Category Archives: Catalonia

Working abroad and the English complexes and insecurity of non natives

I write this article thinking in all my friends that feel insecure about talking in English.

They think about if they are pronouncing correctly, or if they are building the phrases in the correct grammar order. That’s school’s system fault, I think.

As Catalans we learn new languages easily. We talk Catalan native, and Spanish, and in the school we are taught French and English, and if things have not changed, we can choose between Latin and Greek. (I studied both)

But doing 1 or 2 hours per week of English doesn’t grant you a good level of the language, and in fact, few people in Catalonia and Barcelona speak fluent English with a good accent.

I learnt English by myself, by reading programming manuals when I was 5 years old. I also learnt to play chess by watching others playing and when I won the first time I played, against a guy 5 years older than me, he could not believe it was my first match.

I was 10, I think.

When I started classes in the school I realized that I already knew English.

Commands in Basic, like list, run, print, goto, had the same meaning than in the human spoken language.

I grew and I saw that the translations of technical books to Spanish (no Catalan was available) were horrible. They were actually translating commands, so since 15 y.o. I only read manuals in English.

In several jobs, for multinationals, I had to talk with colleagues from different parts of the world, so I was talking Portuguese, some times Italian or French, I could read a bit of German (Was head of Department in Volkswagen IT, gedas), and obviously English.

Still it is not the same when you talk using a subset of the language, basically referred to Hardware and Software, than fully living abroad.

Starting English is easy, you can use present and will for the future and did for the past, and you can make it work. But when you start with the phrasal verbs, the irregular verbs, different time conjugations… English is a context language and it is not a phonetic language, words that are written exactly the same way, sound different, and words that sound the same are written different. So it has a lot of exceptions.

But in this, in the exceptions, and in the fact that is widely expanded, is where we can find the strength to grow without fear.

Catalan is spoken very differently if we are in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Tarragona or if we are in València, or Menorca, or Alguer or the country of Andorra.

So the same happens with English. It is not only very different from England to the States, to Australia, to Scotland, to Ireland… also is very different from Dublin and Cork, or from different parts in The States, like Texas and California.

Also there are many people that talks it in Europe, in India… and all of them have different accent!.

So in my experience everybody will understand you. Specially because English is fully understood by the context. Maybe they need you to end the phrase to understand, but they will.

There are also annoying differences that can make you think that your are making mistakes.

Like:

  • Data Center (American) vs Data Center (England)
  • Color (American) vs Colour
  • Humor (American) vs Humour

Don’t be surprised if many native people find your accent exotic, and they love it.

That’s what happened to me many times.

Also I think the school is terrible teaching. They teach children all those rigid grammar expressions, when the live language is much more fluent and free.

For example, one person from Barcelona, will be nervous asking to a colleague:

  • Are you going to the cinema tonight?
  • Have you finally had gone to Disney World?

And he will be nervous thinking in real time if he is building the phrase right.

When, after 2 years will realize that people say:

  • You go to cinema tonight?
  • Did you go to Disney World finally?

The latest are very close to the grammar we use with Catalan, and so hence easy to express fluently.

I can share with you the process I follow to improve my English.

Since the 15 y.o. I was reading all the manuals in English.

I was watching some movies in English, at the beginning with subtitles in Spanish (no Catalan was available) and later with the subtitles in English.

Since 2013, when I was invited by Amazon to Dublin and by Facebook to Menlo Park (US), I started to watch all the movies and sit coms in English.

At the beginning with subtitles in English with the idea to correlate pronunciation and writing. To get my ears used to it.

I went to conferences, and I saw some people, with living years in English speaking countries, that had a much more difficult to understand accent than mine. They were people with reputation. And I understood that IT guys, we are very lucky to be valued by what we know. By our brain.

After all my life reading in English and 4 years watching all the movies in English, my accent had improved, but when I arrived to Cork I had difficulties understanding some the Irish. So I had to get used to the music, the cadence, of the way they talk, and to some words and expressions, and to the humor sense.

I asked my Irish colleagues to correct me when I pronounced wrong, and they were so nice to do it. And they did in a very polite way, for example if I would say:

Is a new Engineer coming to the Team?

And I would put the emphasis on the i of Engineer (the accent), Kevin would repeat the word in the right pronunciation. So I had the chance to learn how it rightly sound.

And I would repeat to make sure I got it.

One thing I think is that one has to be thankful for the time and interest that others dedicate to you. We have all a limited time on the planet, so when somebody invests some time in teaching you or helping you to learn, is giving you something that he will not get back. Even if you pay him/her, still that time will not go back to that person.

So I appreciate when people help me, and I don’t appreciate it less because I pay them.

Talking, listening, is the best real way to learn.

With 100% of reading in English, 100% of movies being watch in English, and nearly 100% of talking and listening in English my language skills reached to the next level. So I can talk in conferences, I can write books and technical documentation. And still I learn a lot of English every day. New words, or rich forms to express the things, reading the newspaper, for example. I really enjoy it.

But is like swimming or going in bicycle: learn by doing.

Working in Barcelona, Catalonia, for IT Engineers

Created in: 2020-02-20 by Carles Mateo Last Updated: 2020-03-13 19:29 UTC

Note: This document is under construction

Society, Politics and laws

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a Nation with a strong desire of freedom, that wants to get the independence from Spain (which invaded militarily in 1714 and bombed the city many times). Catalans are very different in small villages and in the city center, but me as Catalan, I think that we are nice but reserved, because we are used to be prosecuted just for being Catalans, so we people don’t earn our trust easily. However, if you make a Catalan friend, our loyalty is like family. This is related since medieval books already.

When we suffered the Spanish invasion in 1714, and later the invasion of dictator Franco with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, the Catalan language was forbidden, prosecuted, universities closed, Catalan Constitution removed, Parliament closed… but part of the freedom was recovered in 1975 when the fascist dictator Franco died. Most of the Catalan particularities were forced into assimilation to the Spanish model, however one interesting thing that was not changed was the Civil Right. That’s very important cause some laws survived and are different from the Spanish laws, and from most of the places in the world. One worth to mention is that our Civil Law gives us “Separation of Goods” (separacio de bens), and that means, that if two people marry and one has 3 houses and €20,000 in the bank, and the other has €500 in the bank and nothing else, if they divorce, they’ll get exactly what they had. So individual A will keep their 3 houses and €20,000 and B €500. This is very different from the “Earning Goods” (bienes gananciales) in Spain, where if they divorce A and B would get exactly half of everything. When they get married is like everything goes to the common pool.

Must say that there are details, like if the partner leaves the job in order of take care of the house, they may get something in compensation, or if there are children, at least one house will be for the mother if taking care of the children, and the father will have to pay a pension to feed and take care of the children. Still, it seems to me much more fair that what I saw in most of the countries (even if in some they have pre-marital contracts).

The Catalan society is hard worker and loves to read and to study. Compared often to the Jews, as an insult, by the fascist authorities in Spain during the dictator.

One show of the passion for reading can be manifested by Sant Jordi’s celebration, the 23th of April, which is a day in which girls gift a book to the men, and men gift a rose to the women they love, or they family or female friends.

The Castellers or Human Towers are declared World Heritage and have been present in many international celebrations like Olympic Games.

And the traditional parties in the villages have many books talking about them and are epic.

As Catholics, it is typical to have “el pesebre”, a recreation of the birth of Jesus, but our irreducible character have has to have particular elements like “el Caganer”, which have became world wide famous few years ago.

Pesebre de Nadal

The love for Freedom and the defense of Human Rights has been a characteristic tread of the Catalan culture since it’s origins, around the year 8th Century and the first bilingual dictionary known is Catalan-German German-Catalan. Catalans also invented the navigation code for ships that became universally accepted. Probably this loves for Freedom is what makes Barcelona and Catalonia a place full of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is said that “Catalans, from the rocks they make bread” (els Catalans de les pedres en fan pans) about the inventive we have to detect opportunities where others see nothing.

The 11th September is the national day, and is the day the Catalans remember that they fight to the end for their freedom that 1714, alone, against Spain and France troops. That day every year, there are many cultural acts, and there is a demonstration for Independence that some years got to 2 Million people, from a total population of 7,5 Million. You can visit parts of the city where there are still holes in the walls from the different times Barcelona has been bombed, at different ages, from Romanic era to 20th century.

Weather

The weather in Barcelona use to be excellent. Sun is present from 7 in the morning to 20:00 almost all the year, and specially in June, July and August, people enjoy the beach.

It has a weather similar to California.

It rarely snows, but if you go to the North, near Pirineus montains, you can see snow in winter.

Even if weather use to be excellent, with no wind at all, and few frequent rain, must be said that when it rains it rains. Rain can last 4 hours and more, and be very intense. Very often the semaphores (traffic lights) stop working in Barcelona when it rains.

The city

The city is very well designed with most of it being square islands similar in size. Is easy to drive as every street is two ways and you can go back by just turning right right right right or left left left left.

With a beautiful architecture thanks to genius like Gaudi, or Dali (both put in jail for talking Catalan at different times) .

