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Immigrating to España? Head to Madrid, Not Barcelona

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A recent study by the Consejeria de Inmigracion y Cooperacion in Madrid found that overall foreigners and Madrilenos are getting along just fine and in fact, 54% of immigrants and 35% of Spaniards in Madrid stated there has been a notable improvement in the relationship between the two groups.  Furthermore, the most outstanding fact is that 76% of foreigners residing in Madrid feel totally integrated in the community albeit the largest hurdle most have to overcome is the language barrier and employment.

This isn’t all surprising to me as it is common knowledge among all Spaniards and foreigners that have spent some time living in Espana that out of all of the big cities, Madrid happens to be the most cosmopolitan with a positive multi-cultural presence. If the study were to be conducted in Barcelona I have a sneaky suspicion those numbers would be flipped on their heads. Even fellow Spaniards from other parts of the country get the cold shoulder from their Catalan brothers and sisters so being a legal immigrant one can just imagine how hard it can be to break the ice with the locals.

As beautiful as Barcelona is with its regal boulevards lined with magnificent buildings styled in Catalan Nouveau, its picturesque seaside location and amazing cultural institutions its not as open nor open minded as its sister city, Madrid. This schism causes one to ponder the irony of it all because Barcelona is the design capital of Spain. It has a strong artistic history starting with Gaudi, Picasso, and Miro… none of whom can be categorized as traditional. However, Catalans are a tight-knit group that is wary of outsiders with a cultural pride that runs deep throughout their community. Therefore I doubt many would fall into the same category as the 62% of Madrilenos that believe immigration of foreigners have had a positive affect on the Spanish economy.

We, I, all of us legal foreign residents have made Barcelona our home. We patronize Catalan establishments, they are our colleagues at work, we root for their football team (FC Barca) like we were born and bread FC Barca fans and some of us have even learned their native language but very few us can call them our friends. A small minority of the large international residents feels integrated into the community let alone feels welcomed.

After living here for three years I can count numerous Catalans as acquaintances but there are only two that I would call friends. In comparison, the study found 63% of foreigners interviewed in the survey have a Spanish friend and one out of three Madrilenos claim they have an international pal.

I mix and mingle with an international crowd of people that also include other Spaniards from different regions and a common topic is why don’t we have more Catalan friends? Some friends that have spent years here have found that their inability to integrate into the local community has left them frustrated and rather bitter. Even my novio, a true blue Espanol from Andulucia has told me stories of his struggle to acclimate himself in Barna during his university years.

I have chosen to make Barna my home but at times I wonder if I would be better off in Madrid?

-Espana Fly

Last 5 posts by Espana Fly

  • Hi EF,
    I’ve been out of work for a few months and thought about taking a temporary position in Spain after my trip to Barcelona. I figured Bar would be the more cosmopolitan than Madrid but I heard the opposite was true making me wish I added the latter onto the trip. Your entry here confirms it and had further influenced me to try harder to find the right situation in Madrid. thanks

  • Dom

    I was just in Barca for Dia de los Reyes. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with the city and found the folks a bit cold and unfriendly. And that was during a holiday! Needless to say these stats really dont surprise me. I loved southern Spain though Malaga, Granada. I am going back in a few weeks and I’d like to add Madrid to my list.