There is a very fine line between love and hate and even though I wrote '5 Reasons Why I Love Barcelona', that is not to say that there are also things I dislike about the city, greatly so. Some things I have come to accept but as a native English girl, they have been bitter pills to swallow. There have been tears, tantrums and scathing despair.
Oh dear. Where do I start?
I won't. This video says it all for me.
Shopping- shoes, bras and international foods
Let's face it people, if you've got tits and feet, you're in trouble. High Street shops stock up to a C-cup and anything bigger and you're going to have to pay a fortune for something your Great Aunt Ethel would wear.
Another thing is feet. If you don't want to be laughed out of a shop by some young pretty thing with a mane of thick brown hair and teeny tootsies, DON'T ask for anything higher than a 40 (7).
As for supermarkets, Franco's explicit rejection of import all those years back means they are still playing catch-up and it's likely you'll have to hit up the market and other shops just to get everything you need or, worse yet, not find the fresh sage you want for your recipe. I got laughed out of La Boqueria Market last week when I asked for tarragon. I'm still not quite sure what's so funny about tarragon, it tastes incredible with prawns.
Spaniards also seem to be afraid of spice. The word curry is simply alien to them. Good thing I live in the Raval where I can get a bunch of coriander and a handful of chillies at 10pm on a Sunday night.
The food quandary works both ways, however. The restrictions actually contribute to the preparation of proper, fresh meals rather than buying something 'finest' and ready-made. The international scope of recipe just isn't as broad.
While I am aware that I live in the 'rough neck' of Barcelona's woods, I still have never encountered so much vulgar attention. Shouts of 'rubiaaaaaaa' (blondie) are commonplace and mostly laughable but there have been too many times that have simply crossed the line. If you're an international woman, it is wise to turn a blind eye whilst also keeping your ears trained for trouble.
As for a good night's sleep... forget it. I have lived in a tiny, traditional town and big, boisterous Barcelona and it remains the same- this is one of the loudest nations on Earth for a reason. The particular soundtrack at my flat involves 11pm suitcase wheels, midnight skateboards, 1am party people, 2am drunken brawls, 3am street cleaning, 4am bin emptying, 5am crack addicts, 6am a little bit of peace and quiet punctuated by the man next door hocking up his intestines, 7am shop guys talking loudly and pulling up shutters and, my favourite sound, the gas man who shouts what sounds suspiciously like HALLOOO. My boyfriend tells me it's something else to do with selling gas but I like to ignore this and happily bellow 'HALLOOOOOOO' right back at him. It brightens up my grotty morning.
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, OH DEAR. If you could arrest people for poor customer service, I'm pretty sure most waiters would be put in the slammer before you even walked through the door. It's almost as if a) they hate you and b) they actually hate you.
It's like this in a lot of places. You walk in. They ignore you. You look at them. They look through you as if you are dead. And when you finally go over to ask for yourself, they start cleaning something and turn their back to you. Invariably your order is wrong and when you tell them, they kind of just shrug their shoulders. The trick is, be as cucumber-cool as they are to you and somehow this magically makes them your pal.
Either that or just go somewhere else. There are actually plenty of wonderful places and essentially, it's just a difference in attitude. In Spain, there's no rush, so sit back, relax and hope you get fed before you faint.
I will always be a GUIRI
So a 'guiri' is Spanish street slang for tourist. I have dyed my hair brown, I have learnt Spanish to a good enough level to have a decent conversation, I have lived and worked here on and off for two years, I know more than some of the residents about the area's history and yet I will always be a guiri in the eyes of Barcelona. It's pretty frustrating to go to restaurants and shops and to speak to people in Spanish only for them to turn around and reply in English and ask me how my holiday is going.
I'm not on holiday... this is my home!
Confession: All pics stolen from Pinterest...