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Tools for Making the Most of Expat Life in Barcelona: Part I

Tools for Making the Most of Expat Life in Barcelona: Part I

By Leigh Matthews

You arrive in this marvellous city where the mediterranean sea meets modernista architecture and palm trees line gothic lanes. Hola Barcelona!

The first phase of culture shock in Barcelona begins. The honeymoon. There are photos to take and sights to see, new people to meet and endless fascination. This is wonderful!

The second phase kicks in a few weeks to months later. Suddenly things are not so wonderful. The deliveries of furniture are late, the language is a giant wall, the process for getting the NIE is inexplicably traumatic, the customer service is pretty bad. Don’t even talk about getting services connected or a smile in the street.  Disenchantment, anger, frustration and loneliness flow from daily challenges, communication barriers and the gulf between how it is here in Barcelona versus home.

This is when we start to feel negativity toward our host country and its inhabitants. Oh, those Catalans! 

If you make it this far, and do the work, the third phase of culture shock emerges. You are learning, adapting, getting by, achieving the things you need to achieve each day. There is a sense of achievement that stays with you upon completion of things you deem basic in your home country. You might even laugh when you hit the inevitable problems. You’ve worked out the difference between embarazada and vergüenza, pollos and pollas. You feel a little more at home.

Stage four. Et voila: adjustment! You reach an acceptance of the positives and negatives of Barcelona. The challenges of expat life exist but aren’t so magnified and you can cope with them more easily. You’re really enjoying all the good things that Barcelona has to offer – the mar, montanya, pa amb tomaquet, menu del dia, the sunshine, festivals, and fiestas. You have a relationship with the local people and friends.


So, how do you get from stage one to four? 

Well, notice that each stage is attached to a particular perspective you approach your expat life in Barcelona from.

We can identify the perspective we are looking at Barcelona from, and consider the other perspectives available to us.

These perspectives could be:

“Hard but possible”

“Totally foreign”

“Exciting and new”

“A rollercoaster, novel and surprising”

“Frustrating. Everyday is a struggle”

“A world full of opportunities”

“Out of my comfort zone and growing”

“Hell. I want to go home”

Which lens are you looking at your expat experience in Barcelona through right now?

What other lenses are there?

What lens would you like to be looking through?

Which lens is most useful to you?

None of these perspectives needs to be judged as good or bad, they are simply useful or unuseful to you.

Identifying your current perspective on your expat life in Barcelona, and considering alternative perspectives offers you choice.

You can begin to feel more empowered in choosing how you experience the challenges and the opportunities you encounter along the way.

Stay tuned for more tools to help you make the most of your expat life in Barcelona.

If you need some assistance coping with life in Barcelona, contact Therapy in Barcelona. We can help.



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