Catalan - making me read the language guide REALLY thoroughly
When I started high school and found out that there would be no French class but I'd have to take Spanish (or physics, *cough*) instead, I  remember being annoyed beyond belief - it was probably the last language I ever thought of learning. See, to me, Spain is a place I knew my fellow Germans to drive to for two weeks each year to drink €1 beers and get sunburnt. It never seemed like a country that held any other interest to me. When I travelled to South America, though, I was thankful for my school Spanish, which expanded quite a bit in three months spent there (mostly thanks to the chatty nature or South Americans).

Now I'm happy to have learnt Spanish, yet Spain was never high on my list of places to travel to. When a friend moved to Barcelona, I attempted to visit - three times I had already booked the flight and twice I was actually at the airport when the flight was cancelled. Something has always been in the way between me and Spain. 

After three attempts, I finally made it to Spain this month - well, that it, Catalonia, for a four day trip to Barcelona. I can understand Chilean mumbling, Mexican slang  and wacky Argentine grammar (and oh so sexy pronunciation!). I knew Catalan was different, but people kept comparing it to French, which I figured should make it even easier for me to understand - but what I heard people speak at the airport as we were queueing to board didn't resemble either language. Reading Catalan made sense to me, but I barely understood a word of anything anyone said. When people spoke to me, I panicked and resorted to English (and at one occasion, Japanese. I'm really good at speaking Japanese when under pressure!).

They say that most people in Barcelona will instinctively address foreigners in Spanish - this happened exactly twice during my time in Barcelona, when checking in at our holiday apartment, and when ordering wine and empanadas at an Argentine bar (with Argentinian waiter). I guess I still don't look foreign enough for most Mediterranean people.

Yet, I enjoyed the experience, even though I admit resorting to English more than was probably necessary... I hate going somewhere and not being able to speak the language at least a little bit. It makes me feel like the cliché German or British tourist who travels to a warm country to eat and drinker for cheaper than at home, and ignores the culture.Which, to my surprise, seems to be what most people in Barcelona were expecting anyway. Or is the culture really that close to North-Western Europe?

sometimes, not talking is good, too
After my first Spain experience, I have to admit, it's not gone any higher on my list of 'must visit' countries. Barcelona is an interesting city and I am happy to have visited some places I've always wanted to go to, but there was no 'wow, it's so amazing' moment during the trip, even compared to much smaller European cities. Nevertheless, I'll be sharing some pictures and stories about places we went to the next weeks.

Have you ever been confused by any 'accents' of (and yes, I know Catalan is its own language, not an accent) of a language you thought you knew?


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