One thing I love about Barcelona is the diversity. The immigrant population here is very high and so everywhere you go, you see people from all over the world. For someone born and raised in San Diego, I feel at home. You see, as you walk down the street from where I live in San Diego, you have everything from Vietnamese Pho Restaurants to small Mexican Food spots (“Taco Shops” as we call them in Southern California) where you can indulge in tastings from around the globe. As hard as it is to believe, the food isn’t even my favorite part- the way you’re able to interact with people whose cultures seem completely different from your own is what I treasure the most.
I’m finding this same kind of interaction taking place in Barcelona. For example, in addition to the great culinary selection, I’m able to make friends with people who come to Barcelona from all over. Take my barbershop for instance. As I explored Las Ramblas, an area of Barça that is always filled with locals, tourists and street performers, I found myself down a side street where I discovered a barbershop that, just like in San Diego, had a sign with several languages- Punjabi being the largest. I was shocked at first- they only charged 6 Euros! I swear, haircuts over here usually go for somewhere around 20-25 Euros and just because something is cheaper, it doesn’t mean it’s of less quality! My barber is great at what he does and he never lets me down.
His name is Azem and he came to Barcelona from Pakistan when he was a teenager. Whenever I come in, we tell each other about the previous weeks and sometimes swap stories of life in an immigrant family. Even though our stories are different, I am finding there are still many similarities in the ways we interact with our families and how we go about our lives in the city because of these experiences- it’s interesting to see how they compare. After the cut and the conversation, we say good-bye, dap and I head out until next time.
Last Friday, some friends from my study abroad program were in need of a haircut so I showed them to Azem. I usually go during the week when it’s much slower and was surprised to see how busy it was. It was Friday so I’m sure the line was filled with gentlemen trying to look nice for the festivities of the weekend. As we wait, one of the guys hooks his phone up to the stereo and starts playing some hip-hop music. As the beat comes in, I like it, I’m bobbing my head and then that distinct Punjabi flavor takes me by surprise. It brought me back to that Jay-Z & Punjabi MC collaboration back in the early 2000’s. Needless to say, the nostalgia alone was enough to make me a fan. It was great to hear a different take on hip-hop and I honestly liked it. I didn’t get a chance to find out which artist it was but I’ll ask Azem about it next time I see him.
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