Moving abroad is a transformative experience that opens doors to new cultures, challenges, and opportunities, offering a chance to redefine oneself and explore the world from a fresh perspective. This week, we sat with Flor Angrisani, HR Coordinator at Olala Homes to talk about her experience moving from Buenos Aires to Barcelona. Now, after almost three years, she offers her perspective on the factors that drew her to the city, the intriguing cultural shifts she encountered, and the profound impact of expat life on her personal growth and relationships.

Q: Where do you come from and how long have you been living in Barcelona?

I come from Argentina, specifically from Capital Federal, Buenos Aires. I’ve been in Barcelona since April 2021, which means that next year I’ll be celebrating my third anniversary of living in this city, and I’m very excited about it. I’m very happy. The long-term balance is very positive.

Q: Why did you choose Barcelona as a place to live in?

The decision was very easy. I emigrated with my husband, and we were clear from the beginning that if we ever left Buenos Aires, we would go to Spain, for cultural reasons, the language, the food, and the climate. The options were Madrid or Barcelona, and the decision to live in Barcelona was very clear for us because we wanted to be close to the sea and the mountains. We liked the vibes of Barcelona, the Catalan modernism, the amount of Argentinians and having an international airport. Everything made it very easy for Barcelona to be our choice.

Q: What was the most significant culture shock you’ve experienced?

Living in Buenos Aires and working in the city center, the pace of life was too fast, and I found that life in Barcelona was slower. I always thought that because it’s a big and multicultural city, the pace of life would be very different from that of a small town, so it was a shock for me to feel that I was rushing while walking on the streets when people here had a much slower pace than what I was used to. Today, I appreciate it because I’ve slowed down, but at that time, it was quite shocking that everyone was walking slower and doing things more calmly. I feel it’s a better quality of life, but in the first weeks of being an immigrant, it was a significant shock. Today, after two years of living here and being accustomed to this pace of life, when I visit friends in Madrid, I think, “Why is everyone walking so fast and so rushed?“.

Q: How has living abroad influenced your personal growth and development?

This question seems quite profound, and we could talk about it for hours. But I can say that I am a completely different person from who I was in Argentina. While my values and roots and who I am as a person haven’t changed, my ways of looking at life, relating to others, eating, dressing, and thinking have undergone significant and profound changes. The immigration process affects you in every cell of your body and soul. I believe that the immigration process will always deeply impact and change your way of being.

Q: What have you learned from the culture of Barcelona that you find interesting and unique? Are there any traditions that you’ve adopted?

Even now, after nearly three years of living here, I am still amazed by how people here are into fireworks. From the age of 3 to 80, they all love fireworks. In comparison, Argentina used to have a lot more fireworks during my childhood, but in recent years, there has been strong awareness about their impact on animals, people with autism, and the elderly, as well as their environmental and financial costs. As a result, there are fewer fireworks in Argentina now. Coming here to Spain, which I personally consider to be more developed than Argentina, and seeing how deeply ingrained fireworks are in the Catalan culture is quite interesting.

If we consider gastronomy as part of the culture, I have fully embraced it. I never used to eat pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) before, but now I think it’s an amazing appetizer. The sandwiches, drinking beer at any time of the day, which is not normal in Argentina but is very common here. Iced coffee is another thing I would never have tried in Argentina. Regarding festivities, I love going to see the correfocs, even though it’s a bit dangerous–my husband had an eye injury once. But I enjoy the adrenaline that everyone feels while running under the fireworks.

Q: How has living as an expat affected your relationships with friends and family back home?

This is the most emotional question of this interview. As I mentioned earlier, the immigration process shakes you to the very core. In my particular case, the most complex and difficult part is leaving your family and lifelong friends on the other side of the ocean. I missed births, weddings, pregnancies, deaths—both the beautiful and the difficult moments. Being far away is the most challenging part. In terms of how it affected me and who I am today is that every time I’m on a video call with my mom and grandmother, I consider it quality time. Perhaps before, I used to be in touch with my friends and family more often, but today, I use video calls for quality time with them.

Q: Can you share any recommendations for must-visit places, hidden gems, or cultural events in Barcelona?

My workmates know that I have a passion for and addiction to the Costa Brava. I spent my whole life in a city surrounded by concrete, and I still can’t believe I’m only an hour away from places with the landscapes, coves, and beaches with the colors of the Mediterranean Sea. I find it incredible, and I feel very fortunate. When I feel sad about missing an event in Buenos Aires, I think that on the weekend, I’m with my paddleboard in a hidden cove on the Costa Brava, which is quite comforting. I think Costa Brava is by far the best of Catalonia.

I’m also a big fan of Catalan modernism. I find Barcelona’s architecture beautiful, not just the typical renown works of Gaudí because there are many other architects who transformed and adorned Barcelona, making it unique and irreplaceable. Not everyone knows about the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, because it’s not one of Gaudí’s buildings, so many tourists miss it. If I’m not mistaken, Domènech i Montaner is the architect behind it. Another hidden gem is the Palau de la Música Catalana. These two are also spectacular Catalan modernist works that are not by Gaudí, so they might not be as famous as Gaudí’s magnificent works.

As for gastronomic recommendations, I can’t specify a particular place, but there’s a well-known street called Blai with 3 or 4 consecutive streets filled with pintxos stalls. Pintxos may not be very Catalan, but they are delicious.

Q: What are your top 3-5 tips for those who are considering the idea of moving abroad?

First, when you make the decision of moving to another country, start saving as much as you can. Especially if you’re coming from a country where the currency is so volatile, experiences high inflation, and has a low exchange rate compared to the euro. I believe that saving is the most important thing to do when you start thinking about living somewhere else.

Second, research and bring with you all the necessary documents for settling in the city or country where you plan to emigrate. And look at official sources; while blogs and influencers may provide advice from their own experiences, don’t base your expectations solely on what others say. Go to the official and legal sources. It may seem obvious, but it’s an immigration process, you’re changing your life, and you can’t rely solely on what other people say.

Another piece of advice, which may seem obvious but is very important, is to come with an open mind. Even though, in my particular case, I had the prejudice that Spain was very similar to where I come from, we are quite different. We all speak Spanish, but our Spanish is very different. So, you must be open to changing words, to not being understood, to recognizing our differences, but differences that are good, and that’s a positive thing. Being open to wanting to embrace another culture, even if it’s somewhat similar, is very important.

As I mentioned earlier, the immigration process profoundly affects you, and it’s possible that not everyone comes prepared for how much it will affect your entire life. Therefore, it’s important to always have someone you can rely on emotionally and psychologically, whether it’s your friends, family, partner, or a therapist from the therapy method you prefer or based on your religion or beliefs. You should come knowing that you’ll need extra support because it will shake up every aspect of your life.

Finally, it’s crucial, especially in a city like Barcelona, that people come with a place to stay, even if it’s just for a month or a month and a half. There’s high demand for housing in a city like Barcelona, many people are coming to the city or live here and they want to change apartments. So, it’s essential to search calmly because otherwise, you might end up in places you don’t like, in neighborhoods that don’t suit you, or far from your workplace. Therefore, it’s very important to come with a place, whether it’s an apartment, a house, or whatever you can find that’s booked for you. In our case, we came with a month and a half of rent and had a place to ourselves so that we could search for our permanent home in Barcelona with more patience. At Olala Homes, we have mid-term rental apartments in Barcelona, so people who move can stay comfortably and search for their permanent home with more patience.