The Life of International Architects in Cardiff

Here at Gaunt Francis, we are fortunate enough to have a fantastic team of architects who come from all over the world – from across the Atlantic in North America to all the way Down Under. Each of them bring completely different things to the table. Creativity and new insights thrive in environments where people have different ideas and perspectives, which is what makes diversity so important among a team, and we really embrace that.

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Cardiff Castle

For some of our Architects, life in Wales is some-what different to where they’ve grown up in terms of culture, people and architecture, and they’ve had to become accustomed to the Welsh way of life. Here’s what some of them had to say about their life in Cardiff.

Stephanie, from Germany explains: “I came to visit some friends here and fell in love with the place. There was also a serious lack of work opportunities back home, so I decided to take the plunge and go for it. Cardiff is incredibly green and has a seafront. I love the vibe, the people, the closeness to the water which has always been important to me. Cardiff is big enough to have the city feel but also the closer knit communities within their different districts. I love going for walks around Cardiff Bay and meeting friends in all the different types of coffee places – there are tonnes! I love all the places along the coast. Wales has such an amazing coastline and a lot of other small quirky places that are definitely worth visiting.

When I first moved here I found the lingo and being called ‘love’ everywhere you go took some getting used to, as well as different rules and regulations. There are a few things that I do miss back home which you sadly can’t get here – like German bakeries and the choices of fresh bread and pastries. The architecture here is one of my big bug bears – I really don’t like these typical residential communities built by one contractor and how every single new ‘community’ looks the same as the previous one. We have far more variety back home and private houses rarely look one like the other. There are many other differences between my hometown and Cardiff – for one, my hometown only has around 30,000 inhabitants and the surrounding area is a lot more rural. In terms of culture, we have a wide range of Italians, Turkish, former Yugoslavian and Russian people, whereas in Cardiff there is much bigger Asian population. I would say the best moment of my time here is the amazing people that I’ve met and made such great friends- spending time with them all and my beautiful girls is the best thing ever.”

Miranda, from Texas says, “After many years of living in different countries, my husband got a great job at Cardiff University and we’ve been here ever since. What I really love here is the friendliness of the people, all the green space and the nearness of the sea and the mountains. However, if there was one thing that I really miss back in Texas I’d have to say proper Mexican food! There are an awful lot of cultural difference between Cardiff and back home; I find that Cardiff is much more walk-able than the US. I rarely use our car and get to most places by bike or on foot, which is much better for the environment and me. In terms of architectural differences, housing in the UK is much more dense, gardens are small and sharing a party-wall with your neighbours is normal. I had to get used to hearing people next door, but I think it does make for a more tightly-knit community. Living in Wales, I think it is important to learn the language of the country you live in, and so my understanding  of the Welsh language is fairly good as I’ve taken courses up to intermediate level and my children attend welsh-medium schools.”

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Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

Irene, from Milan says, “I decided to move to the UK because I wanted to gain more work experience and after having lived in Austria and Italy I decided to take a chance and go for it. When I chose to move to the UK I felt that Cardiff was the best option for me – it’s quite a small city therefore easy to get around by foot or by bike. I also love living by the sea, and London and Bristol are only a train ride away. Cardiff offers such a great quality of life and I absolutely love living here. It’s a wonderful city if you love nature – like myself. There are lots of parks, mountains nearby and we’re right by the coast. There is so much going on here and the cost of living in relatively low compared to bigger cities like London or Bristol. I’d say my favourite thing to do is going to the Brecon Beacons and the Glamorgan coast – it’s just beautiful.

