Carrie is a former TV and radio presenter from the UK, who moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 2007 where she set up FiG Communications and then Barcelona Mums which went on to become MumAbroad.
The brand has grown to cover all of Spain, and later France, Germany and Italy.
One of defining aspects of MumAbroad is its Women in Business directory, offering a platform for women reinventing themselves after being out of work, or who can’t find a place to showcase their services.
Carrie Frais talks about the highs and lows of the first 13 weeks of lockdown in Spain.
She explains how parenting concerns pushed her young family from Barcelona city centre out to a quieter wine-growing region on the Maresme coast, just north of Barcelona.
The lack of parenting advice and the struggle to adapt culturally in Barcelona was what pushed Carrie Frais to co-found Barcelona Mums, which soon expanded to become MumAbroad.
The platform soon became home to the Women in Business directory to showcase fabulous female entrepreneurs overseas, something Carrie and current associate director Jane Mitchell are extremely passionate about.
00:00 MumAbroad: Welcome to MumAbroad’s YouTube channel, where we will be interviewing fabulous women who live in Spain, France, Italy and Germany all with their own stories to tell. My guest today is Carrie Frais. Carrie is a former TV and radio presenter from the UK. She relocated to Barcelona in 2007. She’s co-founder of FIG, a creative communications agency, she has her own radio show, Carrie on Talking, and she’s also founder of MumAbroad. She lives in a village north of Barcelona on the Maresme coast with her British husband, two children, two cats, and a dog. Welcome Carrie.
Carrie Frais: Hi Jane, lovely to be here. How are you?
00:47 MumAbroad: I’m very well, thank you. So nice to have you as my first guest.
Carrie Frais: Yep, let’s see how it goes. So far so good.
00:55 MumAbroad: So far so good, yes. We are currently entering week 12 or week 13, I’ve lost count of the weeks exactly, of lockdown here in Spain. A difficult time for many families. I think particularly working parents who have to juggle children and work from home, but it’s also been a time I think for many people to reset, to spend quality time with their families. So a mixture, I would say. Carrie, how have you found this period of isolation?
Carrie Frais: I think it really depends on what day you ask. Some days you could ask me and I could say it’s possibly the best thing that could have happened. On other days, and I just want to scream and leave my family behind me, and it is that rollercoaster of emotions that most of us have never had to experience in such a short amount of time. All of us have got our worries, most people have been affected financially, the uncertainty of the future, the uncertainty of the virus itself, the worry for your children and how their future is going to be, but then the upside is of course is spending time at home you know, time. Time is what we’ve all been short of for long and it’s been a complete joy at times to be able to get up without an alarm and spend every waking hour in my own house without the deadlines and the rushing around and the extracurriculum stuff that the kids get up to, and so in that respect, it’s been fantastic. So overall I would say a positive experience and that’s taking into account the really bleak days too, because let’s face it they all help us develop resilience and become stronger people for the future.
02:42 MumAbroad: Sure. They also make us appreciate what we’ve got, don’t they, as well as bleak days I think.
Carrie Frais: Yeah definitely that exactly has been my case. Very lucky to have a reasonable-size house with a garden, which I’ve really enjoyed, and the kids are at a good age as well, I really feel for the parents who’ve got very young children. Mine are 11 and 13. So they’re pretty self-sufficient, but they’re not old enough to want to be out the house the whole time seeing their friends. So, in that respect it’s been a really enjoyable time, and absolutely appreciated lots of things.
03:19 MumAbroad: I also have a house and a garden as you know, so really really grateful for that during this period. Imagine what it’s been like for families who have been in flats in the city centre. I think that must have been really difficult, a real struggle. For me, I agree with you completely: ups and downs, good days and bad days. I would say more good than bad, for sure. I love my house. I love being at home. Very comfortable being forced to stay at home, that hasn’t bothered me at all, but I do miss having more time to myself. You know that feeling in the morning when either you take your kids to school and you come home, perhaps you’re working from home, you get home and you just have that moment of, you know, everybody’s in their place, I’m at home and I can do what I want to do in my own time as I need to do it. Or your partner takes your children to school and the minute everybody’s out the door, you know, you stand there in the kitchen and you have that moment of peace and quiet after a little bit of chaos and then you get on with your day. I’m so used to having the house completely to myself in the day, but I have found that quite tough, not having that moment of ‘phew’ ‘now I can relax and now I can do what I need to do’. I’ve got three children, as you know, so it’s been full-on for me at home, there’s always one of them that needs something or wants something. So I would say that that’s been something that has taken me a while to adapt to, for sure.
