Friday, April 3, 2009

One Day

Ever since I got here, I've been helped by my company to get important paperwork done.
This include immigration documents, registering for social security, registering with the medical system and hospitals etc. When I mean helped by my company, I really mean that a person from from the HR dept. was assigned to help me with all these onerous and challenging tasks, specially since I'm as handicapped as they come, when it comes to the local language.

More specifically, the person who was attached to me was a young girl of 23 years, of Catalan origin. Let us call her S. So when we would make these trips to all the government offices, S would come along, make sure I have the right documents, head towards the right counter, help me when I would get lost, and most importantly give me good company when the wait was long (sometime 3-4 hours). We would talk about random topics.

Most of the time she would answer all irritating questions I had about Spanish and Catalan culture with infinite patience. She very rarely revealed much about herself, except when she wanted to tell me that she wants to do a lot of things and one day, she would get around doing them. One day, I want to go to New York City. One day, when I have money, I want to go shopping in that place. One day, I want to establish an advertising agency that would revolutionize the Spanish ad business. One day, I'll visit India and I'll come to your home.
I can't come to your party this week, but one day, sure I'll come.

I was supposed to go with her to get my resident permit. She didn't show up, instead it was someone else. I politely asked this person where S was, as she was handling all my affairs. I was told she won't be coming anymore. I pressed for more information. I was later told she had killed herself 10 days ago.

I loaned her my copy of H2G2 last time we met. One day, S, you'll give it back to me. One day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Neighborhood and Renting Nightmares

So the neighborhood I'm currently staying is known as Gracia , which used to be a independent village at one point of time, but now is part of the town. 
The area is very typical European,  with very narrow streets, big squares and old houses with big terraces. Ok maybe not European but typical Spain for sure. The place is full of small bars, restaurants, interesting shops and infested by young people, which is awesome of course. In addition, the place doesn't have too many dumb tourists, which is also great. The local crowd here is very friendly and people are out on the streets till the wee hours of the morning - it's definitely not a dead place. 

Which bring me to the point. Why can't I rent a place here?  The problems are manifold, and most of them are just frustrating.

a) First of all,  there is a shortage of places here, for many people like Gracia. Understood.

b) There is an even more severe shortage of good places. I'm looking for a place with a nice balcony/terrace and boy that's been impossible to find. 

c) Stupid rules. If you are a gringo (a foreigner) and want to rent a place for long term, most of the owners need an asinine thing called a bank guarantee. This means that you would have to put aside some month's rent (usually 6 months) in a separate bank account and not touch it.  If you break the lease or cannot pay the rent, the owner has the right to dip into this account and take the money. Mind you this is NOT the security deposit - that is different and is usually 2 months' rent.  

Why is this asinine? Just to get some more info, I offered one of the owners the same money upfront. Of course, I was bluffing since I don't have 6 months rent money on me and probably will never have, but the owner didn't know that. He refused. End of the day, he would have received his money anyway so I don't really understand why one needs to set up an extra account. Weird. Anyway I lost a really nice apartment because of this stupid demand. 

All this leads me to conclude that for all the talk of the world in an economic and housing crisis,
Barca seems to be impervious to everything as apartments are being rented left right and center, inspite of the dumb demands of the locals.  Oh well, the search continues...

Friday, January 16, 2009


My first post, about my first few experiences in Spain. While I've been terribly busy running around, trying to legalize myself, find an apartment and doing sundry other things, some initial few observations.

a) People here are super friendly. I've lived in India, France and the US, and without a doubt the people here are the friendliest I've encountered. True, its only been a week, but in this week, I've had dinner with completer strangers two nights in a row and had a great time (despite my near-zero Spanish skills), had random people walk up to me asking if I was alright when I looked lost (which is pretty much most of the time) and have been given great advice on places to stay by random people. Maybe this is common in other cities too, but I haven't experienced such behavior anywhere else. Either way its great!

b) Two Surnames: People here generally have two surnames. It is so common, that it is expected that you actually provide a second surname for everything, bank accounts, cellphone contracts, apartment leases, medical insurance, life insurance etc etc. I was sorely tempted to take on Obama as a second surname but I resisted. I just repeated my own surname.

c) Food: The food so far has been great. It would appear that the Spanish cuisine primarily consists of very simple dishes, but the ingredients used are very fresh and creative. While food will be an ongoing research topic on this blog, suffice it to say that the food has been awesome so far. The lunch is the most important meal of the day and people eat heavy meals for lunch. Dinner is a more relaxed and a scaled down affair. This practice is a departure from all the places I've lived so far. Paris has heavy lunches but also has heavy dinners. US and India - light lunches.

More to come, stay tuned!