Sants street is the longest commerce way, in Europe they say, created by many small commercial stores. Many of them have been bought or replaced by Chinese, as the traditional owners could not afford the more and more higher rents for commercial locals in Barcelona. Still many resist.

Transport

The city has buses, metro, taxis, tram, bicycles that you can use paying a yearly sum.

Huber was forbidden by the Spanish government.

Taxis in Barcelona are very characteristics, all the same color, black and yellow. In the airport there is an official taxi stop, so don’t get to any random guy that asks you if you want a taxi. The taxi drivers are in a specific place and they will not go to you, as they expect you to go to them.

In the city you can stop a taxi just by raising your hand horizontally, but only the cars with a green light turned on are available, the other have a customer inside and will not stop.

Airports

Local food

One typical food. “La calçotada”. Which is a social party, normally for lunch where we eat scallion/spring onions and meat cooked at the fire on the barbecue. We peel the external layers, and eat with a sauce called “romesco”.

Calçots, scallions grilled at the barbequeu
Butifarra d’ou (egg sausage, to eat like that)

Population

Languages

Religion

airbnb and hotels price

The controversial mayoress has forbidden airbnb in Barcelona. It is only allowed to red a room, but not the entire flat.

Hotels prices range from €110 to €175 per night, except when the city is full and prices double or triple. For example for the Mobile World Congress.

Price of the rent

In the recent years rent has increased a lot.

In the year 2020 a flat with furniture, 5 years old new, 80 square meter in a middle class zone, can cost around €1,200/month.

English and expats

Well, it’s a shame. In Barcelona few people talk a decent English or even understands it.

You better print the address of the places you go to show to the taxi driver.

Salaries for IT

Barcelona is one of the most attractive places in Europe for IT.

A low cost of live compared to major cities like Berlin, London, Edinburgh, Cork or Dublin, and salaries very high for IT, with the excellent weather, a market of 40 millions Spaniards and 7.5 million Catalans (around 10 if we count Catalan speaking zones in the Meditarrean sea).

The minimum inter-professional salary is (updated to Jul 2019) €1,050 net per month.

Salaries for a Senior Software Engineer with 5 years experience will range between €35,000 and €55,000 gross per year. Most of companies provide an optional bonus too.

€55,000 gross per year is approximately €3,267 net per month within 12 payments in a year.

Internet

Internet is decent, most areas of the city have Fiber and in some places they have 1 Gbit/s connections.

In some places far from the core of the city only DSL arrives.

Office Material

The paper we use here is Din A4, like in Ireland.

Buying Hardware

Barcelona is full of Hardware stores. There is one street where they are concentrated, is called Sepulveda street.

Security

Police

Nightlife

Dangers/Terror histories/Bad experiences

There are many to tell, I’ve pending explaining seeing thieves in the airport, fake taxi drivers offering their services, pickpocketers in the center, skinheads robbing in the metro… don’t ever leave your belongings unattended.

LGTB+

Restaurants

Those are my recommendations.

La parra

I come here since I was a child

http://restaurantlaparra.cat/

Santamasa

http://www.santamasarestaurant.com/

Centric 35

Is from a good friend of mine 😊 The Cheff and owner. If you tell Oriol that you’re a friend of Carles he will be very happy.

https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d3635494-Reviews-Centric_35-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

https://restaurantcentric35.business.site/

Clarius (Catalan-French cuisine)

https://hedofoodia.blogspot.com/2019/05/clarius-restaurant-barcelone.html

Can Xurrades

http://www.canxurrades.com/


1881 per Sagardi

Restaurant and terrace in the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya
Plaça de Pau Vila, 3, 08003 Barcelona
At the top of the Museum of History of Catalonia you can enjoy a restaurant, a coffee bar, and a terrace for having cocktails. The terrace is a cityview where you can see all the port and part of Barcelona. Is very beautiful at nights. There are few tapas bars and pubs and open discos just down next to the Museum’s entrance.

http://www.mhcat.cat/la_visita/mirador_restaurant/restaurant_1881

The museum is very interesting too.

1902 Cafe Modernista

Next to the Recinte Modernista Museum, you can have tasty tapas with beautiful views and after going to the museum.

Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167 | Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, 08025 Barcelona
(st Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167)


https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g187497-d6503265-i137778634-1902_Cafe_Modernista-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

The terrace is owned by the restaurant which is inside, and is very nice, and the menu looks amazing.

Iconic places in Barcelona city

Sagrada Familia from Gaudi.

F.C.B. Football Club Barcelona stadium “Nou Camp”.

Nearby Iconic places

Monserrat, has unique type of rounded mountains. And on top, in the church, there is “la Moreneta” which is a figure of the Mother of Christ, which is black.

Activites