer, cerveza, Beer.”  And if you ever make it to the neighbourhood of the Raval, they’ve even got “Beer, Sexy Beers,” which are exactly the same as the “Beer cerveza Beers” of every other neighbourhood, but you have to hand it to them for their unique advertising.

Botellón

While they’re starting to crack down, there is nothing like a botellón.  It’s when a group of people get together to sit outside, usually in plaza, and drink, rather than having to pay at a bar or a club.  Having a botellón at one of the plazas in Gracia used to be one of our first introductions to spring.

Mild Winters

Though Barcelona is close to some beautiful ski mountains, the winters are generally very mild in the city.  There are days when you can sit comfortably outside at a café in December, as long as you are in the sun and bundled up.  The one time it snowed during the six years I lived there, the city literally shut down.  I remember catching one of the last trains home as everyone crammed into the cars and gave each other those sort of extreme weather, bewildered smiles; “we’re all in this together.”  The snow had completely melted by the next morning.  I couldn’t help but think back to all my years in New England; trudging through the snow on my way to catch the school bus, watching the morning news praying “Hopkinton” would show up on the list of cancelled schools, shoveling our driveway.  New England knows extreme weather and I’m a little nervous to be back.

Not Having to Tip

My non-American friends think we’re crazy with our tipping.  And the astonishment only grows as I explain that the average percentage that is considered the norm is between 15 and 20% (though I hear 15% might even be a little stingy now?!) and that it’s not just restaurants.  Don’t forget the bartenders, taxi drivers, hairdressers, manicurists, bellboys, maids, and valet parking attendants.  And what should you do if the service is bad or unacceptable?  Leave a 10% tip as a punishment.  There’s nothing better than leaving the 60 cent change from a bill and getting a big, sincere “¡Gracias!” in return.

My Running Route

It would take me about 10 minutes to run down to the beach and be able to spend the rest of workout running along the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s going to be hard to replace.

Barceloneta Beach in December

Topless Sunbathing

This is something that a lot of other countries, not just the US, feel strange about.  But I have to say, after all the body-shaming messages women receive, this part of Spanish culture really made me feel comfortable in my own skin.  There’s always the argument, “But, think of the children!”  I saw first-hand, however, that in this particular instance, children were taking their cues from their parents. When it is the norm and not viewed in the sexual light that adults place on it, children are not scarred for life, as some might argue.  Plus, ladies, it’s just kind of liberating and fun to swim topless.

Speaking Spanish

It certainly took me awhile and I was probably not as prepared as I should have been to move to Spain.  I remember my first month in Barcelona, I had trouble understanding the cashier at the supermarket, but was very aware of what was happening when she turned to the woman behind me in line and made fun of me as they shared a laugh.  My next stop that day was the post office, where I forgot the word for envelope and started to cry.  I finally learned to relax a little though and realized that learning a new language is so much about being open and being able to laugh at yourself.  I just took my Spanish certification exam about a month ago, so we’ll see how the DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) people feel I’ve done with my time in Spain.

Dreaming in Spanish

When I first moved to Spain, everyone told me that I would know I was making progress when I started to dream in Spanish.  I remember the first Spanish dream I had.  I was standing in a clothing shop surrounded by shoes, explaining to a woman that I wanted a ham and cheese sandwich.  The only part I remember was that I kept repeating “Sí, por favor, un bocadillo de jamon y queso.  ¡Sí!  ¡Perfecto!”   My first Spanish dream was a little underwhelming, but I suppose if you can’t speak fluently while you’re awake, it’s not going to happen when you’re asleep.  Now, dreaming in Spanish is just normal.  I know it’s something so silly, but I’m sad to realize I could lose that.

Barcelona Metro

Public Transport

No matter what the Catalan tell you, the public transport in Barcelona is great.  It’s clean and almost always on time.  And if it’s not, there’s at least the countdown on the metro platform or most bus stops that tells you how much time is left until the next metro or bus arrives.  It should never take you more than 30 minutes and one metro transfer to get from one point in the city to the other.  Teaching private classes and running around Barcelona all day would not have been possible without the incredible public transport.

Teaching

I always say this, but teaching was never something I imagined myself doing.  I did it in Spain because it gave me the most opportunities (and the most money!), but after awhile I really started to love it and excel at it.  Every day is different with teaching and it gave me the opportunity to meet so many incredible people.  While it can sometimes be exhausting to have to always be “on” and always keep the classes energetic, even if you were having a bad day, it was certainly never a boring desk job.  I spent the school year doing private lessons with classes ranging from 1 to 5 students, but my work in the summer gave me the opportunity to run a full classroom with children at summer camp.  And let me tell you, the psychology of how to maintain control over 20 children, who based on sheer numbers and energy levels could eat you alive, is one of the most intriguing and exhilarating things in the world.

My Expat Family

What I will miss most about Barcelona are all the incredible friends I made there.  We’ve always said that being in the intense situation of living in a different culture, so far away from your family, your group of friends really does become your family.  You really just have each other.  If we get sick, have to go to the hospital, need help moving, are tight on cash, anything, you honestly only have each other.  But more than that, I think we all just felt so lucky to be able to share the experience of living in Barcelona, where the life is so wonderful, with so many incredible people.  We made so many memories and were such a huge part of each other’s everyday lives that leaving everyone in Barcelona is heart breaking.  But I have no doubt that we will always be in each other’s lives. There are very few people who can understand what we went through there; how we grew, how much we learned, how much an experience like that can change and define you.  We’ll always have Barcelona.

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5 Responses to “Things I Will Miss About Barcelona”

  1. Carlos July 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    Post the rest!!!

  2. ovejuno1 July 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Hi Lindsay! it’s incredible…I’m crying and I hardly know you…It’s really a pity because I had a lot of opportunities to talk to you and now I’m feeling as if I would have been losing my time when I was in front of you trying to practise my English!! I was always talking to you about my life in a negative way when you had to leave Barcelona, and this was more interesting and important than my stressed life…Im really sorry for that…Please forgive me!
    It’s really interesting your point of view about my wonderful and beautiful city. Anyway,Im waiting for reading what you don’t miss about this place where,I don’t know if you have read the news, the IVA (a tax) is going to increase on next Monday…we will be poorer!!!!….Fuck (pls,all american people forgive me for this expression but our Government isn’t very worried about its citizens and I’m very fed up with that, you know).
    And well that’s all for now!! Pls dont forget you can see TRUE BLOOD on Sundays in your country (heheheh..do you like it?)…i love it!It’s amazing!
    We have to talk about our business,haven’t we? Let me know it, ok?
    Have a nice day there and keep in touch. Regards.
    Manel xxxxxxx

    • Lindsay July 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Manel! And practicing English is never a waste of time! I’ll be sure to watch True Blood on Sundays. And I’ll write you an email on Monday about our English classes (I’m in Connecticut this weekend for a friend’s wedding), but maybe we can start next week! xx

  3. Aideen July 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I miss being able to walk into any old shit-hole and get a fantastic coffee for a euro. I’ve come home to the land of over-priced mulch, and I’m not happy about it!

    I also miss the weather. Which I know is an obvious one, but it’s been tough living a perma-grey existance in this soggy, soggy land of mine!

    • Lindsay July 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Cheap, amazing coffee was on my original list! It was getting too long, so I had to cut some things. I can’t deal with everyone’s Starbucks love in the States. Everyone keeps saying “It’s sooo strong!” Bleh.

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