Carrie Frais: Yeah. I would totally agree with that. None of us have really been for such a long period of time with all our family around us all the time. So, yeah. Kids, two cats and a dog, as you mentioned, and you know sometimes you just have to escape somewhere to the bathroom for a long time, just to have some p & q. And the quality time thing, it’s interesting you mentioned that but actually I kind of feel a little bit guilty, sometimes I feel the reverse because the kids around so much and perhaps not giving them the attention they should do, and they’d normally get maybe on a day when you haven’t seen them at school all day, because you are seeing them in their breaks and their lunch and their after school. You hear stories don’t you of children learning 12 languages and taking up the xylophone or something, oh my children aren’t learning things like that. Life skills, Jane, I think maybe.
05:41 MumAbroad: Definitely they’ve learnt a few different things. We mentioned briefly about we both live in houses and we’ve both got garden, so very privileged in this situation. When you first came to Barcelona you were living in the city centre, I believe, so what made the decision for you to move outside into the village and countryside?
Carrie Frais: We moved into the city centre because we were childless at the time. We had relatively decent disposable income, we wanted to be in the centre of the city and enjoy Barcelona with its vibrancy, its bars and its restaurants. When I was pregnant, we were living in a two-bedroom apartment in El Born, beautiful El Born, a great place to live, again, if you’re just a couple. But then as soon as my my eldest daughter was born and she started crawling and putting her head through the balcony bars looking down below, I was thinking ‘hmm, maybe this is not so suitable’. So a few people had started talking about the Maresme area, which I didn’t know anything about. A lot of people, particularly from the international community, when they move out and start having families they go south to places like Casteldefells and Sitges. And Maresme at the time, so we’re talking 10 years ago, was relatively untapped. I moved to a really lovely village called Alella, which I know is where you live, wine-growing region of Maresme, and I now live a little further out in Cabrils. The reason is, in answer to your question, you get more for your money whether you’re renting or buying, more space, you’ve got mountains in the backdrop and you’ve got the sea down the road. It’s an amazing place to live. And 20 minutes away is Barcelona, so it’s the best of everything really.
07:23 MumAbroad: Yeah, you have everything here, for sure, agree with you whole heartedly on that. You mentioned that you moved out just after the birth of your first child, you also founded MumAbroad around the same time is that right? Can you tell us a bit about how that came about?
Carrie Frais: Unexpectedly, actually. My background as you mentioned in the introduction is journalism, and a good friend of mine at the time was an internet marketeer, expert, and we found ourselves with two tiny babies in a city that was not our own, without family close by and really not having a clue about parenthood, we were both pretty useless at being new mums, I have to say! So that combined with being in an unfamiliar city, and also not just been familiar with the cultural surroundings of motherhood that Barcelona had to offer, but to be honest there was very little, because a lot of women when they become mothers they spend most of their time with their own mothers. It’s still very much that traditional set-up where the grandparent helps the daughter, certainly in the first 6 months while they’re off work. And it was just so challenging at times, so in desperation and purely selfish reasons we put together MumAbroad, which was initially BarcelonaMum I should say, which was recommendations for family-friendly restaurants, activities to do with babies, where to breastfeed in public without getting looked down upon by the waiter. Shops that you could get good-value nappies, all this kind of stuff that now is pretty much omnipresent but at the time it wasn’t. So that’s how it started and then, as you know, grew organically and became MumAbroad to cover the whole of Spain and then more recently France, Germany and Italy.
09:20 MumAbroad: Since I’ve been working with you, Carrie, we’ve worked quite a lot on our Women in Business directory. It’s a part of the job that I’m passionate about, there are so many fascinating women, not just in Barcelona, all over Spain and equally in Italy, Germany and France as well, who have had to recreate themselves, transform themselves, since living abroad since having children and they’ve been finding themselves or looking for a different career path, so it’s been fascinating to talk to these women and watch them grow. Was that part of your plan in the beginning, to have a platform for female entrepreneurs? Or was that part of the organic growth?
