United Kingdom

Founder of Kids in Barcelona
15 years in Barcelona

Emma Grenham arrived to Barcelona 15 years ago on a career break. The idea was to stay one month with a friend in the city at the start of a longer-term trip around Europe and Asia. From her own words, Barcelona has a habit of keeping you here as this seems to be a familiar story to many people.

Although she is originally from a marketing and finance background, in Barcelona she has worked with online businesses, in translation and editing and for the yachting industry. Barcelona allowed her to reinvent herself, find new opportunities and establish an exciting new niche. For her, Barcelona is a city of paradoxes: “Changeable yet timeless, innovative yet traditional, familiar yet forever surprising”.

What do you like most about living in Barcelona?
The changing landscape of the city, its cosmopolitan nature and the ease in which you can meet interesting people and make new connections. It is a city that is very manageable in size. And of course – the weather!

What surprises you most about Barcelona?
How the new and the old and the young and the old co-exist. You might find yourself on a fast tram, passing EV charging points on streets lit with Smart technology but the next minute you are enjoying tapas in a 100 year old restaurant or waiting in line for groceries at a traditional market. Many European cities lose their native residents overtime as they move out to quieter locations. Barcelona has this uniqueness where older residents remain – sometimes against all odds. Their presence continues to shape the city through the way they shop and the businesses and services they use. In Barcelona, different communities manage to hang on to their small piece of it.

What advice will you give someone who has just arrived to facilitate their landing?
Support with relocating to the city is far more accessible these days thanks to the internet and social media. Join online networks, Facebook groups and Meet-ups if you want to make connections socially, for work or just to seek advice. There are a multitude of them in Barcelona and for every type of interest. Many others have been in your position before and you will find a willingness in people to want to reach out and offer help.

What did Barcelona bring you in your life?
A husband and a child for starters. As well as that the opportunity to take risks and an ability to cope with the rise and falls of life in a sometimes challenging environment plus new and varied friendships and a better quality of life.

What can Barcelona improve?
As with most cities, the challenge is to keep citizens engaged and involved in the community – whether the issue be noise, pollution, animal welfare, etc. residents need to feel empowered to act and be supported by the authorities. Barcelona is excellent at establishing local community groups to address issues but on a general level, we should work towards improving respect and solidarity between neighbours. People don’t often react to issues the way they could and should as they feel their actions will not make a difference. Barcelona is unique to Catalonia. Living in this multi-cultural, multi-racial, and international society, you can forget you are part of the wider landscape. In the same way that city-dwellers need to understand the wider culture they are living in, Barcelona could do well to make sure the rest of Catalonia has an improved understanding of what the city stands for, its internationalism, values and the countless benefits Barcelona brings as a whole to this society.

What do you like to do in Barcelona on a day off?
It depends on the season. Montjuic is a favourite spot with its green spaces but it is always nice to head to the quieter Marbella beach beyond Poblenou. A wintery weekend is a great time to re-discover the city, wander around the back streets, finding new places, shops and somewhere warm and inviting for a drink or bite to eat. In Barcelona, you tend to eat and drink out a lot and get-togethers with friends often turn into a whole day occasion.

Why did you choose Port Vell as your favorite place in Barcelona?
When you arrive at Port Vell from the Ramblas, you breathe in the sea air and are reminded again that you are in a maritime city. Visitors suddenly find themselves waterside and experiencing a totally different face to Barcelona. And who doesn’t like marinas? Port Vell offers a moment of peace away from the city. You can stand and watch the yachts as they pass under the maremagnum bridge and admire the Maritime Museum’s Santa Eulalia schooner standing proud along the promenade.