My life in Barcelona - Michal

Poland, 38 years old.

Who are you?

I’m a person that is definitely European. I feel European. I feel that I would like to… I think I’m trying to figure out how to have some sort of a legacy at this point of my life, so I’m passed the time of partying like crazy and meeting other people and so on. I still do that  but I’m more thinking about “ok, the last or the next 40 years of my life”. I’m in that time of my life I guess. But who am I? I’m definitely a person that speaks languages other than the language I was raised in. That’s an interesting idea to have in my head because the language I’m using right now is not my home language, but I prefer it at this point because it’s easier to meet people with it.

I think my own definition is, I’m trying to have fun without annoying anybody and I definitely don’t like to do all the things that other people do. So antipopulist, or anti pop culture. I just don’t like doing what other people do just because they do it.

My life in Barcelona - Michal

When did you arrive here in Barcelona?

My life in Barcelona - Michal

In Barcelona, beginning of 2017, although I was in Barcelona visiting 10 years ago. But in Catalunya for living, in end 2014.

Why are you here now?

I’ve visited quite a few places in my life I was curious about, to see how they are, how people lived, and of all the places I’ve visited, Barcelona, Catalonia, is the place I’ve felt more interested in of coming back and staying here longer, because I really like what I see on the street, how people are here. For example, I see families with kids on the street, and people playing with kids in the parks and it’s kind of normal. So I see there’s a good culture for children.  If you want to have children it’s a good place to be. I see a lot of old people active on the street, doing things, going to places going to the theater and so on… so I think it’s a good place for older people to be present, nobody’s putting older people in the corner. It’s not like Los Angeles where you don’t see old people unless they’re super rich. So I really like the way society or the community works here, and I was curious about the way people live here every day and also my partner, my partners are also Catalan right now, so it feels good to be here and I really like the city, it has beautiful architecture, it has a lot of everything but not too much of it which is also good because it could begin to be scary. It’s just the right size. There’s the sea, which I really like going to because I’m from the mountains. The sea is never my place but always something nice. It’s closed to the mountains anyway, so you can do that too. It has quite interesting bits and pieces. Architecture is one thing but it’s also Catalunya as a country and as a Nation, and there’s the History of all Iberia, all the different things happening here, the influence of the arabic times…. So it’s a lot of everything plus it’s a popular city for a lot of different people from different countries which I really like, I think this is kind of my ideal of a place I could live in. It’s somewhere where I can meet people from other places easily. So for example, I come from a little town where you wouldn’t meet a lot of foreigners and it wasn’t bad but it was boring. And here you can meet people from everywhere. Sometimes they’ve been here for a long time, sometimes they just arrived and they are “uuuh!” you know... NEW,  and that’s what I like. My previous city, Dublin, was kind of the same it’s just that the weather was shit, that’s why leaving Dublin was a good idea after 7 years but I’m definitely thinking of staying longer. For me coming to Barcelona is not a project like “I’m going to spend 5 years in Barcelona and then moving to China” No, I really want to stay here and feel home here and come back here. I’ll probably go to other places to because it’s nice to travel and see things and explore, but I feel good coming back here, it feels home. I know what I’m doing. I still don’t speak the language very well, one or the other, but that’s gonna change.

My life in Barcelona - Michal

In which other cities have you lived?

For longer, I lived in Dublin, Ireland, for 7 years, which is definitely a different city, different kind of people, different type of food and culture. And also they are very warm people, if you get to know them. It is definitely easy to understand why Irish people have such good publicity or PR around the world, because you meet them and you really see that they are very nice, very open and they are always open to meet new people. But it’s up north so it’s a bit too cold and that’s why I decided to move. And before that. England, a bit, but I went at the wrong time. It was a good decision at the wrong time so that didn’t work out. It was an interesting experience but it was too big. In London I realized there’re some cities that are too big, and some places where there’re too many people and I didn’t fit there. I can go there to visit or to explore a bit, but not to live. Living there would be hard for me. And before that it was Poland for most of my life. But I’ve visited many places for some time in different moments of my life. Canada, Iceland, Japan… not for living. And I have friends in many different places so for example when I was visiting people in Finland, I stayed with Finish people, I don’t go to a Hotel; if I go to Canada, I stay with Canadians or with people that have been living there for a long time.

So you can see the local life.

Yeah, I don’t get the Hotel experience unless I go to America which is a completely different thing.

What do you do?

I sit in front of the computer and I translate and I help other people translate, as well, and I work for an open source corporation you can say. I work for Mozilla. I spend a lot of time online talking to different people who are far away from here. I try to make the internet a better place and I don’t have any programing skills so I try to make the internet a better place using languages. I’ve been translating for a while now so I’m happy translating. i know this type of job is going to go away soon, because of computers, but that’s ok, I can always play games.

For a living?

