In the second of a mini-series detailing her experiences of moving abroad for university, Gemma Clark talks about the experience seven weeks in:
Seven weeks, where have you gone? The time since I embarked on my semester abroad has gone so fast and – my god – has it been an experience. Life in Spain is nothing at all like a holiday in Spain and yet it is exactly the same. Let me explain:
Life is like a holiday here. You don´t notice the cultural differences so much when vacationing for, say, a week or 10 days. But take an extended journey and the culture shock is like a bucket of cold water to the head. Only a lot more pleasant, obviously.
The Spanish are famous for their passion but what the guide books fail to tell you is that they are as relaxed as they are enthused. Taking a nap in the middle of the day or a two-hour lunch is not something you’ll get fired for – it’s just what you do. And for those of you living in the UK, dinner generally falls somewhere between 5pm and 7pm. Not so for the meditereaneans. And when my flatmates and I suggested to some Spanish and Italian friends to meet for dinner at six, they almost bust a gut laughing at us. Apparently we Scottish have a killer sense of humour, without even trying. They laughed and said they’d meet us at nine, silly Scottish. Nine. Nine!? We thought we were going to die of starvation before we made it to the resaurant!
But possibly my favourite difference between this place and home is more to do with atmosphere than appetite. Everyone, quite simply, is happier here. There is a contentment in the air that is so palpable it is almost fragrant. It lifts you on the warm breeze and carries you to the nearest cafe for a refreshing cerveca or tapas with the chance to absorb the notion that all is well. Very little seems to phase people here.
In the daytime, that is.
Night is when the real Barcelona cames to life. But that is a tale for another time. Right now, I’m enjoying the fact that we’re having a late summer, meaning it’s shorts, t-shirts and sunburn. It’s all about wandering down the long avenue of La Ramblas at any time of the day and seeing it filled with more people than Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday, moving at the pace of a village on a Sunday.
Look up on any street here and you’ll see evidence of the love and craftsmanship of a phenomenal feat of art pretending to be a city – because, to me, that is what Barcelona is. One huge, buzzing, glowing piece of art – a glowing jewel on the edge of the world.