Living in Barcelona, Spain

Jessica Bowler: Why I Live in… Barcelona

24 year old British-American Jessica Bowler answers our questions on living in Barcelona. She works as a translator and freelance travel journalist, and blogs at Hola Yessica, which is named after how people in Spain pronounce her name.

I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I was born in Manchester, England, and I grew up in Riverside, California (it’s close to LA).

And what did you do there, then?
Right before I moved to Barcelona, I was finishing my bachelor’s degree. This is my first “real world” life and working experience, so it’d quite a change for all kinds of reasons.

How did you end up in Barcelona?
I was studying abroad for a summer and fell in love with two things – a place and a guy. Typical, I know! What’s not so typical is that things with the guy ended up not working out, and I ended up staying anyway. It’s such a great city it seemed silly to throw it all away and start over so soon.

Have you lived abroad before?
Yep! I’ve also lived in Sevilla, in the south of Spain. Technically, I’ve lived in both the UK and the US, but I was very small when my parents moved to California, so that only counts in the sense that I was geographically there.

So what’s so good about Barcelona?
Oh boy, where to start? I love almost everything here. The food, the weather, the beaches, the culture, the old city, the nightlife, the public transportation…It’s pretty much my perfect city, except that it’s not very close to home.

And what don’t you like?
Like I said, not being close to home is a big one. Also, even though the weather is good, it’s still pretty cold because I’m used to very hot California temperatures. I still don’t know what to do with myself in the winter.

The Catalan language is something I occasionally get frustrated with, but I wouldn’t say I actively dislike it.

Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
Hmm…that’s an interesting question. I feel like a mix of a tourist and a local. I do live here, after all! I also have a pretty active social life and know my way around.

But when I walk on the street, people will never, ever take me for a local because of my appearance (I’m blonde with blue eyes). That instantly marks me as an outsider, and can definitely be annoying to deal with if they’re not so nice about it.

Expat living in Barcelona, Spain

How do you support yourself?
It’s a mix of lots of things, which is pretty common with the economic crisis in Spain. My main job is working as a translator for a celeb gossip website for teen girls (so I know more about Justin Bieber than most people over 16 should!).

My cooler job is freelance writing for travel magazines and for my blog. I also teach the occasional English class for a bit of extra travel cash.

Any advice for wannabe Barcelonans (I’m sure this is wrong. What do you call yourselves?)
Barceloneses! Relax, go with the flow, and don’t build your expectations up too high. Moving abroad is a big adventure and a lot of fun, but it also requires a lot of work and patience.

And get out and enjoy Barcelona! There are approximately a million cool things to do on any given day (but that is only a rough estimate). Part of the fun of being foreign is getting to know a different side of the city than the locals do. Once you’ve found a group of local friends, you’ll have endless possibilites for interesting things to do.

Is the move permanent?
Haha oh, the big question! Everybody asks me this all the time, and the truth is, I don’t really have an answer. I’m only 24. I don’t have a fixed anything at this point in my life. I don’t have plans to stay forever, nor do I have plans to leave. Really, I just don’t have plans at all, which is simultaneously liberating and terrifying!

Finally, tell us about something typically Barcelona
One thing very typically Barcelona is Gaudí’s architecture. It’s like walking into a theme park where the architect took a bunch of illegal substances and started building. I love it, but other people hate it. Either way, it’s at least interesting.

And the fútbol fever is alive and well! One of my favorite things to do is watch the FC Barcelona matches with a group of die-hard Barça fans, drink local beer, and learn how to trash-talk the opposing team in Catalan.


Jessica’s blog, Hola Yessica, covers her adventures as a 20 something expat in Barcelona, where she has lived since June 2011. She can also be found on Twitter @holayessica.

Jessica Bowler, an expat living and working in Barcelona, Spain

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