When I moved here it took a while to get used to driving on the other side of the road! I miss my family a lot as well as proper Italian food. I also miss a really warm summer and the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a real cultural difference between here and my hometown back in Italy – just the way of life, the food, the people, the buildings, and certainly the weather. Saying that, the weather recently has been fantastic as I’ve mostly spent it at the seaside with friends and I’ve loved every minute of it. Wales is such a beautiful country and there are still so many places that I want to visit – especially Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire. ”

Max, from Sydney says, “The main draw to the UK was fulfilling my long term goal of experiencing living in another country. Also, lots of my friends had moved over here after university; other reasons included my sister and my partner both living in the UK. I was particularly drawn to Cardiff because after living in London for some time I really wanted a change of pace and to broaden my experience. My partner is from Wales and works here, so this setup is more convenient for the both of us. Cardiff has a much better quality of life than London and it has a real connection to the outdoors. I love the friendly attitude of the Welsh – it reminds me of the Australian attitude – not just the swearing, drinking and rugby prowess! There are so many great things to do in this beautiful city; for one I enjoy going to the parks and gardens around Cardiff. It’s such a green and pretty city. Seeing all the baby goslings at Roath Lake in the Spring is definitely one of my favourite things. It’s also really well connected, so activities in Wales and England are easily accessible.

Although I love living in Cardiff, I found the hardest change was moving away from my friends in London – that and fitting all my pot plant in the car during the move! Consistent good weather, smaller seagulls and proper mangoes are also just a few things that I miss from back home. There are actually a lot of similarities between Cardiff and Sydney in terms of pace and attitude, but Sydney is perhaps more fashion/body/fitness conscious. Wales is truly a stunning country, in particular Pembrokeshire – it’s where my partner’s family home is and there are fantastic beaches and dog walks. Being from New South Wales, visiting the ‘old’ South Wales coastline reminds me of home.”

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Tenby, West Wales

Alejandro, from Spain expressed: ” There are a few reasons why I decided to come to the UK, but it was mainly because young architects have a really hard time finding a job in Spain. I hadn’t really thought about where I wanted to live in the UK, but my girlfriend found a job here in Cardiff and I was pleasantly surprised how great this city is. I love the size of the city, I love how well-connected it is to other places and how close everything is – getting to work is easy and takes no time at all! That would be completely different if I lived in a big city like London. I really enjoy wandering around the city and exploring new places, whether it be a church, a street, a park, or a museum. I also love going to the cinema here, it’s a lot cheaper than in Malaga. Living in Wales is great but when I first moved over, I found the language barrier a struggle but I have really improved since. I even managed to learn some Welsh: ‘Bore da, nos da, croeso, diolch…’ That´s it! I also found it hard to adjust to life without having my friends and family around me. The weather was also a big adjustment for me! There are just so many cultural differences but the biggest shock for me was the food. In Malaga I find there is more variety with certain foods compared to here. In terms of architecture there are also many differences – the colours, shapes, church buildings, castles, green zones – all of this is completely new to me and I really like it but really love and miss the Andalusian architecture. I often picture those beautiful whitewash houses with small windows, clay roof tiles and a patio. The streets in the city centre are amazing; houses are randomly placed which created irregular streets. For me, Malaga is the most amazing place to spend time exploring and discovering new and wonderful places. I want to spend more time exploring Wales and the UK. At the moment my favourite places to visit are Caerphilly Castle, Caenarfon and Snowdonia. Next on my list is the Brecon Beacons!”

Lastly, Bianca from Romania expresses, “What drew me to the UK was the higher education system. The Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University is a fantastic school and is the the only University in the UK that offered a 5-year course with a year in industry. Cardiff is such a vibrant and picturesque city and I absolutely love exploring both the urban and natural settings. The UK is very culturally different to my hometown and so I found small things like the weather and the food a bit of a shock when I first arrived, and this took some time to adjust to. Being away from Romania makes me think about all of those things I often miss back home; I miss the unique land forms of Romania, especially the Carpathian Mountains and the hidden, idyllic skiing and spa resorts. I also miss one of my favourite open-air museums – the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilisation, as well as the Neo-Renaissance Peles Castle. The list goes on! Having said that Wales really does have some beautiful places to offer -Tenby in West Wales is just one of the many wonderful towns to visit here and I’m lucky to call this place home”.

*Images courtesy of Pixabay*

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