Of course! I know some people who do that already so…

What is it what you like the most about Barcelona?

I think that what I like the most is that it’s a city that… It’s a place that never sleeps but it doesn’t sleep in very smart ways. So for example, if you think about places like New York, Berlin, you know? Those big metropolis. You can always find a party, there’s always something happening, it’s a bit too much. Like there’s really no stopping. You go to Berlin and there’s the whole party weekend from Thursday to Monday and they don’t close the bars, they’re just open all the time. That’s a bit too much. And I think Barcelona is very good at offering you what you need, like for example parties or going to the beach, or doing sports… with a smart limit. That’s the part I really like about it, the community part is very visible. If you are in a bar and it’s a super popular bar, the owners will know that they have neighbors and they will have signs saying “hey please, respect the neighbors”. I don’t think the problem here is with the bars, there’re not so many bars. It’s just that the people that come here sometimes don’t understand that part, that you live with other people around you. And I think this is what I like about Barcelona, because there’s always something that works for me, like I know  that I want to have fun… go to a party, whatever,... But I also want to respect other people as I want to be respected if I’m not doing anything stupid. So I really like this about it.

I also get to meet very interesting people here. There’s the high culture of Barcelona which is, you know, galleries and shows and theaters… very good festivals like GREC… very interesting things happening at an international level of entertainment. But there’s also a kind of “dirty” Barcelona… it doesn’t mean the streets are dirty because they are very clean compared to many places, it’s more about, skaters and graffitti and street art!

Like Grunge or alternative.

Yeah, alternative. And it’s here as well, and it’s in the city like it’s not hiding, it’s just here, and it’s nicely mixed. For example, when I compare Barcelona to Berlin, because Berlin is one of my favorite cities in Europe as well. Berlin is a bit more chaotic or it’s a bit more disorganized. Things just happen. And in Barcelona things are a bit more organized, like people respect everybody. And in Berlin, people just don’t get on each other’s way. And also the absolutely killer public transport in Barcelona. I think for people living here it’s normal but if I compare it to anything from Poland it’s yaw dropping , one ticket and you can get on anything and it works.

I think it’s a very good gateway city for visiting the region but also going out of Catalunya, Spain or Iberia. You can go to so many places from here because it’s so well connected by the sea. It’s kind of the best Mediterranean European culture from the Iberian side of things. Because there’s of course the Italian side of things and the Post Yugoslavian, the Balcans and the Greeks, but that’s different. It’s Mediterranean but it’s a bit different. It’s European but it’s a bit different. And this is the side of the culture that I really like, and the Mediterranean diet, of course. Food is good as well.

My life in Barcelona - Michal
My life in Barcelona - Michal

If somebody

meets me on the street they’ll say I’m part of the problem. But no, I’m not. If you don’t know a foreigner that comes to Barcelona and stays here for longer or if you don’t know why they’re here, it’s very easy to say “Hey, you are part of the problem” because there are people that are a problem in a way. But this problem is everywhere.

And what is it that you don’t like?

I’m probably gonna sound like a hypocrite right now, but I’m super happy saying this. I don’t like tourists who are stupid. There are tourists who are respectful, and they come here because they want to experience the city and they want to do something in Barcelona, and they want to do something in Catalonia, you know? and they want to have that experience one way or another. And they come here for different reasons. Some people come here for food, some come here for sports… whatever. But they come here because it’s here. And some people just come here because they saw that thing somewhere on a poster or whatever. Or they heard there’re good parties… and they get drunk, wasted, high, whatever… They are just irresponsible and they could honestly be doing this anywhere else. And this is the part of tourism I don’t appreciate when people don’t go to a place for reasons that makes sense because of the Geography or the culture or the food… If you come to Festes de Gracia because you want to see it, that’s great! And of course there’s a party but you also come to see the whole thing. But if you just come because of the party and to get drunk and puke at somebody’s door… I don’t appreciate that. I know Barcelona has love-hate relationship with people coming here for short periods of time to party and I can totally understand why. And that’s why I feel like a hypocrite saying this. If somebody meets me on the street they’ll say I’m part of the problem. But no, I’m not. If you don’t know a foreigner that comes to Barcelona and stays here for longer or if you don’t know why they’re here, it’s very easy to say “Hey, you are part of the problem” because there are people that are a problem in a way. But this problem is everywhere. We have the same problem in Krakov.

Other things I don’t like? I don’t like the uncertainty of the political situation which is kind of obvious. This is something I blame on people wearing suits, not being able to talk to other people wearing suits. And I’ll stop at that because I don’t want to talk about politics. I don’t like it because it concerns people I know but, it’s for other people to sort out.

Also, I don’t like the super hot summers. It’s crazy, super insane. I don’t like “xafugor” (humidity).

Anything else you miss from other places or you don’t really like how it works?

