January 17, 2014, by Guest blog
For the first time, I’m the quietest one in the family
So having moved onto my second placement here in Barcelona I have a lot of ‘new’ challenges.
First of all, I am working as an au-pair so I am both living and working with one family which can be amazing but also incredibly tiring as you simply can never get away! But thank fully I have a lovely family who want to teach me all about both Spanish and Catalan culture.
Being in Barcelona, I would say one of the biggest cultural challenges is of course the language-the Catalan language. Before I came people warned me that most people in Cataluña only spoke and would only speak Catalan, but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised to find people are quite happy to speak to me in Castilian. Of course it is still spoken everywhere, and is the mother tongue to most. For example in my family it is the mother tongue and when the parents speak to the children they do so in Catalan. The children are taught in Catalan at school and most cafes and restaurants display their menu in Catalan and you have to ask for a translation. Slowly but surely, (and thanks to a 4 month stint in Portugal) I think I am picking up Catalan and can now understand most of what is said and can read some things on the menu, which saves embarrassment!
Due to the recent polemic topic of Catalan independence, the continuation of the speaking and teaching of Catalan seems to be of high importance here and people have very strong opinions and sense of patriotism which is both interesting but hard to comprehend.
The ‘Mediterranean’ way of life also is something that is taking some getting used to. They just do so much and sleep so little!!! The Spanish timetable not only affects working hours but eating and socializing hours too. The children come home at 3 to have lunch then go off to their respective clubs for the afternoon/evening, only to come back home between 8-9pm to have dinner at nearly 10pm! This makes everything a lot later and can be difficult as everyone is tired by dinner, making homework even more of a chore!
What adds to this even more so is the way the Spanish are a lot fierier than the British. (A generalization I know!!!) But for the first few weeks I believed an argument was taking place when in reality they were just talking about what to have for dinner!! Shouting and noise is a lot more a part of their socializing than in England and for once I look like the quiet one!!
But all in all, the cultural challenges that I have encountered so far and those I suppose I will encounter in the future I believe can be overcome with an open mind and a big smile.
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