I have been thinking about writing this post for a while, but somehow it annoys me that in today’s day and age these sorts of things still matter. But, the truth is, as I was considering my move to Barcelona, one of my main concerns, beyond finding a job or a place to live, was how it would be like to live in Spain as black woman. I know for a fact that many women of colours travelling or moving abroad are often faced with similar concerns.
Having lived in a place as diverse as London for so many years, where of course issues around race do exist, but where the black community is more visibly represented in every day life, I just remember feeling anxious about moving to a completely different setting.
To me, representation is the crux of the problem when it comes to inclusion or the lack of and although I had always loved Spain, one thing that stuck to me whenever I came on holidays was the lack of diversity. The thing is, the less you see people like you doing certain things, the more difficult it is to visualise yourself doing those things. Of course, this doesn’t apply for everyone, but in my case, I wish I had seen more representation of black women as I was growing up.
Again, this is a complex issue, which I won’t get into today, but this post is a first attempt to answer some of the questions, other women of coulors or anyone else for that matter, may have regarding living in Spain as black. Although, all experiences are unique, this is my take on a few different themes:
What is it like to live in Barcelona as Black woman compared to London?
In general, I was pleasantly surprised. Personally, I found that the people I have met I have been respectful and open to getting to know me and hearing about my experience. Although, what’s quite different to London, is that in many cases some of the people I got to know told me that I was the only black person they knew. With hindsight, I guess it is not terribly shocking but it’s quite interesting that most Spanish people I have spoken with, regardless of their background, had had limited interaction with people of colours.
Then, obviously there are the looks. Every now and then I get stared at by older people, but nothing that I haven’t experienced before. I’d like to think that the looks are more out of curiosity than anything else, so I usually just ignore them.
In general, I would say Barcelona is a pretty nice place to live in as Black woman.
Do you see a lot of women of colors in Barcelona in general?
This is an interesting one. Depending on where I go in Barcelona there might be a lot of black women, or I might be the only one – which applies in all countries I guess. But there’s one thing that stood out to me when I moved to Barcelona. Whilst in London I was accustomed to seeing black women as bus drivers or working in the post offices or banks etc. in Barcelona I have hardly seen any black women doing these types of jobs. I guess than in Spain, most of the black people we see are from the first wave of immigration as opposed to England where a lot of black people have been here for longer. So, I think in Barcelona the black community is not so well-integrated when in that sense. Same applies to Spanish TV shows, or magazines, I hardly ever see any women of colours represented, which again is less the case in England.
Is it common to see women with natural hair in Spain?
No, I have seen some but not like in London. In general, here women wear weaves or braids.
Where do you do your hair?
I am due to do my hair very soon, but I am yet to find a place that is reasonably priced. A lot of the black hairdressers I found online where super expensive. I saw one or two hairdressers in Raval but then again, a find it a bit overpriced. I am planning to go to Collblanc soon, it’s an area of Barcelona with a big latino community, where I have seen some black hair shops, to see if I can find a hairdresser. Overall, I think it’s a lot more difficult than in London where I had access to countless of hairdressers, including services like Afrocks with hairdressers coming to my house to get my braids done. Definitely something I miss here!
Recommendations are welcome by the way!
How is it like to work in Spain as Black women?
Personally, I’ve had a great experience so far.
Do you work with other Black people?
No, I am the only one in my company. However, it was the same in London where I have seen very few black people working in Communications.
Is there a lot of black events like in London?
I am still getting my head around this one, but I have been to a few events which I would recommend if you are interested in meeting new people in Barcelona, some are focused on the Black community and others aren’t. Here is a list of events I have been to alongside ones I would love to go to in the future:
Cine Migrantes Great event including talks, music and art exhibitions celebrating the migrant community in Barcelona. I went to see an exhibition curated by Sol Bela called Hair Stories where she shared her experience moving to Spain as a black-latina woman, and not feeling represented. Her exhibition focuses on Black hair, with pictures of her friends wearing typical African hairstyles Sol used to wear as a young girl.
Gabs Away Gabs Away is a meal sharing series made to get you talking. I had the pleasure to go to Gaby’s latest event called: Let’s talk about sex. The intimate setting, friendly atmosphere, great conversations and amazing food made it the perfect event. Gaby has really managed to create safe space for people from different walk of life to come together over thought provoking themes – would definitely recommend to anyone looking to expand their circle of friends and meet new people in Barcelona.
Las Morenas de espana is a digital platform and community that provides resources and experiences for expats and travelers worldwide. I haven’t had the chance to attend any of their events yet, but I have heard a lot of great things about them. One of their core focuses is to help black expats settle in Spain by providing a range of workshops, events, retreats …
All those food market Fantastic outdoor food market, which attracts a lot of people from all over Barcelona. Again, great place to people.
Would love to hear other women’s experience moving abroad, so feel free to share it with me in the comments