To offer more insight into what life is like in Spain, we have started an interview series. With the help of friends and fellow bloggers, who all moved to Spain. We hope to share different points of view from people who grew up around the World and now live in different parts of Spain. We ask for their honest advice and personal experience to help anyone thinking of starting a life in Spain.
Life in Spain interview no.2
This time we speak with the lovely Justine who lives in Barcelona.
Justine runs Latitude 41, which gives no-fluff advice for discovering Barcelona and other parts of Spain. A California native and expat since 2008, Justine started the blog in 2013 as a way of sharing an unexpressed romance with the city. Because she’s raised 3 kids there, she also imparts helpful travel tips for families visiting Barcelona. Other than creating useful guides, she also shares cultural quirks and weird Catalan traditions like the caga tió, the Christmas pooping log.
Interview with Justine
Where do you live in Spain and when did you move there?
I live in Barcelona, and I’ve lived here since 2008.
How did you choose that area and what helped you to decide to live there?
I used to live in Seville in the south of Spain. It’s the city that I fell in love with first. I met my husband (who grew up in Seville) there. While we were dating, he was looking for a job throughout Spain. I was thrilled when he found one in Barcelona! I’d visited the city a few times before, and it was incredible. We finally got married, so of course, I followed him here. I still love this city after 11 years!
What do you love most about life in Spain?
Compared to the US, I like how people aren’t so materialistic in Spain. They don’t have to buy shiny new things all the time. One, because there’s no room to fit your stuff. People live in flats and apartments, so it’s not practical. In the US, you can just keep accumulating stuff that you really don’t need because living spaces are generally bigger. I also feel like here, there’s less social pressure when it comes to parenting. You can take your kids anywhere, and you don’t have “shush” them in restaurants. They’re a part of life! I also like how Catalan and Spanish people like to be outdoors and enjoy the sunshine and take long strolls. They live the good life!
What challenges did you face when you moved to Spain?
The language. When I first moved here and lived with a family in Salamanca, I was a student. I had studied Spanish for 3 years, but I could barely order a drink! That was a huge learning curve. I made tons of language mistakes talking to locals. I often just stayed mute whenever I was with a big group. It was really, really hard. But I had to push myself and surround myself with locals, even though I felt so stupid. I had to let my ego get out of the way.
Now I consider myself fluent, even though, at times, I can feel a little lost when there are too many people talking. I get the gist of a topic, but I’m not one to jump into rapid-fire conversation in Spanish. Also, finding meaningful friendships was hard. As glamorous as living abroad seems, it was really lonely in the beginning. It probably took me two years to feel like I’d had real friends. But now I feel like I’ve found my happy medium of socializing with locals but also keeping my English-speaking friends.
Is there anything you miss from where you lived previously?
No, not really. Because I’m from the US, I feel like I’m bombarded with so many American things already in Barcelona. Five Guys, Carl’s Jr., what’s next? I honestly don’t want to see another American restaurant chain make its way here. Plus, I can pretty much get everything I want in Barcelona because it’s such a big city. I just miss my family and my friends!
If you could change one thing about life in Spain, what would it be?
I would completely change the schedule. Some people find siestas sacred, but I find it archaic in this modern world. If the siesta is 2 hours, I would cut it shorter and have people come home 30 minutes early. It would really help me juggle the logistics of family life!
Also, I would change the national laws on petty theft. It’s becoming problematic every day in Barcelona. Did you know 300 petty theft incidents are committed every day? And those are the ones that are reported. The police can’t do anything substantial about it. It’s a complicated issue, but I won’t get into that. It’s a shame that tourists and locals have to deal with getting their wallet stolen in the metro in 2019. Granted, Barcelona is still pretty safe, but you just have to be a little more vigilant.
Would you recommend others to move to Spain?
Most definitely! It’s so relaxed (maybe to the point of too relaxed sometimes). Spaniards don’t take themselves too seriously. Plus, for families, it’s great. Kids are encouraged to be outside, be social, and enjoy life.
What advice do you have for people considering moving to Spain?
It’s a really welcoming and relaxed lifestyle in Spain. You’re guaranteed to eat good food too, whatever city you live in. If you do make the move, be sure to try to learn the language though! Especially if you come to a big city like Barcelona, it’s easy to live in a “foreigner’s bubble”. You’ll get more appreciation of the people and city if you speak some Spanish.
Thank you Justine for such a helpful insight 🙂
Other Seeking the Spanish Sun articles you may enjoy…
Also read some of our popular Spain travel guides…