From Barcelona:  Surviving the first-year-blues in the city

From Barcelona: Surviving the first-year-blues in the city

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Being away from friends and family is always hard in the first year despite all the merry making. Blogger Jeremy Holland talks about how he dealt with his occasional pangs of homesickness.

As most of us who have up and moved to Barcelona can attest, the life of an expat is full of ups and downs, especially during the first year.

There were days that seemed to validate our decision to come here, and other times that probably had us contemplating either moving back or trying some place new.

Yet, we didn't, and as the time passed, we found ourselves more settled and at home with more good days than bad.

I remember the first few months as full of excitement where everything was new and fresh.

Two in the morning no longer signalled the end of evening and conversations no longer started with "What do you do?" but rather "Where are you from?"

Dancing the night away in with my new-found friends who came from all over the world, we revelled in the moment and it truly seemed like there was a new adventure awaiting every time I stepped out my flat.

The life, the people, the energy were unlike anything back home, and best of all, I didn't have to drive!

Photo © Tiago • Ribeiro

But nothing lasts forever in life, including the rush of living in a new city.

Around my sixth month, the sheen wore off. Feelings of loneliness to crept in. Living alone in a foreign land with a strange tongue made basic communication seem like mission impossible some times. Even if I used the right word, my pronunciation would have people grimacing as I butchered their language, and there were many times I ended up buying something I didn't need or want just to get out of a store before facing further embarrassment.

After several such situations, I thought about the life I had left: my family, my friends and my ability to communicate freely and confidently.

But as my old boss once told me: "What you miss no longer exists," and he was right – Life was fluid and not static, and all it took was a call home to reconfirm this. Of course, knowing this didn't make it any easier.  So what did?

For me: It was getting out and reminding myself of why I had chosen to move to Barcelona. I'd wander the streets and get lost in its beauty, ending the day with a beer outside and some people watching. I also found particular solace in the two medieval churches: the Santa Maria del Mar and the Gothic Cathedral back when it was free.

Far from a religious man, I was nevertheless happy when the holy water didn't burn, and sitting in such magnificent buildings brought a certain serenity and peace to my confused mind.

A cool passageway with a bar in it © sherrattsamI also broke my promise to avoid all things expat or English, and completely immerse myself in Spanish culture.

Enough nights out and not understanding a single word made the need to sit and have a chat a priority. It was also at the English pubs where I befriended not only expats who had decided to make Barcelona home, but also Spaniards and Catalans who were interested in improving their English and helped me with my Spanish.

By the end of my first year, the foundation of building a life in a foreign country had been accomplished - some favourite spots to collect your thoughts, a network of friends to help and support you through the ups and downs, and a basic grasp of the language to lessen the moments of embarrassment.

Jeremy Holland / Expatica
Photos credit: Hector Garcia; sherrattsam; Tiago • Ribeiro

Written by an American expat, From Barcelona is a blog dedicated to the city, the life and the people of the capital of Catalunya (Catalonia).

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