Your interactive family guide to Spain as recommended by local mums | Last updated 8 months ago

Interviews with Local Mums

Petra Wolf Duffy - El Masnou

“I am half Swedish, half German, married to a guy with Irish and Welsh roots who was born in Ethiopia and grew up in Africa. We have family all over the world in special places like Guatemala and Dubai. Over the years I have lived in London, Milan, Munich and now El Masnou. Work wise I have had a wonderful mix of weird and normal jobs ranging from Chimney Sweeper, Working with the disabled, the elderly and young children, Tour Guide, Cleaning at a Fortune Tellers to managing an English school with 1000 students.” (PWD, Nov 2013)

  • Petra Wolf Duffy in Maresme

    How long have you lived in Barcelona?
    Two years in March.

    Whereabouts do you live and what is the area like?
    I live in El Masnou which is a town of 22.000 inhabitants 25 minutes from Barcelona by the beach. It is a quiet town without hotels thus hardly any tourists.

    Why did you decide to move there?
    The girl who taught us Spanish whilst we were still living in Munich was from El Masnou and recommended it to us as we wanted to live outside but not too far from Barcelona.

    How many children do you have, what are their names and when were they born?
    I have two children, Kate was born in January 2006 and Jack in January 2008, both were born in Munich.

    What was your experience of relocating to the region with your children?
    We were extremely lucky with finding a great school where both could enter without having to go through the normal lottery process.  Neighbours, school, everyone was really helpful and we settled in well and quickly.

    Do you work and if so what do you do?
    I’m a wedding planner at Barcelona Wedding. I help foreign couples from all over the world who want to get married here in the Barcelona region. It’s a bit like being a Fairy Godmother!

    How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
    We are very well integrated. The children are now fluent in Catalan and do OK in Spanish and so do I. We have local friends, both Catalans and expats.

    What language do you speak with your children?
    I speak Swedish and sometimes read to them in German or watch German DVDs with them. My husband speaks English to them and it is our family language.

    Do you think it essential to speak Spanish or Catalan where you live? How good was your knowledge of Spanish before you moved to Masnou?
    I could speak Italian after having lived three years in Milan which helped a lot. My Spanish was at survival level when I came but decent now. Learning Catalan was hard as it is such a mix of French, Italian and Spanish but being able to speak a little opens so many doors, privately and work wise alike.

    Do you rent or own a property and how did you find the renting/buying process?
    We rent but are thinking of buying. My husband found this house on Fotocasa and it was an easy process renting it.

    How welcoming have the locals been towards you and your family?
    From day one the people around us have been fantastic! The day we moved in, neighbours on both sides and across the road introduced themselves and offered to help out with anything at all.

    How would you describe a typical local?
    Very warm, friendly and welcoming. We have made more connections and friends here in a short time than in seven years in Germany and there I spoke the language and I am half German!

    What is your impression of childcare and education where you live?
    Our children go to a local Catalan school. 

It is a green school, very environmentally conscious, all correspondence via email, they have a sample of every tree that grows in Spain, a hen house, a vegetable patch and parrots. There is one class per year and a max of 24 students. I find it a bit surreal that the children have two hours of English and two of Spanish per week, after all we live in Spain!? Being a teacher myself I don’t agree with all the teaching methods with dictations and learning poems off by heart but all in all we are happy and the children love their school.

    What school do your children go to?
    Ferrer I Guardia Public School in El Masnou

    Why did you choose this school and are you happy with your choice?
    By pure chance we got places at this school since we came after the annual lottery process.

    Are there any services, activities for kids, day-trips for kids, family-friendly restaurants or kids’ shops you’d like to recommend?
    The Club Nautic offers a lot of activities for children, sailing, surfing, kayaking and more. Can Humet offers a lot of theatre and workshops for children. Petit Masnou is a Facebook page with lots of updates about activities for children. We also have a small park with a little train in it, one with a lake and cave and tower and one with turtles. All restaurants are family friendly here.

    What do you think are the main advantages and disadvantages of being a parent from the International Community living in the region?
    At first you might expect things to happen in a certain way you are used to, in the end you have to accept the live and let live philosophy of this place and be patient and diplomatic. This goes for all aspects of life, from school, to work place and beyond.

    Is there anything you think would improve children´s lives where you live?
    No, I honestly couldn’t ask for anything right now. Family being closer but that’s not possible.

    What advice would you give for anyone thinking of relocating to Masnou with children?
    Be open and immerse yourself in the community, you will get so much help and support in return!

    What couldn’t you live without in Masnou?
    The sea and the people.

    What could you live without in Masnou?!
    Dead rats in the gutters after torrential rain, dog owner’s who don’t pick up after their pets. 

    Nov 2013

    Petra has since founded her own event planning business. Pearl Sandals is a testament of her desire to make others happy and share the incredible and infectious Catalonia. At her own wedding, Petra wore a flower crown and danced the night away under the stars at the back of her grandmother’s garden, wearing her very own customized pearl sandals.  This is very much an element that epitomises the spirit of how the company works - sincere, stylish and trustworthy.

    "PearlSandals is dedicated to creating special moments in Catalonia primarily for the Scandinavian, German and English speaking couples. As the team we speak a plethora of languages such as; Russian, German, French, Catalan and Italian, we are able to work with people from all over the world. Many visit Barcelona and the surrounding areas and simply fall in love with the rustic charm, beautiful coastal landscapes and vibrant city life. It is no wonder that people return because they want to get married in Catalonia, and create a very personal and unforgettable destination wedding for all to remember. Beach weddings, city ceremonies and weddings in a rustic country house are just some of the different styles that we can design for your special day.  For those seeking a green or eco-friendly wedding, we can infuse this into all stages of the planning process including sourcing venues, organic catering, interesting eco-favours and tailored advice on making your wedding a green one. As a family of creative and diverse individuals and advocates of the region, we also plan other special occasions and events such as a private wine tasting in the countryside, elegant wedding proposals, romantic tours and more." (PWD)

    Updated March 2015