Today marks the end of my first week in Barcelona, Spain. In this blog post I decided to talk about the culture of the city so far, the differences between Spain and the United States, and some new cultural findings I have found extremely interesting as an American. I have been living in a hostel near Las Ramblas called Urbany BCNGO!. Las Ramblas is a lively place with many things to do, see, and eat. If you aren’t familiar with Hostels like I wasn’t, basically it is an open room that is relatively small with multiple beds and one bathroom. For example, my room I am sharing with 5 roommates whom I am studying abroad with, but it isn’t uncommon to share a room like this with strangers who are also staying here. There is communal space in the Hostel for having breakfast and in the basement an area with sectional couches, pool tables, and other games to play. All meals are acquired at nearby Supermarcats and/or restaurants. Supermarcats are popular here in Barcelona; in fact, there are 2 of them of either side of our Hostel about a tenth mile away. I have studied Barcelona for about 2 years but have never been until this experience. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos, wrote semester-long research papers, and based any extra-curricular projects off Barcelona.
I was in love with the city long before my arrival and I’m happy to report that love has become actualized. I loved how much the people here take pride in Catalonia. I always wanted to try the foods I saw online. I thought that this was a city with a beach culture. All these early ideas were right in some ways, but I could have never learned the true culture of the city without being here as a student. Catalonians take a ton of pride in this area, and it shows when visiting any attraction, big or small. Restaurant menus are generally in Catalan first then Spanish. Regional flags fly all over Barcelona, and even can be seen hanging from balconies in quiet, mostly residential alleyways.
The food is better than I ever imagined. Of course, the pictures online look delicious, but it’s hard to truly understand the food until you’ve walked the streets trying to find where the delicious aromas are coming from. The pastries are never dry or hard to eat. The fruit tastes fresh off the vine. As a coffee drinker, I’ve never had a better espresso in my life. Here, if you order a café con leche, it will be espresso shots with foamy, feathery steamed milk and packets of white sugar on the side. It’s interesting to compare to American culture and the quality of the foods we are used to. I’ve eaten a lot of pastries, fruit, and drank a lot of coffee in my lifetime, but Barcelona food is the freshest.
While I had dreamed of Barcelona as a beach city, I have learned that the beach is not the heart of the culture here. Sure, people go to the beach quite a bit. It’s a family friendly place where people will ask to join your game of volleyball you are playing. It’s a way to get away from the hustle and tourism of the inner city. Some interesting things about the beaches here is that it’s quiet despite being populated. Women and men go topless on the beach while small children run completely nude. The beach I visited was gorgeous. The Mediterranean Sea was extra cold and extra salty. The sand was beige and so warm and soft.
As I say goodbye to Barcelona and move on to Valladolid early in the morning, I do feel an amount of sadness to be leaving such an incredible city with a culture of diversity. I feel uncertainty as I just became familiar with navigating all the different types of public transportation to get where I needed to be. I became accustomed to speaking and listening in Spanish with natives in casual public settings. I loved getting to learn how this city works.
No es “adios para siempre”, es simplamente “hasta luego”.