Siestas, Quarantine and Chronicling Expat Life in Barcelona
Lauren is an American expat in Barcelona and writer of The Expat Chronicle. She chats with Michelle of MyExpatCommunity about two-hour-long siestas, experiencing Quarantine with three children, and lessons from living abroad.
Hi Lauren, it’s Michelle from MyExpatCommunity. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I took a look at your blog and it’s really beautiful.
Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for the opportunity! I’m so happy to chat with you and really appreciate the positive feedback about the blog. It sure has been such a joy to be able to tell our story being expats, but also to share it with the world
Fantastic! So we can begin! Where are you originally from?
New Jersey, in the US. Actually it’s an area called The Jersey Shore (but not the TV show!) haha! My husband is also from NJ – we were both born and raised there.
Oh wow cool hehe. I use to watch that show, and I’m actually from Connecticut, USA, so we are practically neighbors
What brought you to start living abroad? Was this your first move to Spain?
Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful! People from the Northeast are so cool
Yes, moving to Barcelona was our very first experience being expats. My husband’s company offered him a position in their new Barcelona office. We simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity!
I wouldn’t turn it down too!
What was it first like for you and your family when you moved to Barcelona, Spain? Were you hit with culture shock?
I always had this image in my mind that the city would be like an old Spanish village.
Little did I know when we got here, that Barcelona is BIG and busy and thriving! It overwhelmed me at first and I remember thinking “how on EARTH am I going to learn how to get around this city?!” And sure there were challenges to get over – such as learning the metro system, learning to speak the language (which is still a work in progress!) and adjusting our 3 kids to city life.
When it comes to culture shock, we certainly did experience it to some degree. Two-hour siesta lunches, kids staying awake until 11 pm every night, topless/nude beaches – these were all so NEW to us and quite shocking!
Thanks for sharing that! How long have you been living in Barcelona?
We’ve been living here for 2.5 years.
Would you say from living in Spain for 2.5 years you have settled down more, or still feel like a newbie?
It’s funny, in some ways we feel so adjusted here and at home! Like navigating the public transportation system, knowing our way around, recommending restaurants/bars to friends, etc. It feels like we’ve been here forever!
But then in other respects such as dinner time, bedtime for the kids, and most especially the language, we still very much feel like outsiders.
The native language here isn’t Spanish, but Catalan, which is not an easy one to learn. So while we get by great with Spanish, the Catalan people sometimes frown upon it if you have been here for a while and don’t at least speak a little bit of Catalan. That has been more of a barrier for us.
The initial plan for us was to stay for 3 years. Then my husband decided to leave his company and accept a job at a smaller firm here in Barcelona. That will keep us here another 2 years likely, which we are happy about!
Awesome! How is the international/expat community over there? Is it easy to connect to a network or make friends?
Yes absolutely, there’s been lots of other expats to connect with, both American and not. The expats really form communities here and find ways to connect with one another so it’s been great. We have made several different groups of friends, which is awesome!
Being a mother with expat kids, it’s been super easy to meet other parents at international schools. We’re all in the same boat so can share a lot of experiences together.
That’s so great to hear. Finding a community was one of the first things I looked for too when I moved abroad.
What inspired you to start your beautiful travel blog, The Expat Chronicle? Was it the move to Spain?
Yes it really was! I’ve always loved writing and went to school for Journalism & Media Relations. But it wasn’t until moving abroad and feeling like I had SO many stories and experiences to share that the idea to start a blog was born.
Even after we leave Spain and aren’t technically expats any longer, I plan to continue to blog.
What are your top tips for people visiting Barcelona? Can be shopping, restaurants, parks, attractions, etc
These articles are chock full of tips and insider tricks for getting around and really enjoying the city:
👉 30 Ways to Enjoy Barcelona with Kids
👉 Top Tips for Visiting Sagrada Familia
👉 How Not to Dress Like a Tourist in Spain
👉 Best Date Night Spots in Barcelona
I’m also getting ready to publish one about a guide to Barcelona Tapas by neighborhood.
I’ll check those out!
What advice would you give for newbie expats, or people considering to live abroad?
The best advice I can give is to give the process TIME! It takes a lot of patience but it is so worth it to just enjoy the experience instead of rushing for a place to immediately feel like “home.”
It took our family of five a full year before we truly felt like this was our home where we knew the people, the restaurants, our doctors and insider tips to tourist sights. Attempting to tackle everything about being an expat in a matter of months is totally unrealistic.
So just take each day one day at a time and enjoy the journey!
One last question! How are you and your family doing in Barcelona now during this Quarantine time?
Our family is doing quite well during this confusing and somewhat frustrating time. Considering all the factors – family of five (three young children) stuck inside a 5th floor apartment with no outdoor space.
I’m simply amazed that this has been our “norm” for almost 30 straight days! The only outings my husband or I have taken are to the grocery store once a week. The kids haven’t stepped foot outdoors in weeks, with the exception of a small balcony, yet we’ve found tons of ways to stay busy and creative! From building forts and obstacle courses in our living room to baking, painting, crafting with recycled materials, charades and playing pretend Harry Potter games we have bonded in so many ways!
It’s not to say we haven’t had our moments as a family of high tension or exhaustion with one another. But we always bounce right back and get on with making the most out of this unprecedented situation
Thanks for sharing and I’m glad you and your family are ok.
Also – thanks for chatting with me today! This concludes our interview!
You’re very welcome and thank YOU! This has been so lovely!
I agree! 🙂
About the Interviewer
Michelle is the editor of MyExpatCommunity’s Expat Interviews, and a fellow expat herself. Originally from the US, she has been living in Vienna, Austria since 2014. In her free time, she likes to write, do yoga, and try new recipes. Check out her Vienna blog, American in Vienna!