Moving to a new country can be very exciting but tough. I still remember that strange feeling. It was February 25, 2008 — the same day as the nationwide observance of the People Power in the Philippines. Coincidence? Perhaps. It did make the day extra dramatic thou. KLM flight KL0804 departed from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at 11:45 AM taking me halfway 'round the globe to Barcelona, Spain.
I recall spending the first few hours daydreaming about Barcelona, the world-renowned architectural creations of Gaudí, and the Spanish cuisine and tapas. And then, I spent the rest of the 18-hour trip like a sober. More so, I haven't been traveling around my own country and I came to realize it was too soon to leave.
The decision to move to Spain was not a difficult one to make. Needless to say, I've got a very supportive and loving family. I made an even better plan to migrate to Canada, in fact, but I never had the thought of living in Europe. But yet again, even the best plans change on the fly...
I arrived at Barcelona Airport (now known as Terminal 2) at around 22:45 in the evening. I'd like to think of myself as a fairly easy-going person. I did not bring much with me apart from some important papers and a few sets of clothes, which all fit just in one cabin luggage. I intend to start everything from scratch.
February is a pretty cold month in Barcelona (based on local standards). Got a nice warm jacket, and I'm all set. I arrived really late at the new flat. I remember just taking a short nap to recuperate the 18-hour flight, unpacked my bags, updated my current city on Facebook, and went out to experience everything.
With its stunning architectural beauty, a lifestyle of laid-back afternoon siestas and countless public holidays, tapas al fresco, the cavas, the beautiful beaches (of course) and a perfect mild Mediterranean climate (mild winters and warm summers), Barcelona offers a life somewhat closer to home. The second largest city in Spain and the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, Barcelona just happened to be the first-ever city I've been in Europe and now, my second home.
Once moved in, nailing down the obvious was pretty quick — finding my local grocery store, bank, pharmacy and such. I tend to believe I've got some decent Spanish phrases to get by, which is really convenient (apart from the very basic greetings, “Hola!”). I may have adopted quickly even the usual Spanish double kiss-on-the-cheek norm.
What I didn't though expect is how well Catalan language is integrated into the city — almost in all street and road signs, metro instructions and other public notices. Obviously, Catalan is the official language of the city and the region. Whilst the rest of the world considers Barcelona as part of Spain, the local Catalans consider Barcelona as the capital of Catalonia (Catalunya), an autonomous region with dreams of complete independence. A basic Catalan knowledge is certainly helpful to get around Barcelona.
Like all other European countries, Spain has been hard hit by the global economic crisis, and unemployment is high. Thanks to the city's huge tourism industry, there are still plenty of opportunities, especially in the Hotel & Hospitality sector. This is where we have the majority of our Filipino community in Barcelona. Filipinos could work pretty much anywhere. It seems that the cultural closeness between Spanish and Filipinos made it even more convenient. Being a noob, I thought just how little having English skills could matter considering that most people in the city are comfortably bilingual (Spanish and Catalan). The truth is, English does matter. For the same reason, I was able to get a decent job and build my career in an IT company.
A pleasant weather for most of the year and abundant sunshine, an efficient public transport system and a high standard healthcare system (second in Western Europe, France being the first), Barcelona truly offers a great quality of living. What I also like about living here in Spain is how the Spanish people are — so relaxed, relatively friendly and seems to always have a positive view on life.
And the sights? There's more to Barcelona than the sun and beaches. To name a few, there's Gaudi's very own masterpiece, the La Sagrada Familia church, and the modernist Park Guell. The Magic Fountain of Montjuic music and light show. The Picasso Museum. The FC Barcelona Stadium in Camp Nou. The famous Las Ramblas. And if you can't get enough of the city, hop on the local trains and head to Sitges — check out The 8 Top Things to Do in Sitges, Spain.
Ah. Can't wait to share each of them. For now, I just intend to cover how I started a new chapter of my life here in Barcelona, Spain. Bienvenido a Barcelona!