This month’s issue of the Metropolitan, Barcelona’s magazine for English speakers, featured an article that struck a chord with me. Entitled “Saying adéu for good”, five former Barcelona residents talk openly about their reasons for leaving. For a moment I thought I’d find this article to be helpful seeing as though Jeff and I are struggling with making the same decision. However, the more I read the more I realized that none of the five people interviewed had lives that mirrored my own.
It’s true that Spain is not well positioned economically, and in saying so this is potentially a good argument for relocating. The job market is grim, especially for young professionals, and the future is bleak for now. One family spoke of leaving because of the job market, but only because he had become redundant at his job. It’s very difficult to “move up the ladder” based on merit as promotions tend to be based on experience and seniority. Nonetheless, Jeff is currently applying for internships, and he has submitted applications to companies far and wide, but in our heart of hearts we’re hoping he’ll secure something more local. Speaking Spanish fluently certainly works out to his advantage, as well as having a valid work permit, and landing an internship in Spain, or even Europe, will more than likely secure an international career path. Needless to say we are anxious to see how this will unfold.
Other complaints about living in Barcelona included a faltering education system, lack of community and a sense of belonging, and the ever present language barrier. Again I found it difficult to identify with any of these arguments. Education is certainly a real concern, and there’s no doubt that the Catalan public schools leave much to be desired. But being connected to the network of international schools gives me a different perspective altogether. There are in fact many great schools in the city offering a top-notch education, and I happen to know some of the most fantastic teachers any child would be lucky to have. The reality is, however, that quality comes with a price making some of the best schools in Barcelona out of reach for many families. As for language and community, they go hand in hand in some regard. There are many internationals who simply do not make the effort to learn Spanish. As a result, interaction with the local community is greatly limited and the potential for building a meaningful life here is next to impossible. It came with a lot of work and effort, but Jeff and I both feel a sense of community and belonging which we are both grateful for.
What I ultimately took away from the article was a common thread among all five former residents: an unbeatable lifestyle. It turns out that almost all of them truly miss Barcelona and what it has to offer, and this is my greatest fear. I suppose it’s a sacrifice either way, but where else are we going to find beautiful weather, proximity to the beach, mountains, and everything in between, a fascinating culture, and a high regard for embracing life to the fullest? The answer is, well, we don’t really know! What we do know is that since living here we have been genuinely happy and that’s not something easy to let go of.
Didn’t we learn anything from Jack, Kate, Hurley and all the others? Once they left, all they wanted was to get back to the island.
*You can read more about Barcelona at the Metropolitan to keep informed about life and culture in the Catalan capitol.