January 21, 2014, by Guest blog

Feeling at home away from home…

The truth is that I really feel at home here in Catalonia, so the expression cultural challenge may be a bit strong. Although this might seem silly, after having lived a few months in Barcelona, I am convinced that the smallest details are the ones that make you feel at home or not, and in that sense, my experience has been like discovering a second home. For example, they grant the same importance to home made food here as in Belgium and in the bakery close to where I live they make exactly the same whole grain spelt flour bread as the one I buy at home. Another important similarity is that people all speak more than one language here, Spanish and Catalan, just like in Belgium with French and Flemish (not everyone, but many speak both…) and I do think this contributes to a certain open mindedness, characteristic of people who learn more than one language as a small child.

In the professional context, a part from the language, the way to communicate and act with superiors, partners and colleagues was familiar to me. A small detail that made me feel different is the way they answer and talk on the phone, that is, going straight to the point immediately; sometimes without even mentioning their name or just really quickly. They almost pressure you to move on if you take a few moments to introduce yourself, asking you something like “so what do you want?”, but I got used to that.  In fact the worse is I started to do it myself and my family have commented about it lately ;).

Concerning family life and social life, except for the fact that the general Schedule is moved forward a few hours (dinner at 10PM? Really?), integration was fluid.  When I arrived I was so happy to find out that we have the same understanding of “going for coffee”. Obviously it has nothing to do with the coffee itself, that is really small here anyway, but with the social event of taking some time together in a different context, and nobody is offended if you actually don’t want anything to drink.  So when I arrived, I already knew of a way to connect to people, and in the end that is the most important to feel good.

Posted in Cultural challenges