American in Barcelona: First Impressions

2 minutes

Some of Spain’s beautiful architecture
Some of Spain’s beautiful architecture
Photo courtesy of Ben

If you had asked me a year from today what I’d be doing, I would have never imagined that my answer would be “Oh you know, I’m living in Spain teaching English.” Before diving in, let me set the stage for you:

  • Never before have I visited Spain, much less any other country in Europe
  • I do not speak the local language of either Spanish or Catalan
  • I was born and raised in San Francisco, California for most of my life
  • I have no family or friends living anywhere near Barcelona, which is where I would be for the next 10 – 12 weeks
  • I worked as a career professional in the IT industry, but have had little formal experience or training as an English teacher

So yes, not only was I in for a culture shock, but I would also be met with an experience well beyond my normal comfort zone. If I could travel back in time and visit past Ben to tell myself what I’m doing now, I would be uttering the words “Say whaaat?!?” in complete disbelief (which is pretty much my family’s and friends’ reaction, more or less, when I told them the news). That being said let me share some of my first impressions and experiences during my first week touching down in Barcelona.

The Plane Ride and Arrival

I flew British Airways, departing from San Francisco (SFO) and arriving in Barcelona (BCN), with a brief layover in London.

  • The total flight time took 14 hours
  • Going through customs was quick and painless. Simply stamped my passport and I was in Barcelona.
  • I was nervous about how to engage in conversation and properly greet my host family, worrying about first impressions and not to offend them.
  • After grabbing my luggage from baggage claim, I quickly found my host family who held a sign with my name on it. This was so adorable.

Meeting My Host Family

My host mother, Lidia, and host brother, Marti, were the ones to pick me up from the airport. As is customary in Spain, I greeted Lidia with a hug and kisses on the right and left cheeks, while greeting Marti with a hand shake. I would meet the rest of my host family upon arriving at their house in the town of Vilassar de Dalt, north of Barcelona.

  • I was greeted with such kind and warm hospitality as soon as I stepped into their home. Almost immediately, I felt like an extended part of their family.
  • My host family consisted of Lidia (wife and teacher), Carlos (husband and businessman), Marti (15 year old son) and Carla (20 year old daughter).
  • They also have quite the array of animals with two dogs, a parrot, a rabbit, a guinea pig, three turtles, and five birds.

Meet Daddy, one of my host family’s many pets
Meet Daddy, one of my host family’s many pets
Photo courtesy of Ben

Benjamin Benjamin

Benjamin participated in InterExchange's School Teaching Assistant Spain program.

Teach English in Spain
Teach English in Spain

Teach your host family conversational English and explore beautiful Spain!

Sign Up Learn More
U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation