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From Norway to Barcelona: New Life in Spain

18 October, 2012 10:37  Erin Erin

new life in spain Hi there, I am Norwegian Señorita, the girl behind the blog New Life in Spain. I come from Norway but now I am living a happy sunny life in Spain! I started with one month in Málaga on the south coast, then moved on to Barcelona where I still live. However I am just about to move again to a new Spanish city! Barcelona is great, fantastic, wonderful, but there’s so much more to this country and it’s time to move on!

1. Why did you move abroad?
First of all I had always been dreaming of living somewhere warmer, where the winter wasn’t so long, dark and hard as in Norway. Second, I wanted to learn Spanish. I have always thought it sounded so incredibly beautiful, and after a couple half hearted intents to learn the language in Norway I figured the only real (good) way to learn a foreign language was to actually live in the country where you get exposed to it 24/7. Or at least more than in Norway! I also felt trapped in a bit of a boring routine in Norway and one day I decided to snap out of it and do something fabulous with my life! Boy am I happy I did!

2. How do you make a living?
The financial crisis has hit Spain quite hard. There is now almost a 50% unemployment rate among young people, and 35% on a general note. People get fired on a daily basis, and for every new job announced there are several hundred or thousands applying. Not easy in other words. I have heard countless stories from friends and acquaintances.

Thankfully I am so lucky to have freelance work with with companies outside of Spain to keep my head above water. The cost of living here is lower than in Norway and I don’t need to work as much to live comfortably, as I did back in Norway. More time to enjoy life. A perfect situation!

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Facebook is great for keeping up with my friends lives, and I basically keep in touch by email and Facebook. With my closest family I talk on the phone a time or two a week normally. Internet really makes all this a lot easier!

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Spain?
My favorite thing about living in Spain must be the weather It’s not a myth that it’s (almost) always sunny here. During this last year there’s probably been a couple of weeks of rain all together, for the rest there is sun from a clear blue sky. The sun energizes me a lot.

I also love how vibrant and alive life is here. There are always something going on- neighborhood street parties, festivals, concerts, fairs - and you see young (babies) and old (grandparents) side by side until late at night. No one is missing out on a party here!

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Spain?
I don’t like to be too negative. After all, it’s all about cultural differences. Just because things are done differently here from what I am used to, doesn’t mean my way is the right way. In my opinion, it’s important to have an open mind and observe and accept rather than judge.

That being said it’s not all butterflies and glitter all the time! The bureaucracy is quite bad. I am used to things just working very well and efficiently in Norway, unfortunately that’s not the case here, and a little hard to get used to. Same goes for customer service, which is about non-existent. I am used to smiling and being friendly to anyone I talk to – being in a shop or a public office. To not get that smile and same behaviour in return, to be treated rudely or disrespectfully without reason is probably what I find the hardest. (I have heard it’s not like this in smaller towns and cities, and other parts of Spain, but it is my experience here in Barcelona)  

6. What do you miss most?
Apart from the obvious: friends and family, I miss small things like being able to drink delicious cold, pure water from the tap. To be able to express exactly what’s on my mind without having to think, conjugate verbs and form phrases in my head first. I miss certain foods too, and Norwegian chocolate! I don’t know why it’s not famous worldwide, it’s incredible!

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

I have met people out salsa dancing, at the Spanish language course, through internet in expat forums, through friends of friends...and the ball keeps rolling! Without speaking Spanish it’s quite hard to get to know Spaniards as the English level is generally not very good. After having learnt to speak Spanish I have found it’s still not too easy getting to know the locals but with my two close Spanish girlfriends I am happy. It’s clearly much easier to get to know other expats as they are in the same situation. Barcelona is a very, very multicultural city, and there are expats from all over the place. Maybe it’s not ideal in some peoples eyes, but I find it very interesting to get to know people from all over the world too, I certainly did not have that opportunity in Norway!

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Going out so late! And having dinner so late. It’s quite normal to go out for dinner from 10pm onwards, and often not eat until past 11pm. To sit at the dinner table till 01-02’ish am and then go out for drinks is perfectly normal.

I dance salsa, and normally any club is dead until way past midnight. I still don’t know how they do it, being out until very late, and then getting up the next morning for work as usual!

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Flamenco (dancing and music) is the most typical thing all over Spain! I would say it is quite big in Andalucía, the south of Spain, but not really in other parts of Spain. Sure, you can find tablao’s in every big city, but it really is not very typical outside Andalucía.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?

Cost of living is lower here, in certain things. Food- meat, vegetables and fruit are all cheaper. Housing however is not. It’s incredibly expensive to rent an apartment in Barcelona, especially if you consider the average salary here. Just to draw a little picture, an old average standard 2 bedroom apartment often cost a whole average month salary or more! It’s very common to either live at home until you get married, or share an apartment.

11. What advice would you give other expats?

If you want to try life abroad, do it! But keep an open mind. Understand that things are not going to be the same in another country. Be patient. And know that it will be hard at times, but hopefully all the good experiences will weigh well up for it. And my motto is to rather have tried something I dreamt about than just dream about it all my life. In the end, you can always go back home, or somewhere else if you don’t end up liking your new city/country! But if you want it, go for it!

12. When and why did you start your blog?
When I started looking into moving to Spain I remember thinking I would have loved to find a blog where someone told you useful stuff. Practical information, cultural differences, recommendations etc. I didn’t find that so I thought I’d just start one of my own, with the idea that I might be able to help someone later, who would be in the same situation as me.

I had never written a blog before and had no idea what to expect. The goal was solely to be a source of information, but it has turned into so much more! I have “met” so many wonderful new life in spain beachpeople through their blogs, and I have come to really enjoy documenting my Life In Spain. It’s funny how I now often find myself thinking “oh, I need to put this on the blog”, it being photos of beautiful and interesting places, strange Spanish expressions, cultural mishaps or just information that might be useful for someone else. I also love how the blog pushes me to bring my camera out and take pictures, lots of pictures. In the end, it documents my adventures for me as well.

Blog LinkNorwegian Señorita's blog, New Life in Spain

Guide for expatriates in Barcelona, Spain



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