This may be the prefect opportunity to have a ramble. A few reminders, some general tips and mebbes a boaby joke or two.
One of the most common misconceptions that people have is that yer Catalans get really surly if you speak to them in Spanish. This isn’t true, they get surly no matter what language you talk to them in. Let me explain, I love the Catalans, in my youth I lived in Aberdeen for a year which was the ideal preparation for staying here. Yer Aberdonians are “cautious” when they first meet you (cautious being as polite as I could make “torn-faced miserable bastards”) However, once they work out you’re not a toolbag and you’re not going away they are a fantastically warm lot. My experience of Catalans is exactly the same.
If you have a desire to arm yourself with a little of the local lingo before you get here I would recommend the Michael Thomas language course. Takes a wee while to get your head round a German teaching you Spanish but it’s a great introduction course. I am told that it can be downloaded from certain sites at a very reasonable no europes. My top tip for this course is that try not to make the mistake one of my mates made. He complained that I had sold him a pup as he found it impossible to follow… Thankfully this problem was overcome by suggesting he took his ipod off the shuffle setting.
I also thought a little reminder of my copyrighted “Don’t be a wee fanny” advice was in order. The papers are reporting that the Polis have adopted a higher profile approach to the robbers and hobbledehoys that used to infest the Ramblas area in particular. It remains to be seen if this is the case but these guys are not going away and are the biggest blight on the city.
Mind you, the actions of visitors mean these guys hardly need to be Raffles to get their hands on their belongings. The city has a safer feel than many others and throw in some nice weather, a good feed of the drink and many people let their guards down. Here’s the advice, don’t carry a load of valuables about with you, some cash, one of your bank cards is plenty. Leave passports etc. in your hotel.If you have a bag make sure it’s one that can go across your body and keep it in front of you. Finally, have a bit of common sense, I know a guy who got robbed in one of the dark side streets off the Ramblas, I asked him of he’d have walked down a similar street in his hometown of Manchester, “no fucking chance” was his reply, so why not do the same here?
Don’t get the wrong idea this is a safe city and one that is to be enjoyed at as leisurely a pace as you can manage without slipping into a coma. Adopting this approach will give you ample time to enjoy some of the finest people watching available anywhere in Europe. The cosmopolitan vibe, the city’s arty heritage, coupled with the availability of, and preference for. marijuana by the local “characters” means you won’t be sitting anywhere for too long without at least a “heh” moment.