Spain, a country of contrasts
If you’ve traveled a bit through Spain, you´ve probably realized that the differences between the regions are remarkable, and make this country a nation full of contrasts. This is true for its landscapes and geography; with arid areas in the south, particularly lush vegetation within the northern coastal and mountain climate, and a subtropical climate in the Canary Islands; as well as its culture and economy, with “Comunidad Autónoma” (region) under the influence of its own characteristics. This is due to its strategic location within the European geography and the fact of being a peninsula surrounded by water, with an old trading history.
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The Catalan character
Focusing on the “Comunidad Autónoma” where Barcelona is located, Catalonia’s economy, which is the European entry into Spain, is based on tourism, so we are used to welcoming foreigners visiting the capital for leisure, work or studies. The Catalans are used to accommodating people of all cultures throughout the year, making them an open and friendly population. Still, we must not forget that foreigners are, historically, a “source of income” and the Catalans are traders used to deal in favorable trades, so as a tourist if you go into a store their kindness may depend on the money you are willing to spend on. Anyway, if you are staying long-term in Barcelona, you have to interact with more people than just traders, and it will be very useful to have some knowledge beforehand about the Catalan character and their way of socializing with other people.
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A Catalan friend is forever
First of all, you should know is not easy to “enter” the heart of a Catalan person. We are a bit distrustful and shy at first, but once you have a Catalan friend, this is forever. Despite what is said, you don’t need to speak Catalan to live, work or study in Catalonia. All inhabitants speak perfect Spanish and even English, but you must respect the Catalan language and understand that for many Catalans, is how they communicate more comfortably with each other. It is said that the English sense of humor is similar to Catalan sense of humor; ironic, intelligent, and sort of eschatological. It´s true, we like to laugh, but not to “give away” our smiles, we prefer to be discreet and polite in public, and let us go in the privacy of our homes or when we feel safe in our group of close friends.
The Catalan character is closer to the French by geographical proximity than to the Spanish, but we also like to go out, have good food and have some beers after work and enjoy the Spanish quality of life. A Catalan person is usually a hard worker, and an honest, fair, timely and respectful person, and expects the same from the people around him or her. Maybe that’s why they say that we are stingy – by that sense of justice and honesty, we don’t like to pay more if we don’t think we should. Due to the European influence, we have a taste for aesthetics, design, art and culture of all styles. We love to dress well, go to exhibitions, be well informed, to read, to learn about what happens in the world, to express our opinions about it, to speak languages and absorb knowledge from those who visit us without being invasive.
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Shall we get into politics?
Politically Catalonia has always been a boiling pot due to the independence claim. The media and politicians have enlarged the myth of “Catalans hate Spain” and they are not interested in reaching an agreement. But if you come to Barcelona or Catalonia you will realize that this is a false stereotype. A large majority of Catalans have parents or grandparents who come from all parts of Spain, who would like politicians to devote to solving the problems, not to creating them.
Being Catalan is much more than those things listed in this article, but from ShBarcelona we wanted to sketch some of them. To know all sides of the multifaced Catalan character you would have to live in this wonderful part of Spain that has so much to offer.