Living la Spanish economía loca

Sylvin Suomessa asuva espanjalainen haastatteli Espanjassa asuvia suomalaisia ja paria venäläistä kosmopoliitin elämästä sun muusta.

Kuvat: Alejandro Lorenzo

The problem of living in Finland seems to be that the social life is like their weather, where Summer is short and with only a bit of snow. Still, for many, Finland is a safe place, where things work while in Spain everything happens mañana (maybe). Spain is now high on unemployment, there are plenty of economic scandals involving even our president and the Royal Family. It’s a mess. Still, some choose living among the Spanish rather than in Finland. I interviewed a few people who left for Barcelona to see how they are doing.

I met Henna Koskinen at Barri de Gràcia, the favourite neighbourhood for students. She is a bachelor of interior architecture and furniture design who went to Barcelona as an exchange student because she “loves the city and the culture.” Curiously enough, as she points out, many exchange students from Spain choose Finland because of “nature and metal music.” She prolonged her stay with two internships; then came back home, graduated and started working in Oulu. But then she decided to leave security behind again and try living in Barcelona “to live with my Catalan boyfriend and start to look for new opportunities even as I knew it was going to be difficult because of the crisis. So at the moment I am searching for a job here and doing some small projects in graphic design on my own.”

I don’t see myself living in Finland”, she adds, “The Winter is hard and the culture is strict while Spain is more relaxed. But of course the mañana culture annoys me sometimes.” Henna’s boyfriend “would choose Finland to live if we had children” because of the security, confidence on the system and most importantly because of the quality of education.

And it is not only the quality. For Henna, for an example, to study a master can cost close to 9000 euro in Spain.

Jari and Tiina Mäkela waited for me at Jari’s client restaurant; the choice of place was to look for the family like treatment, typical in small businesses. That is something a bit lost in Finland. They have spent 8 years already in Barcelona. Jari Mäkelä is an artisan tailor (vaatturi) at Santa Eulalia, an haute couture shop whose strong tradition and history is linked to designer names like Balenciaga and served people like the Spanish Royal Family. Jari’s work is almost one in a million, as he points out, “Younger people don’t know how to sew any more.”

Tiina is a teacher and founder of eduDesign Finland. “School failure in Spain is 30% while in Finland it is about 0%.” Given that, eduDesign Finland’s mission to introduce the Nordic education system into Spain may seem like a clear mission, right? And one may think that given the statistics the Spaniards would be more than welcoming it, right?

Well, no. It just doesn’t happen so easily. Big institutions and companies appear to be attached to old fashioned, hierarchical, dogmatic ways. That system makes it hard for Tiina to import changes for them. So she keeps on working on it patiently. At the moment she offers small educational services and advice. The final goal is to open her own school.

But is it really so difficult to bring changes?

Apparently so, says also Hannu Arvio, a regular correspondent for Radio Nova. Hannu has lived in Spain for 18 years, and teaching there for ten years. I met him at the Institute Nordic, where he works, and then we sat down at the closest cafeteria. Any place would do, it was just a very hot day and we needed acclimatized air.

According to Tiia, and Hannu and almost anyone else, people are people regardless of their nationality. If we think of them, one by one; some are shy and some are not; some are planners and some are improvisers; some are logical and some are emotional. So where’s the big difference? Maybe it is that the system encourages and empowers one kind of behaviour more than other?

Hannu explains, “both places have changed a lot since the 70’s but in different ways and coming out from different history.”

The problem with the Spanish system is that it has an old heritage which hasn’t evolved with the times and that only benefits those in charge. For example, he explains about the “gremios”. While the word can be translated into Finnish (Kilta), the praxis is not the same. Gremios are the older version of trade unions. They appeared here in the low period of the middle age and have, ever since, the power to control the competition, the permits, the prices and everything over their professional members. They can decide, for example, who can open new business and who can’t, or where or when. And that hasn’t change.

My last meeting were two Russians educated in Finland. Georgii Karvonen lived in Finland since 1998, studied Business in Laurea AMK and worked at Mediteam Oy in logistics. His girlfriend Anfisa Proskuryakova is a singer; she moved to Finland in 2003, studied at Pop & Jazz conservatory and competed at The Voice Of Finland. They both left Finland for Spain this year.

We met on a fancy hotel rooftop swimming pool because… well, it was enjoyable. And that is quite the point of choosing where to live, right? You can find what you want and enjoy it. And Barcelona provides that, there are things for everyone.

How was Georgii’s and Anfisa’s change of experience between Finland and Spain?

Well, the trust issue appears again. Even if there was a problem at work, in Finland, he explains, you can trust PAM to take care of things. In Spain he lost his job after trial period while his extra hours where not paid and the salary retention was double than normal. That is really not surprising to hear. Anfisa still studies, sings and also has a job in a shop where, she says, people steal a lot.

What’s in it for them? It is the multiculturalism, the variety and the cosmopolitan mindset. Georgii and Anfisa comment, they have found different experiences from living in different countries and that’s just good. With problems and all, they feel at home in Barcelona. “Wherever you go you’ll find good and bad things. While rules in Finland make things work, they also make things difficult”. They will stay in Barcelona as long as they feel like. Maybe they will move on again some time later.

There’s a common agreement that the Spanish individual survival succeeds because of the strong network of support with family and friends. People still love and want to live there as long as they can manage with the economical situation, or at least they’ll try.

One more thing all my interviewees agreed on. It is important to travel to learn and get experienced; to open your mind with new points of view; to discover the good things in what you have and to understand the goodness in the life of others.

Two months after the interview, Henna Koskinen has now found a job from an interior architect office in Barcelona.