From Argentina to Barcelona: A freelancer's adventure

Published on 2023-05-12 at 13:00 by Estelle
Born in Argentina, Vanessa has always been passionate about her Italian roots. This led her to Rome in 2015, the same year when she met the love of her life. In 2021, she decided to follow him to Barcelona, where they now enjoy a fulfilling expat life. Being a freelance translator, Vanessa shares her story of why she chose to move to Europe and all that comes with it.

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am Vanessa, 34, and I have been a freelance translator since 2010. I was born in Santa Fe, a little village in Argentina.

What brought you to Rome and then to Barcelona? For how long have you been here?

In 2015, I decided to go and live in Italy, the country of my grandparents and of my ancestors, which made me eligible for Italian nationality. Over and above that, I grew up in a very Italian environment, with my father being bilingual and my grandmother telling me stories about her parents and how dearly she missed Italy. I elected to settle in Rome, a city close to my heart and which I fell in love with when I visited it for the first time in 2013. Then in 2021, my husband and I decided to relocate to Barcelona.

Barcelona was the first city we visited as a couple, and it had a magical effect upon us. After the pandemic, we thought it was time to see some new horizons, and Barcelona was the ideal place to go.

Why did you choose to leave Argentina?

Many factors contributed to my choosing to go live in Italy. On the one hand, there was that innate desire to reconnect with my Italian roots and to see with my own eyes the towns and cities where my ancestors lived. On the other hand, there was my immense curiosity for cultures and languages, with me wanting to improve my Italian language skills. There was also another reason, a more monetary one, as Argentina was going through a rough economic path at that time, which was not ideal for developing my professional activities.

You then left Italy to accompany your husband to Spain. Tell us some more about this choice.

In 2021, my husband and I decided to move to Barcelona, a city smaller than Rome but which inspired our imagination and dreams: its cultural diversity, a new language (Catalan), the sea, etc. However, I must admit that leaving Rome was very heart-wrenching for me. Rome has been and will still be the city closest to my heart, the place where I was reborn and where I discovered a new world. Rome is where I made some wonderful friends and, especially, the place where I met the love of my life.

What does the life of a trailing spouse in Spain look like?

Well, yes, I chose to follow my husband to Spain, for it was his decision to settle in Barcelona. I did have some mixed feelings at first. Barcelona was appealing, I won't deny that, but nevertheless, Rome was still deep in my mind. I was too personally connected with the Eternal City, and emotionally, it was very difficult for me to bid goodbye. However, all things considered, I am grateful for this decision. The administrative procedures are pretty easy for a spouse of a European nationality. Much easier than for spouses having a different nationality, like my husband, who is Colombian. In short, the procedure to get the tax reference number was quicker for me than for him. But aside from that, life here is perfectly balanced between peace and pleasure, with a place for everybody.

What about your social life in Barcelona? Did you find it hard to fit in and to make new acquaintances?

The first six months were very difficult for me as I was working from home, and I was so missing Rome and my friends that I could not bring myself to go out alone. Then I started using some apps which have been instrumental in me making new friends. Through these apps, I have been able to meet some marvelous people, and some have already become my friends, including some Catalans! I am overjoyed by this as I am also able to learn the language. 

Speaking of Catalan, is it really important to know that language, and is it difficult to learn it?

The sad truth is that in Barcelona, hardly anyone speaks Catalan. On my part, I find it easy to learn and quite similar to Spanish and Italian. One thing is very important to me: to bond and blend with the local population. I want to show them that I am not here only for work or to party (like is mostly the case here) but that I really want to know more about their language and their culture. There are numerous campaigns and publicity drives specially designed to promote the learning of Catalan, and I believe that it is at the same time beautiful and important to preserve that regional language.

Do you have any advice for those wishing to settle in Barcelona?

The best advice I can give those who want to relocate to Barcelona is to look for an apartment/a room/a house well in advance. This is because for the last few years, many expats have settled here, and finding affordable accommodation has become a real challenge. Another point worth knowing is that you must be patient when applying for the social security number. As I said earlier, there are a lot of requests and very few possibilities for booking an appointment.

What about your career in Barcelona?

As we both work remotely, it was quite easy for us to continue with our jobs of language educator and translator, respectively. However, before starting any new professional activity in Spain, you must get your social security number. This was the only hurdle in our path which slowed down our professional activities. Moreover, there are lots of opportunities here, be it for university graduates or for those willing to start a specific career.

What are your plans for the future?

If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught me, it is the art of patience. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but we must be patient as we all have ideas and hopes for the future. I would love to travel, discover even more languages and cultures and taste some more foreign cuisines.

Do you intend to return to Argentina one day with your husband?

Unfortunately no. When I left, I knew deep inside me that returning to Argentina was a remote possibility. As of now, this is still the case. My husband thinks the same. I sincerely hope that politicians in Argentina will side with their citizens and that healthcare and education become a priority, a democratic right, and not just a privilege for a happy few. I still have all my family there, and I hope things will change for them. I wish things will change for all the world's citizens because even if we can't choose our birthplace, we still can have our say on how we live our lives.