Barcelona Travel Diaries: Language & Culture


Dear Diary,

Lmao just kidding, I´m not going to open my travel diaries like that. However,  these will consist mostly of my personal musings and observations about different things related to my travels, with a few pretty pictures here and there. No ¨How-to´s¨ or ¨10 ways...¨ here, just my and my thoughts.

Something I´m ashamed to admit is that until about a month before I took this trip I had not considered the stark differences between spanish culture, and hispanic culture, or even the fact they are two very different things. It wasn't even until I was watching a spanish drama that I realized that even the type of spanish spoken in spain is different than what you would hear latin persons speaking. Of course this should not have come as a surprise to me, as even english is spoken differently from the U.S to London to Ireland, or even from Arkansas to California let's be honest.  I gave myself a free pass since my cultural horizons could only be so broad as someone who - at that point - had never been out of the country. But now since watching those riveting episodes of the Grande Hotel (highly recommend), and since being here my knowledge of the language and culture has been greatly expanded.

Castellano spanish is the type of spanish spoken here, the main distinction being that the soft ¨c¨ sound is pronounced ¨th¨. So the way that we say Barcelona, would be pronounced ¨Barthelona¨. It definitely has a very lisp-y quality to it, but when spoken by natives it is a beautiful language. When spoken by me….well, anyway moving on. Something I didn't know until arriving is that Castellano isn´t just native to spain but to Barcelona specifically. A trip to Valencia (Valenthia?), madrid, the islands, or the countryside would each result in hearing different types of spanish. Again, this shouldn't be as surprising as it is considering english is exactly the same way but I was still fascinated by this knowledge.  

People who did know about Castellano Spanish being the prominent language here have asked me about adjusting to  using the ¨th¨ in place of the ¨c¨. In all honesty, it's been more difficult to remember to pronounce¨ j¨ as¨ h¨ and that´s typical Spanish pronunciation. But I´ve also noticed that, that is not the only way I hear Spanish spoken. In fact, I´ve only heard Gracias pronounced the Castellano way by a few people. I realized that despite Barcelona having its own version of Spanish, this is still a very international city. I hear the ¨typical¨Spanish as often as I hear Castellano, as often as I hear Croatian, french, German and English. And I won't lie, it was a relief knowing I wouldn't be frowned at for not using Castellano pronunciation because I just don´t know about all that.

Another language I hear spoken, almost more than Spanish is Catalan, a language I hadn't given any thought to until I stepped off of the plane. Catalan, native to Catalonia, can be loosely defined as a mix of Spanish and French with a little more Spanish than French. This is especially evident in writing, where Catalan combines articles and words beginning with a vowel with an apostrophe, like the French. (Example La Amour = lámour ), as well as in the overall flow of the language. However you are more likely to understand Catalan as a Spanish speaker than a French speaker, which is great for me who took three years of French in high school :)   

As I write this, there is a separatist movement by Catalonia to form their own country independent of Spain. Spanish Government, of course, is ¨not about that¨ for multiple reasons, not the least among them that Barcelona is located in Catalonia territory. Since being here, I have witnessed three Catalonia protests, and multiple banners advertising the separatist agenda. This is specifically interesting to me because I have never witnessed political unrest of this type.  

Siesta´s are apparently not a thing, at least not for me. Many shops and restaurants do close for a few hours during the afternoon, but as far as I can tell the working people take normal lunch breaks and then go back to the grind. It's too bad because I was truly looking forward to napping.

I was warned about there being no AC but that did nothing to prepare me for facing the reality of a summer in spain without air conditioning. Spain, where the sun doesn't set until 9:30 or actually leave the sky until a few minutes after 10pm smh. A scam.

All that being said, my favorite part of spanish culture is the attitude. Barcelona is a big city so of course there is a level of ¨hustle & bustle¨ that can´t be avoided, but it is so apparent how much more relaxed and carefree everyone here is, compared to the states. Even without the highly anticipated siestas, I feel a great deal more at peace surrounded by people who focus more on leisure and experiences than work and income.

That´s all for now, 

Mercedes Bell



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What to Pack for a Summer Abroad

Going abroad is all fun and games until you have to pack. You can actually feel the excitement draining out of you when you realize the only thing standing between you and another country is your empty suitcase, and messy closet. Beyond the physical labor of actually packing clothes into your suitcase is the mental battle of trying to anticipate your every wardrobe need and pack accordingly. And don´t forget those amazing weight limits imposed by the airline.  

That leads to my first step pro packing tip; find out how much your luggage can weigh. Most U.S based airlines have a standard weight limit, but if you´re flying with an international airline the weight requirements may be different and they will most likely be in kilograms.  With the knowledge in mind of you much your checked luggage can weigh, you can proceed to figuring out what you need to take.

