Before coming to Barcelona, I had always thought of Spain as being similar to any of the Latin American countries I had been to: gregarious people, loud music everywhere, people hugging and kissing, spicy food...
I was (ultimately) pleasantly surprised that Barcelona was nothing like that. Here are the 15 most surprising things about living in Barcelona:
- They don't speak Castilian Spanish. They speak Catalan, a Romance language that has similarities to Spanish and French. And if you are ever there and know a bit of Spanish, please don't ask if the person can speak to you in Spanish. A bit of background: Barcelona is a city in Catalunya, a region in Spain. In Catalunya, they speak Catalan, a Spanish dialect, just as Castilian is a Spanish dialect. The Catalan people are fiercely independent and are even considering voting on their independence from Spain. So, when you ask if they speak Spanish, they will look at you for a second and respond that, yes, they do speak Castellano.
- Instead of the image I had in my head of a fiery, Antonio Banderas-ish Spaniard, the Catalan's temperament is more akin to Nordic people. It was hard for me to grow accustomed to their coldness, coming from the United States (where it is said that we are artificially cheerful) and from a Hispanic family (loud and emotive). Instead of the more polite, "Buenos Dias," that I'm used to, the Catalan people will greet you with a low-throated, "Hola." I endured many a stare at a store or restaurant when I would greet them with "Buenos Dias" or "Buenas Tardes" and they would just stare at me. It was even said, jokingly, that the park benches in Barcelona were supposed to illustrate how the Catalan people are: each park "bench" only had room for one person. However, once you get to know a Catalan, they will open their hearts and their homes up to you. They will cook you a meal and sit and drink cava with you for hours and even converse with you in Castilian Spanish and broken English if they have to.