What I was doing
So once again I taught English in order to live and work in another country, but this time it was technically an internship. I chose to be underpaid at 3 euros an hour (not officially a salary) in order to get 4 hours free Spanish lessons per week on top of my 40 hours’ work. Unfortunately this did not happen and I ended up working stupid hours because of the 3 hour lunch break in the middle of the day; this meant I did not get home until 10pm. Obviously this was not the best situation, but after I found a really great flat and flatmates after a couple of months and got used to my routine I managed to enjoy my free time.
That was until the company got investigated in Madrid and I had to leave my job 2 days later because the contract was not legal…
To follow on from the point above: corruption is everywhere. My work situation is just one example of where companies cut corners and give invalid contracts, or no contract at all. Corruption has been a problem politically and right now the people are really angry at their government, but it is not just there: it is in the outlook of the normal citizen. Many of the people I met believe the only way to be successful is to cut corners and take advantage of your friends in high places. Particularly at the moment it seems the only way to get a job is if you have contacts, but that is of course also to do with the economic situation and ridiculously high unemployment.
Let’s look more at the people and the city… The perspective I have on Barcelona is that it is split up into 3 categories of people: the locals, the international residents and the tourists. The number of tourists really is so high that they probably near or match the number of people actually living there and as the city is quite small physically, this can be really annoying! I knew life as an international person and got an insight into the life of locals from talking with all of my students. Barcelona is a vibrant city and, especially in the summer, there are a lot of things going on. But it can also be pretty stressful, which is not helped by all the tourists who block your path when you are trying to get to work! You also have to be on guard for pickpockets who live off of people who don’t watch out or who fall for their tactics. In addition: if the weather is bad everyone is in a bad mood.
Talking of climate; I felt like the city was kind of dead when I arrived in the winter in January. There were people around and it was not too cold (for me) but it felt like something was missing. As soon as the weather started to improve as spring arrived a new energy and life came to the city and people seemed much happier; Barcelona is not a winter city. I would therefore recommend spring as the best time of year to visit because the summer is uncomfortably hot and has far too many tourists.
I will choose not to get into the Catalan debate, but for those who do not know I will briefly describe it; Catalonia has a strong nationalistic feeling as they consider themselves different to the rest of Spain. For this, among many other political, social and historical, reasons many of the people want Catalonia (or Catalunya) to be a separate state and independent of Spain. This is a very strong feeling so do not make the mistake of calling a Catalan person ‘Spanish’ just in case they get offended!