Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adéu Barcelona!

As some of you might know, I no longer call Barcelona home, having left in April for literally the greener pastures of Holland. It was a bittersweet decision because when I look back at all the places I've lived, Barcelona was the city I stayed in the longest - eight years! So, why did I leave?

As with any major decision there were a variety of factors, most of which was brought about by the arrival of our daughter about a year and a half ago. The economy was of course one. Even in the boom years, the salary to hours worked ratio was never one of the city's top selling points, with ten hour days being the norm and 1,500 a month classified as well-paid. When we were just a couple, this didn't seem so important. We could live in a place without an elevator, go out with friends, travel, and enjoy all that Barcelona had to offer (concerts, beach, festivals). But without having any type of family support, this type of work schedule and wage makes raising a child there difficult and expensive. Plus, what's the point of having a kid if you're working and stressed all the time?

The whole nationalist debate played a role too. We want our daughter to be proud of her mixed heritage, and unfortunately that's not the easiest thing to do in Barcelona given the political climate. The sad truth is: she'll feel more Spanish living in a small city in north Holland than a region of Spain. But, hey, that's why I don't live there anymore, because as Lou Reed sang, "I do believe, when you don't like things you leave for some place you've never gone before."

So, after six months away, is there anything I miss? Absolutely, the beauty of the city and the people I'd met both in person and through this blog, the anarchic quality of the streets, the fish, those crazy Barcelona nights that end the next day. I don't miss the noise, though, or the congestion. It's nice having a tiny backyard even if it's the only place in Holland where grass doesn't want to grow.

Would I recommend Barcelona? Sure, why not. Just do your own thing and try not to work for the man. There are worse locations to pass the time, but I can't think of many better cities to live in if you're single or with a significant other. It's stimulating and creative and just a special place. There's a reason why the city is called "that great enchantress" and I lived there so many years.