Seven Weeks in Barcelona: Stuck Between Tourists and Natives

June 21, 2017

Seven weeks. Quite an ambiguous period of time. Too long to be a tourist frequenting the city’s mainstream attractions. Too short to have a sense of permanence in this city of 2 million. How do I approach these seven weeks and what is my place in this city polarized between proud native Catalans and transient international travelers?

As I walk through Las Ramblas and watch Americans fall into the tourist trap of restaurants boasting the “best paella in town”, I feel a sense of superiority. As a student, rather than a tourist, I am looking for more than just selfies in front of Gaudi’s buildings and a jug of Sangria at dinner. I am here to learn more deeply about the culture and its language to better connect with its people. However, I am constantly frustrated when my efforts to speak the native tongue are met with Anti-american sentiments and responses in English as if my Spanish was ill-attempted. How can I view myself any more genuine than a typical tourist if the native people of this place do not recognize me as such?

Although frustrating, confusing, and somewhat disheartening, this ambiguity provides me with an opportunity to be a positive representative of my home nation and pursue a genuine interest in culture, history, and language in order to fight a growing anti-american and anti-tourist sentiment in Barcelona.

I hope to go beyond Las Ramblas and the Barceloneta beach and find the spots that will become my usual. The coffee shop where I will sip a cortado and read my Spanish translation of “Game of Thrones”, the most peaceful square to enjoy a chocolate covered croissant, the best bocadillo joint for lunch in between my classes, my favorite museum to escape the noise of a city of two million.

For the next seven weeks I hope to speak as much Spanish as possible, speak to as many Spaniards as possible, and develop a home here in Barcelona.

Updates on my progress to come 🙂