Julie Harris, 62 years old, married with two sons. Born in England, Julie lived in London before moving to Barcelona 31 years ago. She is the headteacher of Oak House School, a private, co-educational school situated in Sarrià. The non-profit foundation has approximately 1.100 students with a teaching staff of 106 professionals who give high quality teaching and personalised care and attention to each pupil.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
In 1990 my husband and I decided to take career breaks after working in London for 12 years. We chose Barcelona as our first destination because we wanted to learn Spanish, we could easily find work as English teachers and it was a city with an interesting history and culture. The plan was to stay in Barcelona for a year and then travel further afield, but instead, I decided to continue my mainstream teaching career in Barcelona, and my husband set up a business. We became Barcelonians by choice and raised 2 children here, both of whom are trilingual, speaking fluent English, Castellano, and Catalan.
What aspects of the city would you highlight as being positive?
The geographical location of Barcelona is a positive point. Barcelona is very well-connected to a wide range of destinations. The good travel links and the efficient, cheap public transport system mean that it is easy to stay connected with family and friends around the world and to travel within Spain and Catalunya. The quality of the food available in Barcelona is excellent, whether buying in markets and shops or eating in restaurants. The variety of cultural events enriches life in the city.
What aspects of the city must be improved? How?
Improving air quality and reducing the level of air pollution should be a priority. To achieve this the city council should continue with its plans to reduce the amount of traffic within the city limits and promote the use of public transport.
If Barcelona is to attract talent, the salaries on offer in many sectors need to be improved. Barcelona is no longer a cheap place to live and salaries in many areas are not in line with the cost of living, in particular the cost of accommodation.
Which are the city’s strengths that will allow it to overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
The level of resilience which is demonstrated by the local population. The lockdown rules were complied with, the testing and vaccination routines were well organised and efficient and the lifting of restrictions has been gradual and well-managed. These aspects are combined with a great desire to see life returning to normal. The people of Barcelona like to socialise outside their homes, and this outdoor culture is returning, which is helping the city to regain its sense of vibrancy.
What other challenges do you think the city will face once the health crisis ends?
Many businesses have not survived the pandemic and the challenge will be to provide support for new ventures to open. The return of tourists to the city represents an opportunity for Barcelona to define the style of tourism it wants in the future and provide the services required to encourage this.
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
A continued and increased focus on improving the environment through reducing air pollution, promoting the use of public transport, creating more green spaces within the city, and encouraging and facilitating recycling and reusing.
More integration of people from different cultures into the local society, whilst at the same time preserving the local cultural identity.
A greater focus on the reduction of crime, in particular the stealing from tourists. Barcelona currently has a bad reputation in this area and tourists are targeted by thieves from the moment they arrive at the airport.
Which city do you feel as «your city»? What do you miss the most?
The only other city in which I have lived has been London and there is a lot to miss about London. The main thing which I miss is having access to a huge range of culture in the theatres, galleries, museums, etc. I also miss the parks and green spaces within the city.
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