“Do you feel at home already?” First time I got asked that question somewhat two weeks after my arrival to Barcelona, I confidently said yes. I adapted to my new environment, my body and mind were realizing that we weren’t on vacation and I started to use Google Maps less. But it got me thinking. Can I consider this description the description of a home already? Compared to my other home – my actual home, Berlin – where I was born and lived for as long as I can remember. For Barcelona to take over that huge title, it would have to take more effort and time, wouldn’t it?
The struggles of moving to a new city
When you move to a new city and a new country, the first obstacle that may come up is the language. Barcelona is a modern big city and you would think that everyone would have at least basic English skills.
So I am at IKEA, successfully shopping utensils (it’s all numbered and I already know what I need) and now want to reward myself with some lunch. I take a tray and get in line. I decide for my dish by looking at the pictures and order by “Hola, un lasagna” because the women in line in front of me used the same phrase and she seemed local and I wanted to appear the same since I am now actually living in Barcelona. The illusion seems successful because the saleswomen nods understandingly but at the same time she starts babbling so fast, I don’t understand a single word nor can I even detect whether she is talking Castellano (Spanish) or Catalan. But thanks to her body language I understand: it’s the last of the lasagna she has and so she gives me all of it but I am supposed to tell the cashier at the end that it only counts as one portion. Yay, I get more food, answer with “Si, gracias” and walk towards the checkout line happily. You understand by now that my language skills are less than basic so I start explaining the situation in English to the cashier. She stops me in between and talks back hastily in Spanish just pointing to the number on her screen. Ok, she obviously doesn’t understand or speak English, she is annoyed and wants to get rid of me…well, she is only charging me the one portion so I hand her the money, say “gracias” and go off. I am very irritated of being in a situation where I couldn’t express myself to be understood.
Later that day I revised on my language skills.
Suddenly you are all by yourself. The second struggle I had was: I don’t know anyone here. The problem for me wasn’t being alone in general, I love to enjoy me-time. But after being around all my friends in those last Berlin weeks, it felt like quite a crash to have nobody to hang out with. Start of university was still one month away so where would I get to know people now? Communities such as MeetUp or activities organized by several groups targeting Erasmus people have been a big help. I went on a lot of museum trips or work-out sessions coming home with new friendly faces saved in my contact list.
Anyway the most successful strategy to find like-minded people was Instagram. How? The original plan was to find Barcelona bloggers who might want to take photos together, so I searched for people with lovely feeds and reached out via direct message. I am not going to lie, it can be awkward but if you are open and believe in the greatness of your idea, people will be intrigued as well. First time meeting up is like a blind date. There is a slight emotional stress of to whether you will hit it off and have a great day with this person but as always positive vibes equals positive response. They agreed to meet up so obviously they are just as curious as you are. And sometimes they are just as crazy as you are and you will make friends for life!
So after all of this, can I call Barcelona my home now? I am making memories and building a life here but the term “home” is a work in progress.