A few weeks ago, one of my best friends mentioned to me that she was starting to feel like most cities are fundamentally the same: you have your bars, your shopping centers, your restaurants and so on. The real differentiating factors, she said, are the people and memories we associate with every place.
Though I definitely agree with this idea to some extent, my first week in Bilbao has driven me more and more into believing that every city possesses subtle (or not so subtle) nuances which can either mesh well (or not well at all) with your inherent being. Like the factors we seek in our romantic partners (i.e. physical attractiveness, intelligence, sense of humor, ability to belt lyrics to Kanye hits, etc.), I believe that there are also aspects of different towns that can create a sense of city compatibility.
I really click with Bilbao. And here’s why:
Aesthetics: Bilbao kind of looks like one of those fake accounts on Tinder where you’re pretty sure they just Googled the name of some obscure fashion model and used the image as their own. Yet, there’s a slight possibility that they might be a real person, and luckily for me, Bilbao is a very real place. The city boasts a unique and slightly eccentric mixture of curvy modern architecture (hello Guggenheim!), British-influenced theaters, industrial sea ports, flowery plazas, magnificently green parks and 13th century cathedrals. Bilbao had me like wow.
Appreciation of culture and art: So you’re on your first date, and what do you talk about? Well, as a huge pop culture geek and appreciator of music, art and literature, I love that Bilbao places such immense focus on developing their artistic culture. The university I’m attending sits right in between the Guggenheim, one of the most famous modern art museums in the world, and the lovely Palacio Euskalduna music center. Bilbao often has public music and art festivals where beautiful murals and photographs are displayed proudly by the city. With such a rich artistic culture, I feel like I’ll never run out of things to talk about.
Schedules: Welp, things are getting pretty serious, so we need to make sure we have enough free time for each other. As a chronic over-extender, I love that Bilbao pulls me back and reminds me to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. Unlike in Los Angeles, where I feel like I’m forced into the fast lane, I feel so much more at peace in Bilbao, where students and working people make time in the middle of their day to go home for a couple hours for lunch. Stores even shut down so people can relax. During weekends, it’s normal to eat dinner at around 10 p.m., go out and enjoy the night until 6 a.m. and then sleep in until three in the afternoon, which I dig.
Politics and social standards: Now we’re really getting to know each other. Bilbao, and I just feel like we are becoming more and more compatible each day. Bilbao is not wasteful and really cares about conserving its environment — everyone recycles, takes short showers and turns off the light when going to another room. Healthcare here is free for all citizens. People go out of their way to help one another.
So though I know that the people and memories I grow to associate with Bilbao will become so important in my heart, I can’t deny that there are special factors about Bilbao that seem to really naturally coincide with who I am.
So far, it’s a match.