Sam Mednick is a professional Life and Executive Coach based in Barcelona (www.blueprintcoaching.ca). A Canadian native, she’s been living in the city for eight years working with companies as well as individuals, focusing on transitions, communication, leadership training, time management and productivity, as well as emotional intelligence development.
THIS MONTH: NAVIGATING BARCELONA’S RED-TAPE
This city drives me crazy when it comes to getting things done. Yesterday, I spent two hours on the phone with Vodafone trying to get my internet fixed, which hasn’t worked for 72 hours. Two
days ago, I was trying to pay a bill at the bank and it took two hours before one of them politely informed me that they don’t accept payments at that branch. I waste tons of time and energy trouble shooting situations that shouldn’t require so much effort in the first place. I love living here but the red tape and lack of efficiency is bogging me down. Any words of wisdom for a fellow Canadian?
Victim of Bureaucracy
Hi Victim of Bureaucracy,
It sounds like you’ve been ‘Spained.’ That moment when you hang up the phone or walk out of a store and feel like you’re more confused and further behind than when you started. I’ve often thought about writing a book recounting some of my most frustrating ‘red tape’ moments living here. Movistar and Orange have brought me to tears on more than one occasion, if it makes you feel any better.
When it comes to getting things done, Barcelona is ‘unique’. It probably operates quite differently to what you are used to, and it’s definitely hard to wrap your head around. That being said, if you’re choosing to stay, there are a few practical ways you can ‘work (with) the system’ so that you save time, energy and emotional stress.
Know when to call and when to go in person: Depending on what it is, many things are a lot easier and faster when done face-to-face, especially here. If you’re installing (doing the ‘alta’) for a new phone or internet service, go in person. If you’re referred to an office or a specific department in a building across town to find someone or access information, call first and clarify that it’s actually where you need to go and the hours of operation. Ask if there’s a need to make an appointment. Nothing wastes more time than physically going to the wrong place when all you had to do was call and confirm the details.
Ask to speak to the manager: Although things are changing, Spain is still quite hierarchical in the workplace, and sometimes people are afraid to make ‘out of the box decisions’ on their own. If you’re not getting the help you need or feel that the service has been unfair, ask to speak to the manager. If that doesn’t work, ask for the employee’s name and identification number; that’s a sure way to scare them into stepping it up or passing you along to someone who will do a better job.
Find your ‘person’: This is one that I live by. No matter what you’re trying to do, connect with a specific person on the other end who you can depend on and refer to. If it wasn’t for Albert all those years at Orange and Maria in the visa office, I’d be lost. Find someone who you trust and don’t just be another name on the list–make sure they know who you are and that you’re able to reach out when in need.
Get a follow up contact (email, name and phone number): If you’re ever filing a claim, submitting paperwork or doing anything that requires you to ‘wait and see’, be sure to get the contact information of someone you can follow up with. This allows you to remain slightly in control as you have the option to check in (recommended) and find out the status of your petition.
Bring photocopies: Anyone who’s lived here for more than a week will quickly understand that you can’t get much done without several photocopies of most documentation. Have some on file of your passport, NIE/DNI and any other piece of paper you deem important so you can pull it out at a moment’s notice.
Laugh: As long as you live in Barcelona, ‘Spain Days’ are inevitable. Ultimately, if you choose to live here, sometimes you just have to laugh it off.
To share your thoughts on this column or ask Sam a question email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Metropolitan at email@example.com