Well, something that I was shocked at the beginning but I’m starting to feel more understanding about it now, is the way restaurants and cafes work, you sit there and you have to wait for ten minutes. Now I understand it’s the culture and they give you time. Things slow down a bit. For example, the nap, it’s something I don’t really understand, things being closed between 2 and 5, very often, even in winter.

But compared to other places I’ve lived, I really like it here.

And what differences do you find between your hometown and Barcelona?

One thing I definitely noticed is people here express their feelings easier in a more open way, people are very loud if they want to be and that’s normal. People are smiling or sad… they show it in an open way and that’s normal. There’s a lot of life happening in the street, specially during Spring and Summer. People move out from their houses into the street. You have your own corner, square, your bar… it’s very easy to have your living room outside. In Poland we are more closed, it’s different. In the streets nobody’s laughing. From my generation people don’t express their feelings openly in public that much. People try to have a face for everybody else, and then private. It was more or less the same in Ireland. You had to kind of cross a line to see the real person.  Here you have a different approach to distance. When you haven’t met a person yet, it’s the first time, but it’s a friend of a friend so you kiss each other’s cheeks. It’s kind of “wooow!”. In Poland we think like “you want to go on a date or something?”

Also the summer nights being very long and eating so late. In Poland if you say “let’s go for dinner, it’s only midnight”, we’d look at that person like “are you on high? we don’t have restaurants open until midnight. Maybe it’s also something cultural. We don’t have daylight until so late in the summer. Regular things we do earlier in the day.

Also, I see people here of different ages are very interested in things like social order, the way the government or local things happen. The community is very much a thing for everybody. Like in Festes majors, everybody is involved and every week they are doing something, opening a new library or a festival. In Poland there might be a festival but for everybody, it’s for everybody, there’s a company organizing it and that’s it. Here it’s the neighbors organizing it. Here the city is for the people and the people are for the city. And this is really something I don’t see in Poland much, and I really wish this could be a model to copy. We do things very similarly, but it’s different.

In Poland, if you have a shot of vodka, then you can trust somebody.

Do you feel integrated?

For the people I know it’s 50-50, locals and foreigners. I do feel integrated and I feel like home. I know my small places here and there. I know the city well. For the language part I’m still behind but I’m happy that I can do things in other languages, it’s international so that’s what I like. I know that step by step I’m getting better with the languages. I don’t feel like a “guiri” (term used for a tourist), the people in my area know me. If I get lost, I don’t get the treatment as for a tourist. Sometimes I do, though, If I need to ask for directions and I know they speak Catalan, I  ask in Catalan, they will automatically switch to Spanish because they’ll think I don’t speak Catalan. So this is the part where I kind of like to meet people to speak Catalan with because I want to practice my Catalan. I also want to learn Spanish but I want to be able to choose. I don’t want to be told that just because I’m a foreigner I have to learn Spanish by default and Catalan if you’re lucky. I want to learn both at the same time. But I do feel integrated. I really like that you can be anybody from anywhere and you can find your place. There’s people from Asia here and they don’t feel like ghettos.

What’s your favorite place?

Arc de Triomf. Not because of Arc the Triomf, which is a very nice architecture piece and it’s a nice walk to Ciutadella. It’s very central but it’s not crowded. It’s like Ramblas but without the crowd. It has a lot of thing I love, you can go to Marina area where there are many cool clubs where you can party, you have all the nice shops of the things I like which are board games, fantasy books and science fiction… You can go to the sea easily, you have a park, you have the Parliament of Catalunya. It’s a good place to explore Barcelona from. And it’s also very local because it’s in Eixample, you can get to Gracia from here. Basically, it’s very well connected with all the different aspects and faces of Barcelona. And I have very good memories on this area. But I also love Montjuic, there’s the museum but also nature and the summer cinemas which are awesome. I also like the seaside if you skip Barceloneta, you can go relax, do sports, read a book… you can do whatever, it’s for the people. I like Eixample… I think Barcelona has many good places. For each time of the day and for each season there’s a good place in Barcelona somewhere to be. Here feels like in the heart, you can go anywhere. Pl Catalunya is for tourists now. This is where life happens to me. This is where I see the way the city works. Like plaça d’Osca, it’s just people hanging out, enjoying life.

My life in Barcelona - Michal

Is there something that you’ve discovered in your life here? something I can’t ask, something I don’t know.

I know many people are coming to Barcelona because of architecture, culture and so on, and that’s really cool, of course, it’s the beautiful part of it. But i think I learnt over the years that the important part is to sit down with somebody who’s from here and have that experience. The best part is when you get the actual slice of life. When people tell you what really things are like.

For me the important part is that the slice of life I get is something I enjoy. I don’t feel like an impostor, I don’t feel like I’m invading here. That’s really really important for me.

My life in Barcelona - Michal