Portrait Girl in el Borne, Barcelona.


I consider myself first a Silesian and then as a Polish person. I’m a sociologists, for sure, it’s an important thing in my identity; and somebody who likes discovering things and learning new things. This is what brought me here. I came here, I saw the place and I thought “ok, this is the place where I really want to live” but also had the feeling of “I want to discover it more”.

In which other countries/cities have you lived before Barcelona?

It was the first city I lived after I moved from my parents place. Before, I was considering moving out, doing Erasmus, but in the end I decided to stay for personal reasons. Then I was travelling a lot, and Barcelona was the first city where I felt “this is the city where I really want to live”. Before it was like “I want to live in Poland, let’s move somewhere”. And when I came to Barcelona I saw I wanted to live here.

portrait of a girl smiling

How many languages do you speak?

I speak English, Polish, Spanish and Silesian as a dialect.

Do you speak Catalan?

I understand it. The first family I stayed with when I arrived didn’t speak Catalant so I was not really surrounded by Catalans. Now my flatmate, she’s catalan, but she always speaks Spanish. , but I started understanding more and more with her but the problem was that all my jobs were about speaking English. So I was more keen on really learning Spanish first and that’s also something that Catalan people were telling me: “First learn Spanish and then Catalan.” But for my bachelor thesis I needed it so I was translating from catalan to Polish. But it was still important to me. When I go to a place, instead of saying “Buenos días” I will always say “Bon dia” because I want to respect the place where I am. Even if I don’t speak Catalan, but to show some respect. People from here, their identity is important for them and I appreciate that. I have the same feeling about my identity so I want to show respect to it. I wanted to sign in into some Catalan classes but the schedule was never good for me.

Why are you here now?

It’s funny since I’m leaving in a week. First I was super focused on moving here and making my life here since I was feeling very comfortable. Poland is my home country but people there is more conservative so maybe I didn’t see myself living there. As I came here I really loved the openness. People told me that here people is more closed, that it’s the people from the South that is more open. For me, compared to Poland this is the perfect degree. I was trying to find a good job, this was hard for me at first since in Poland I had more opportunities since people already knew me, I had my reputation. Here it was tough. Still, I went to the university and tried to find a job. Also I had a boyfriend who was also living here so I was trying to really make it happen. Now I found a better job but on the other side, I’m 24 and I’ve only been living here and I have this feeling, like a bit bored. I still have other places to discover so I decided to go back to Poland, start a PHD and then I’ll go somewhere else. But it’s easier for me to do it from there. Here with the regular salaries I’m not travelling at all and this is something that really bothers me. At my age, knowing I can make a better living somewhere else and travelling…

Portrait of a girl in front of a wall

When did you arrive?

One year and five months ago. 2016, 1st of July. The 31st I was defending my bachelor thesis which is actually an analysis of “Junts pel Sí” campaign. The day of my defense I had the flight to come back here. When I came here first it was because Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya invited me” to a conference, they published my article and so on. And I saw it very interesting. My last experience in South Europe was Napoli and I was expecting something like that. But when I came here I saw it was very well communicated, there were green areas everywhere. There’re always places to walk with your dog, playgrounds for kids, places to do sports. This city was trying to be a city for citizens, not only for tourists. I really liked that. The first time I came here was for “Junts pel Sí” campaign and I found it also very interesting. Because I’m also into politics, and I was also doing sociology and analysing the campaign I thought that was so cool,, because I’m used to the boring pictures of politicians. And this one was full of vivid colors, even the logo. I really liked this so that’s why I wanted to write about it. How to make a political campaign into a social movement. I went to a concert and everybody was with flags and stuff. But this concert had nothing to do with politics but they kind of created this movement or reinforced it. For me it was amazing to observe it. So I was here first for a week, went back to Poland and then I came back for the end of campaign to see the results. I went back to the university and I thought of changing thesis, starting from scratch and writing about this because I really really loved the topic. Then I came back and studied a master on “Estudios humanísticos y sociales” (“Humanistic and social studies”) and now I’m writing my master thesis.

What do you do?

Right now I do nothing. But I was working on sales, cold sales on the phone. It was challenging and I liked it because we had a lot of trainings and I learnt a lot. But on the other hand it was just sitting all day and speaking on the phone.

My life in Barcelona - Marta

What do you like the most about Barcelona?

People. People that make this city that are really open for new things and kind of the lifestyle. Barcelona is pretty but also the housing, is really beautiful. But they are more about living outside. This is something that in my country we don’t really do that. You come from work and then you stay home and maybe then you see your friends on the weekends. Here you’re with people all the time. This gave me an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. It was important to me to not only be in this expats community but knowing people that is actually from here. But on the other side, I’ve met so many people from so interesting places and I could then learn about their cultures. That’s very interesting.

And what do you like the least?

Maybe the job market and the prices of housing. At the end of the day that is a big problem for a young person who enters the market, to actually stay here, work and live here with the huge prices of housing, even the rooms. There’s a very competitive job market with usually low salaries. I hated the idea but I thought “ok, maybe an internship to start” But what I was paid for a full time internship… this is slavery, to be honest. My brother lives in Germany and he was shocked when I told him. That would never happen in Germany. This is one big thing that I really don’t like about here. And somehow we are allowing this because we are applying to this. Or maybe erasmus students and have everything paid by their parents so they don’t really care. Companies don’t care because they know they will employ somebody anyway.

