This blog is written by Aysha Musthafa.
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan – (Part 1)
The essence of human life is captured through the ones who dare to move from their homeland, looking for greener pastures or just a change of scene. Whatever the reason it may be, when you move out, there is an overwhelming need to feel at home in a foreign land. So, as a Sri Lankan who moved to Barcelona in April 2023, this article is my journey in finding the sweet nothings of my world to blend into a new one, adding meaning and perspective to everything I have once loved and taken for granted.
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan: Did you feel it?
‘Bring your spices from home!‘
George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘There is no sincerer love than the love of food.’ This quote rings true to any foodie out there, but more so to an Asian brought up with an aggressive gastronomic preference – be it the sliced pieces of green chillies in the Pol Sambol (coconut salsa), the blended red chilli chutney or the red chilli pieces that sit eloquently on a papaya salad. Most of us can attest to a traumatised childhood by a green chilli. Asians are the most resilient – we not only enjoy hardcore spiciness, but we’ve also lived through colonisation to civil wars and still carry on as if nothing ever happened. But we honestly cannot and will not survive bland spices.
So, my advice is, ‘Bring your spices from home.’ This was something I never thought about until I purchased the ‘Pimienta Negra Molida’ (Ground Black pepper) here. I’m not much into spices, but I was brought up with spices that gave you a ring in the ear. So, when I tried the black pepper here, it hardly made a difference and I took a sniff, just to induce tears. Nothing happened.
That’s when I realised I needed to place an order with my mother, pronto. While Catalan cuisine has much to offer, and international cuisines can keep you satisfied if you want to feel a piece of home, bring your spices from home. I’ve also promised to stop laughing at Asian Aunties at airports who show off their spice narcs during bag checks.
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan: paradise but not tropical
‘This is when I realised the many missed opportunities back home, to enjoy great weather in a secluded beach with magnificent sceneries.’
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, I lived 10 minutes away from the beach but I hardly spent a day at the beach. Sri Lanka being an island, we are surrounded by water so we take our pristine beaches for granted. However, unlike Europe, we do not have seasons that limit us from going to the beach, so we often find ourselves travelling the South Coast or East Coast for the season.
But after I made my way to Barcelona, I realised how much I missed the beach, especially a secluded one. Well, of course, Barcelona is a coastal city, but you simply cannot visit the beach all year round. Back in spring, I saw people fully clothed with sneakers and a jacket walking on the beach. I laughed because that’s just not done. Moreover, I cried during the summer looking at everyone hogging the beach.
This is when I realised the many missed opportunities back home, to enjoy great weather in a secluded beach with magnificent sceneries. (If you don’t believe me, google Sri Lankan beaches).
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan: climate Vs. clothes
‘This opened my eyes to one of the basic yet important elements we take for granted; clothes. Here, clothes serve a purpose.’
I’m a typical Sri Lankan who grew up with an average of 32 degrees all year round. I’ve always enjoyed wearing linen, cotton tops, dresses and shorts that complement the climate.
So, when I arrived during Spring, the truth hit me hard. It was a constant 14-15 degrees during the day and much lower during the night. I had to wear jeans and a light jacket to keep myself warm, and sometimes, depending on the fluctuating temperature, more layers or a shawl. I was mortified by the time it took to get dressed and go out. Everything felt like a task.
In Sri Lanka, people wear jeans as a fashion statement, but in a country with seasons, it is a necessity. This opened my eyes to one of the basic yet important elements we take for granted; clothes. Here, clothes serve a purpose, which helps the fashion industry thrive. But in Sri Lanka, clothes are for survival, identity, and culture. Now, as I await the changing of seasons, I shall bid bye-bye to summer clothes and welcome the bulky and cosy ones.
So, my advice is, irrelevant of what people say about Barcelona having a mild winter, just come prepared (with lots of shawls and jeans).
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan: Buen provecho
‘I had to rearrange my life to fit into a new culture, new friends, and new meal times.’
As a Sri Lankan, we take eons to say goodbye after a meal but one thing we are on time is for a meal. A couple of months before I moved, I learned that meal times were completely off in Spain.
With breakfast being late, lunch being later and dinner being what we call a midnight snack, I dreaded this change. For an ‘Abuela’ like me who had a strict routine of 7:30 brekkie, 12:30 lunch, and 19:00 dinner and in bed by 23:00, this was hard to digest.
This meant I had to rearrange my life to fit into a new culture, new friends, and new meal times. I changed. However, five months later, I’m still trying to find a routine, I miss meals and eating with a purpose. The only thing that can compensate for this change is that Barcelona is a vibrant city that has a lot to offer, so most often, it allows you to comfortably enjoy a meal in its own time.
Barcelona through the eyes of a Sri Lankan: Until next time
‘Life is actually in the small things, so while moving is always not the easiest, I still take time to find a moment of bliss.’