Mirjam Maarleveld, founder of BEL

Mirjam Maarleveld

Founder of Barcelona Expat Life

Why did you create Barcelona Expat Life?

I wanted to put my own life experiences as an expat to use, and make the move to Barcelona easier and smoother for future expats. I have had the idea for some time now and everything finally came together at the start of 2020. I think it’s a great way to bring people together and unite both the current and the future expats in this beautiful city.

What is the core business of BEL?

We aim to provide advice to expats on life in Barcelona, at every stage of their expat journey. Here at Barcelona Expat Life we have created an online community that people can rely on where we can offer guidance and useful information to help expats settle into their new life. Barcelona Expat Life can offer you:
- Up-to-date information about living and working in Barcelona
- Company database with English speaking service providers in Barcelona
- Expats' experiences
- Jobs and internship opportunities

Do you also provide relocation or recruitment services?

We do not provide relocation or recruitment services, although we can help you connect with some of the best relocation and recruitment agencies in the city.

You started Barcelona Expat Life at the beginning of 2020, how did Covid19 affected your business?

In January 2020, nobody could have predicted that our lives would be turned upside down by a global pandemic. However, despite all the chaos that this year has brought, 2020 was also the founding year of Barcelona Expat Life. Even though circumstances have changed throughout the year, our pillars and our mission have stayed the same. It is clear that what unites us all is that we are driven by our passion and previous experiences from living and working in Barcelona, whether this relates to job hunting, arranging paperwork or starting a company, everybody has their own story to tell.

What are the pillars of Barcelona Expat Life?

Passionate, welcoming, helpful, informative, reliable, pragmatic, interaction and diverse.

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What are your plans for the future?

We are continuously developing and improving new and existing features on our website. Thanks to our in-depth research, we will continue to add updated and relevant content to our website, with the aim of reaching more and more expats in Barcelona. Barcelona is a beautiful city with so much to offer and we believe in building long-term partnerships with companies in order to offer exciting new opportunities for both new and existing expats.

You are also the initiator of Working Women Barcelona and you are very active in the Dutch community, what is driving you?

As a human being and a Barcelonian by choice, I feel I have the responsibility to help others and to give something back to the city. It gives me energy, I am learning a lot and it gives me the opportunity to meet new people.

Why did you relocate to Barcelona?

My first trip to Barcelona was around 20 years ago and, like many others, I completely fell in love with the city. After reading the book by Eduardo Mendoza ‘La Ciudad de Los Prodigios’, I decided to organise a trip to Barcelona for my university class. I drank the water from La Rambla drinking fountain “Font de Canalates”, which folklore says will make you fall in love with the city and always want to return. Another reason that I decided to move to Barcelona was to try something new and out of my comfort zone. I believe that it’s necessary to change your scenery every once in a while, change your routine and try new things to make sure that you get the most out of life.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced after your relocation?

When I first moved to Barcelona, I really struggled to arrange my paperwork, such as the NIE and tax. Another thing that I am still struggling with is the language. When I came to Barcelona, I didn’t speak either Spanish or Catalan so this made some things quite challenging. Of course, as expected when moving abroad, it takes some time to settle in, meet new friends and find your feet.

What do you miss most from home?

I miss my family and friends the most and as much as we try and solve this problem by facetiming and calling on a regular basis, sometimes it just isn’t the same as seeing somebody in person and being able to give them a hug. However, I’m lucky that the Netherlands is only a short plane journey away.

What do you love the most about Barcelona?

This isn’t an easy question as Barcelona has many amazing qualities. I love the Catalan culture, in particular the tradition of the ‘Castellers’ (the human towers). The combination of passion, teamwork, diversity, communication and trust that goes into building these towers is so amazing. It is a true reflection of the spirit of Barcelona. 

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