My life in Barcelona - Marta

What do you miss?

My family. I miss having somebody that I know for a very long time. The friendships I have here, they don’t last that long. I miss having this longer relationship like being able to go to my parents’ and get a ahug. Specially you realize about this when you are single.

Also spending important moments with my brother for example. He lived abroad when I was there and then he moved back when I left. I was not really there in some moments in his live and I felt kind of sad.

What differences do you find between your hometown and Barcelona.

Everything!! I’m from a small town that is very traditional. Basically Poland, 99% are white Catholic people, even if they are not actually Catholic, there’re lots of people that go to church just because it’s a tradition. We stick to what it is because we don’t see any other options, we don’t really meet people from abroad. In the end of the day people are xenophobic and racist and I really hate that. Living here is a good change for me. And the lifestyle. Eating so late.. I don’t understand. I arrive from work and I’m starving. Eating at 10pm, I don’t understand, I don’t even need those calories any more. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Also, going party. I remember the first time going to Apolo and we were going at midnight and I said “It’s already 12, party is going to be over in 3 hours”. But then I saw that you could party until 7am.

It’s like in New Year’s eve. Changing parties, going first to one and then to another. In Poland we go to one and we spend the night with the same people.

Also, alcohol. For example, if you invite me to your place and I bring a bottle a wine, I can’t pour the wine myself, it’s rude. So when I came here I saw nobody was caring about my glass. Everybody was taking the bottle and filling their glasses.

I feel that when I came here I had this kind of cultural shock. We are still in Europe but there are differences. I don’t really understand the body language, the thing about everybody touching me… in Poland we don’t touch anybody.

Or if I go to a bus stop in Poland and I ask about if my bus already left or not, if I ask the person that doesn’t know, nobody else will tell me, you have to ask each person directly. Here, all the people at the bus stop is analyzing how you are going to get to this place and if it’s the best route or not. I like this a lot. But there’re many things that I still need to get used to.

Another difference is calling people that are older than you by their names.

And being more open. I find less taboos here than in Poland. The kind of approach. And the personal contact. After living here, I felt the difference in the way I was greeting people I knew since I was a child in Poland, in such a distant way. I felt weird doing that while I was giving two kisses to people I had just met here in Barcelona. So it’s way warmer while there it’s just “hi” and waving hands. Also, in Poland we don’t have the expression as “que tal?” (colloquial for “how are you?”). It makes easier to start a conversation. In Poland it’s just “hello”, “hello”.

Girl walking down the street

It was funny to find myself surrounded by such warm reactions. It’s funny, every time I told a Catalan person they were super warm they were like “no, we are not. Go to the south, they are way warmer in the south. We are colder here”. And I thought “no, you are not! You are warm!”

Do you feel integrated?

In general yes. Also because I had the chance of living here with this Basc family. They’ve been living here for 20 years so I met their friends, etc. Also I met many expats but even my ex-boyfriend, although is also from abroad but he’s been living here for 12 years so I could meet his friends. And now because my flatmate is Catalan so I also know her parents and we go here and there. I was always in between the local and the expat community. Although for expats it’s actually hard to become more local. On the one side, we are complaining about the expats community but on the other side we are not bringing them in. Like my friends back in Poland, they are from Ukraine and, in Silesia we are like Catalans, we have our language, our culture, our history, our food… And my friends were living there for 5 years already and I asked them about our traditional food and they said they had never tried that. I though “how come? everybody has it!”. But as they never went to my home, for instance, to have a dinner with my parents or something like this. they were somehow living there but not really fully. They were not learning the language because we only speak it at home. It’s not like in Catalunya that Catalan is everywhere, our language is at home so we don’t really share it. People come in and we put some borders. We share something but not everything.

My life in Barcelona - Marta

Are you going back?

Yes, next week.

And are you coming back here?

I feel Barcelona will always be a place I will want to return to. It was the first city where I lived away from home, also it was the first city I fell in love with. So yeah, I will love to come here from time to time, also to visit my friends. Right now I have more friends here than back in Poland. From one part, I feel very sad about leaving the city, my places, the neighborhood, El Born… leaving all this is hard.

My life in Barcelona - Marta

Can you tell me something that shocked you, that you discovered here.

People here, both Catalans and expats are so proactive. During the campaign I saw so many people getting so much involved in politics. People here really have an idea of community, doing something together and for everybody. In Poland we don’t really have that, we are very individualists. Here people really work for a community. Even these “fiestas”, It connects people. I remember when I came, it was in July and I remember seeing people working together preparing for “fiestas de Gracia” and my ex told me that they had been working on it for a couple of months already. And the “fiesta” is in August! They gather for working everyday, putting something together. That is something really amazing. In Poland sometimes you don’t even know the neighbors. So this brings a feeling of the community. And it also gives the expats the chance to offer help and get inside of this community because of the activities they are doing.

Also all these initiatives coming from the people.

Also this friendliness… I know I can go shopping and have this little chit-chat or ask something to the show assistant. These are little things that makes it feel more like home. I really really like that.

Also here people smile. In Poland, if you smile on the street they will ask you “Are you ok? Do you have a problem?” And also it’s way safer here. I feel much more secure here at night than in my hometown when it’s dark.

Girl walking

Emma EspejoComment