Carrie Frais: It was the latter, part of the organic growth, as you said. It has been a complete delight, a joy, to give a platform to these women because they are so talented, so many skills, and as with the case of many women they’re pretty useless and I mean that in the nicest possible way, at self-promotion. So the great thing about MumAbroad is that we can give them a platform through our Women in Business section and then, you know, through social media and now through the YouTube channel to promote them, and the way that we want to use this YouTube channel is to tell their stories because a lot of women don’t like to sell their product, but their story or their backstory, the reason why they reinvented themselves is often why you end up buying their product because it’s got soul, it’s part of them, and I’m thinking now of so many different women as I’m saying this who are those particular entrepreneurs and it’s really, really exciting to be able to do that.
11:00 MumAbroad: You’re buying into people’s stories, aren’t you? Not necessarily a product or a service, but the story you know, the emotion behind that person as well.
Carrie frais: Yeah, and just to carry on, a lot of these women have had skills that have been latent and they’ve gone into motherhood and now the and they’ve gone into motherhood and a lot of women have been out the workplace for several years, and then post-motherhood it’s given them an opportunity because they’ve been at home they’ve got more flexible hours, to bring some of these often very artistic, creative skills into the forefront and that’s why it’s so exciting because you know that often they have a really original product because you know that often they have a really original product that you know you’re not gonna get anywhere else.
11:38 Carrie, I know that you used to live in London, you’re passionate about the city, but you’re also passionate about Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain. Can you imagine that be a point in the future, where you’ll go back and live in the UK?
Carrie Frais: It’s funny, at the beginning of this coronavirus outbreak. I felt extremely homesick, and I can still use the word homesick. I guess London as I was brought up there, born there, it’s still my home. And I had this real desire to go back there, I couldn’t really explain it because my parents aren’t around, but there was something inside me that felt I had to be there. Lesser now, it might be something to do with the sun, and being able to sit and drink cava on my terrace. That sounds terrible, I don’t do that very often just by the way. But having said that, there is quote a lot I miss about the UK. There’s a lot I don’t miss. So I guess, you know, the perfect scenario should that ever be the case and I become a millionaire would be to have some kind of holding in both places.
12:38 MumAbroad: Carrie, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. If there’s anybody out there that does want to get in contact with you what’s the best way?
Carrie Frais: The best way is by email and the email address is email@example.com so I’ll be looking forward to hearing from lots and lots of talented female entrepreneurs.
13:00 MumAbroad: Thank you.
Carrie Frais: Thanks for having me.
13:04 MumAbroad: Quickfire 10
MumAbroad: What do you love about where you live?
Carrie Frais: I love the space, the mountains and great friends nearby.
MumAbroad: Your favourite weekend activity in summer?
Carrie Frais: A barbecue with good friends, good wine, great food and the sunshine which is normally the case.
MumAbroad: And your favourite activity in winter?
Carrie Frais: The same!
MumAbroad: One piece of advice for families thinking of relocating to Barcelona?
Carrie Frais: I would say it’s a fantastic lifestyle, that you won’t regret, but finding job opportunities can be a challenge. So you need to be a little bit creative in that respect.
MumAbroad: Your favourite beach in the Maresme?
Carrie Frais: There’s a lovely little beach called Playa de las Rocas, close to Calella, a little cove with a chiringuito, with the clearest waters, and it’s fabulous.
MumAbroad: Your favourite restaurant?
Carrie Frais: There are several, but I think the perfect scenario would be early summer and one of the chiringuitos on my nearest beach which is Cabrera de Mar, so either Acamar or La Bruma.
MumAbroad: Anything that you dislike about living here?
Carries Frais: Uh, yep. I would say, and I think probably a lot of people agree with me, the paperwork. Don’t wanna ever queue or try and wait for my NIE card or my Spanish driving licence ever again.
MumAbroad: Your favourite part of Spain?
Carries Frais: Oh, I love Spain, I love so much of Spain, but it has to be Catalunya, it’s got everything here.
MumAbroad: What do you miss from home?
Carrie Frais: I would say I miss good supermarkets, a pub in winter and sometimes the British sense of humour, although that’s been a bit lacking recently.
MumAbroad: And three words that describe your life here.
Carrie Frais: Family, fun, friends.