I packed for a summer internship so my packing needs were a little different from someone studying abroad, but I used widely applicable rules and methods to make sure I was taking the right items. And after being here a full month and having to live with my packing decisions I'm pretty confident in them.  

This post may contain affiliate links, so that should you choose to click on them and purchase the product, I will earn a small commision at no additional cost to you.  

Click here to read about where to get luggage to take abroad



Because they can take up so much space, shoes can be very difficult to pack. It´s a good idea to limit yourself to one or at the very most two pairs of really bulky shoes, like tennis shoes. I chose to only bring my Adidas, and to wear them while I traveled to avoid having to put them in my suitcase at all. For work and going out I brought a few pairs of LOW heels, and for every day I brought a pair of slip on canvas shoes, and a pair of sandals. Sandals and slips ons are great because they do not take up a lot of space and can go with a variety of outfits. 


I ended up bringing more pairs of jeans than anyone should really be wearing during the summer, because I knew I´d need them for work. Outside of that, jeans during the summer should be a sin. I also brought two pairs of denim shorts, two skirts, and two pairs of leggings. 


Sundresses are the best thing to take for travel. Dresses in general make for very quick outfits. Sundresses are generally made of light material and thus take up almost no space in a suitcase, on top of being breathable and great for hot weather. These can be worn for work, class, or just going out and exploring. I actually own quite a few sundresses so this is where pro packing tip #2 comes in:  

When you have a lot of anything to choose from, pick out all the ones you want to bring..and then cut that in half. It´s a hard process but it is so necessary.


I´m using the word ¨tops¨loosely since I live predominately in bodysuits. Either way, these should be chosen very strategically. I brought several tops that could be easily switched between occasions and outfits. You´ll notice that my assortment of shirts is pretty monochromatic. But is there anything you cant pair a black or white top with? And the same top I can pair with a jacket and pants to wear to work, I can pair with shorts to wear shopping, and a skirt to wear to dinner.  

Jackets are still very necessary in the summer. The hotter it gets outside, the colder it gets inside. A light sweater is a good packing choice. I also have a heavy cardigan I used for travel as airports are pretty cold too, and a blazer for dressier work days. 

For me, T-shirts didn´t require any strategic thinking, I just grabbed five that I liked and called it a day. 


I can´t think of the last time I owned an actual set of matching pajamas. In my wardrobe, sleepwear, lounge wear and athletic wear are all interchangeable. For this reason I packed three pairs of running shorts, a couple of tank tops, the aforementioned T-shirts and leggings, and two pairs of sleep shorts [read: men´s boxers]. 


In my opinion, accessories require no strategy to be packed. They are usually small enough that they don´t take up enough space to be a bother. I threw all my rings and earrings into a small pouch and tossed it into the fray. I only wear one necklace and it´s usually on my person. But if you have a lot of necklaces to travel with, lay them flat on a T-shirt and roll them up. Just don´t forget which t-shirt they´re in. 


I´ve seen a lot of rules of thumb when it comes to packing underwear. The one that makes the most sense to me is to pack enough for two weeks. That´s the perfect time frame in case you can´t get around to doing laundry every week. And anything over two weeks worth would be excessive.


This is possibly the most difficult thing to pack. Mostly because it´s hard to think of, at once, every product you need to use over the next 2-3 months. My advice is to leave anything you can repurchase at a reasonable price. Body washes, scrubs, lotions, and face washes will most likely be readily available wherever you´re going. 

(I have a more detailed post coming on the best makeup products to travel with. Stay Tuned) 

I was advised to leave my hot tools at home and repurchase those over seas as well. Which is ridiculous. WHO wants to spend $100+ on items they already own. And what would I do with two flat irons when I get back to the states, one of which I wouldn´t even be able to plug in? My advice? Buy an outlet adapter and go on your merry way. 

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Things you´ll need that you are likely to forget you need

1. Nail maintenance (nail clippers, nail file, ONE nail polish)  

2. Outlet Adapter - Oh yeah, other countries have different outlets

3. Extension cord - This way you won´t have to buy multiple adapters 

4. Any product that you need, and cannot be replaced overseas. Buy enough for the duration of your stay



So after four weeks I can safely say that I did a pretty good job anticipating what I would need and not over packing. Even after a month, I´m still going ¨Oh, I forgot I packed this¨, so I definitely haven´t run out of unique outfits yet. Also..let´s be honest I´ve been shopping. (insert emoji of the girl with her hands up like¨oh well¨)  And that leads me to my third and final pro packing tip: Try to get all of your items into your checked baggage and try to keep your carry on relatively empty. This will be great for when you accumulate new stuff on the road, and for when you undoubtedly remember something you forgot to pack and your suitcase is already at capacity. 




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