This is not a personal political point-of-view post… I will leave my thoughts out of this on where I stand! Instead, I want to share what my experiences are like now – And how it affects daily life.
The signs were already there for many years leading up to October 1st. I can’t say I am surprised that this issue has flared up. It was brewing under the calm surface for some time.
EVERYONE now asks me what it is really like to be in Barcelona and if it’s a city to live, work or visit after the Catalan referendum… This is what has inspired this blog post. A chance to put my thoughts down for anyone who wants to know what I have been observing in Barcelona.
These are just my experiences of what it is like to be in Barcelona now… I always try to share an honest point of view, just from my own experiences – both the positive and the challenging. Here are some of the things that I am now conscious about when I walk the streets and continue my daily life today (It’s April 2018 – I may update it later if it changes).
5 things that I keep in mind:
☀ I avoid sharing personal political opinions…
Locals and expats have strong opinions… This reminds me of a the saying “Never talk about politics or religion” in social occasions? Maybe this is one area that applies here because it will definitely spark up strong opinions for/against yours.
It has changed the social dynamics of every day life for locals… This is something important to remember and try to understand. This topic runs deeeeeeep and has been known to cause harsh rifts between family members, with neighbours (like those buildings that have different flags on their windows) and friends. People are passionate about their opinions.
If you do bring up your thoughts and personal opinions, be prepared to have strong reactions thrown your way. I have made it a rule for my Self to avoid it if possible – This is very hard for me when I am a curious person and I love hearing people’s opinions on both sides! The rare time that it does come up in our conversation, I approach this topic by asking many questions, by genuinely being respectful and curious of the other person’s opinions – while also trying to avoid my own opinions (or by staying neutral when asked!). Maybe this doesn’t sound like something you would do? That’s OK, no rights or wrongs in any approach – This is just the way I prefer to handle these conversations and I have learned a lot in the process. I have had some amazing conversations with local friends by doing this and simply listening (even when I may wholeheartedly agreed/disagreed with their thoughts).
☀ This is a big thing all over Spain, not just in Catalonia…
It doesn’t matter where you are in Spain, this topic comes up all the time now. If you think that living and visiting Madrid or Valencia (or any other Spanish location outside of Catalonia) will make things easier, think again! This has rocked the whole of Spain in many ways, sparking up old/new conversations about Spanish identity. It is complex – I could go on and on about this but just know that “being Spanish” and Spanish history comes into play.
☀ Don’t let the media hype get in the way…
The media has a big role in this – even if you don’t like to listen to the news. I don’t like to tune in regularly – I usually like to read/hear enough to know what is going on but I don’t choose to focus on it. These days, I actually prefer to avoid it if I can. However, if there is a TV on while you are enjoying a coffee at your local cafe, you will see it. If you understand/speak some Spanish and/or Catalan, you will hear about it on the street when locals are talking… This has happened to me in different parts of Spain too. It is a talking point.
Let’s put things into perspective… I think many people search this topic online and ask about life in Barcelona now because of what they have heard from different media sources. The media has made it very clear which platforms are for or against these events. Either way and as always, the media does not help to calm any situation either… it thrives off it instead! Plus, what you read/hear about this topic in the news outside of Spain will probably be very different from what locals experience… This is just the nature of modern media when things happen.
How has the “Barcelona brand” changed? Barcelona is a city that has slowly built its reputation on a Barcelona Brand of being “The capital of the Mediterranean”. The negative side affects is that what once had an image of being a chilled out open-minded city has now started to look like a city of angry Catalan Vs Spanish mobs by the media. Very unfair.
It’s sad to see that it has hit businesses and tourism too. Unfortunately, this is another one of the main things that has been hit hard during the thick of it in 2017 and early 2018… Many tourists are put off and many businesses have left because of recent events. And a lot of what we read/hear in the media plays a huge role in it. Again, very unfair. However, It’s not a ghost town though… I am slowly starting to see tourists coming back to the usual spots and I think this Summer 2018 will probably recover a lot of what was lost.
☀ A small city starts to feel *too* small sometimes…
The charm of any small city or town can make you feel this way. This is not just about Barcelona – And maybe this is the Londoner in me coming out! I am used to big cities and the differences between a bigger/smaller city. For many, this is one of the charms about Barcelona… it is easier to get around and to live in the centre (even when rents are going up now) than many cities. However, the downside of it is that when things come up, you might experience it nearer.
This has changed one main thing for me. I have written about this before… One of the bigger examples that changed was my choice to live away from the city centre when I am in Barcelona. Initially, this may have been because of not wanting to be too close to the political action and I wanted to experience another side of Barcelona – But now I am seeing SO many other positive benefits of it too. >>>Read more about this here: 8 Reasons Not To Live In Barcelona’s City Centre
☀ Life does go on…
On a positive note, I still LOVE this city – Nothing has changed much in daily life – Despite what you might hear/read. Life does still go on for locals and expats (even when things do come up sometimes). I don’t think it has made such a negative impact that it affects my daily life to a point that I wouldn’t want to live here anymore.
Winter 2017-18 was a cold one (quite literally too). In a weird way, it felt like the “dark night of the soul” scenario. A time of reflection for many people (including my Self) and it still isn’t easy. I admit that I was also thinking of leaving Barcelona at one point when it kicked off – I definitely can’t pretend that it didn’t affect me in any way. It actaully made me ask many questions, including how my own Spanish family ties fit into this (half of my family are Spanish, from different parts of Spain). I have been very much an observer/outsider AND an insider in this situation which can bring up its own challenges. It made things so much more clearer about what I value too.
The positive things about Barcelona has not changed… My thoughts are that I always choose places to visit/live according to how it makes me *feel* and my instinct. Barcelona STILL feels good to me. I have never felt unwelcome here (quite the opposite!). I still love walking down the streets (it is beautiful to look at). I love how the city is good for me on so many levels. Barcelona still is a peaceful city on a daily basis, with a healthy quality of life and plenty of nature all around. These are the things that are important to me and they haven’t changed.
My theory is: If you really feel drawn to travel to or live in a location, you might as well give it a go, be open and see what comes up for you!
This is why I always encourage people to go where it *feels* right, even when the hype on the news tells us otherwise… There have been many times when I read reviews and researched places on all kinds of different topics – from the more serious ones (like racism and being a woman of colour travelling alone in a city etc) to less serious research (like where to stay on a trip etc)… 9 out of 10 times I have found that my experiences were *completely different* from my expectations and from what I read.
When it comes down to it, my answer is simple: YES, I would still recommend people to visit or live Barcelona. It is STILL a beautiful city, the people are still amazing to connect with and there is still so much to experience and do here. These events have actually added another dimension to my understanding of this region, learning more abut Spanish & Catalan history (how it also relates to society now) and how I feel inside. Ultimately, I think this is what travel is really all about 😀
Barcelona is definitely worth exploring! ❤
I write many more blog posts on my experience in Barcelona, feel free to check out the rest of my blog. Enjoy!