Perhaps many Instagram users do not say anything to the name of Carmen Agraz, but if they read the nickname @carmeninuk the thing changes. Almost 35,000 souls daily follow the fun adventures of this Cordoba who has been in England for a decade and whose humorous videos about cultural differences and her life and motherhood abroad have already gone viral.
How does a woman from Cordoba end up in the United Kingdom?
In January it was just 10 years since I moved to London. Like other young Spaniards, I was forced to leave the country if I wanted to grow professionally. I suppose that my desire to get to know another culture and my ambitions gave me the push I needed to emigrate. Also, I am lucky to have parents who support me in all my crazy things.
What do you do apart from creating content for your social networks?
A couple of years ago I moved with my partner and our two children to a town in Kent, an hour from London. We already decided that we needed a little more peace of mind. Here, in the village, we are surrounded by nature and we love it.
Before coming to the United Kingdom, I studied early childhood education at the Averroes Institute in Córdoba, but some time ago I decided to change my profession and now I am dedicated to digital marketing, creating strategies for companies and managing their social networks. And I also create content for my social networks and for other brands. I am passionate about dedicating myself to this and being able to work from home has made my life much easier since I do not have much help.
Is it difficult to be original and make humor with the typical topics?
I think when you’re passionate about something it becomes less difficult, and creating content is something I can dedicate hours to. In the end, it is about using your experiences and current affairs that interest the public to create content that contributes your essence. Finding what differentiates you from the rest and capturing it in a video is what makes you original.
What inspires you when creating content?
In the end it is telling your story, your values, your experiences, being a real person and transmitting naturalness. Know your audience and know their interests and needs. I am inspired by topics that create curiosity and by the cultural differences between Spain and England. Always with a touch of humor!
Is it increasingly difficult to go viral and like the public?
The platforms are increasingly filled with very good content creators, therefore growing on social networks is becoming more and more complicated because there is a lot of competition. But if you have a passion for what you do and a story to tell, you must go ahead and be constant creating content that interests and excites you, train you and above all show your essence, the one that differentiates you from the rest.
The joy of living
How do you think the British perceive us Spaniards in general and Andalusians in particular?
From my experience they think we are very funny, outrageous and very direct. I think in the end it depends on what kind of English it is. Those who know Andalusia well or have traveled to Spain know how hard-working we are and those who have no idea of Spain comment on the typical: they take a nap, eat paella and yell for everything. But generally, I think they admire and are very curious about Spanish and its culture.
What surprises your English friends and family the most when they come to Córdoba?
The heat! They don’t understand how we can survive in those temperatures. They mention a lot how beautiful the Mosque-Cathedral is and what we like to enjoy in the street and get together as a family. They value family reunions a lot and that they last all day surprises them a lot. Here at seven they go to sleep! That of having lunch at two and closing the shops at siesta time leaves them speechless.
Do you have plans to return to your land?
I think this is something that we all consider at some point, almost daily, I would say, because as a migrant you face many challenges and difficulties. But hey, in the end, if you have a job and a life that makes you happy, then you don’t have to go back to another place where you might not have those opportunities to grow professionally.
What do you miss the most?
I could make you a huge list. The sun, my family, my parents’ food, my brother, my friends, the beach and going out for tapas in Lucena. But above all, I regret missing important moments with my family, like a birthday and of course… the Cordoba Fair.
What have you failed to get used to in England?
There are no blinds and I don’t understand how there are no blinds. I know they want to take advantage of the little light there is. So tired of my kids waking me up at five in the morning, I had to buy some kind of black curtain that velcros to the window.
It is also very difficult to find some Spanish products like a good virgin olive oil. Many still do not value liquid gold! But, in general, after 10 years here, I have had to get used to almost everything.
Is the ‘English dream’ a myth (getting there and mastering the language, getting a job and friends quickly?
Completely! It is true that here there are infinite opportunities and possibilities to reach the top, but the beginning is very hard. I came here with no idea of English, so it was very difficult for me. But I don’t remember it at all as something negative, but rather as part of this adventure. Seeing how you are achieving your goals and overcoming obstacles is a rush!
As for making friends, it was more difficult, but I was lucky to surround myself with some of my best friends who also emigrated here and I also met people from all over the world. However, you have to have the courage to leave your circle and comfort zone in order to create other links.
What is it like to be a mother abroad and without your family around?
Perhaps it is the most difficult thing I have faced as a migrant. Motherhood is very hard when you feel alone. When you don’t have your family around it is very difficult. I considered many times going back to Spain for that reason. And I tried, but it didn’t work. There are many challenges that all mothers abroad face.
How is maternity/parenting different between Spain and England?
Overall, I feel very lucky to be able to enjoy motherhood here, despite missing my family so much. It is very different in terms of family reconciliation, benefits, places of leisure and education. First of all I want to highlight maternity leave. Here in the United Kingdom it can be extended up to a year: 39 weeks paid and the rest not. In addition, education is not compulsory until the age of 4. It is quite expensive, so there is a lot of help for families. There are many activities for children, you can go to different groups and your little ones can play and do activities with other children while you have a coffee by their side.
Does the demystification of motherhood -and even more so if it is humorous- help us feel more understood?
Of course. I think humor helps us feel more understood and relieved and less guilty. Seeing maternity in pink is not the best because the reality is different. There are many mothers on social networks where they only show perfection and a face without dark circles, the perfect children and the shiny house. And that doesn’t exist! So I support an imperfect and happy motherhood, in which you learn and improve every day. Of course, with humor! Laughter is very necessary and healing.