Expat Life in Barcelona
So you’ve decided to up sticks and move to balmy Barcelona? Well who could blame you! With its stunning Modernista archictecture, courtesy of Gaudi and co., the lifestyle of eating tapas al fresco and drinking Cava and cocktails until dawn, and of course the beautiful array of beaches and reliably good weather, Barcelona offers a quality of life that many Northern Europeans can only dream about. In short you’ve made the right decision. But just to make sure your expat experience goes according to plan you might want to peruse this page to make the most out of living and working in Barcelona.
Above: A bit of volleyball after work? You can’t do that in Derby.
Language and Culture in Barcelona
The first thing to bear in mind when moving to Barcelona is that whilst the rest of the world considers Barcelona part of Spain, the native Catalans consider Barcelona as the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region with dreams of complete independence. In fact Catalan is the official language of the the city and region, with road signs, metro instructions and other public notices often appearing in Catalan and not Spanish, whilst Catalan is spoken in all public institutions – such as schools. Fear not Spanish-speakers however, Castilian is still very much the lingua franca of Barcelona due to the large number of non-Catalans (including expats) who live and work in city, and the fact that all Catalans speak Spanish as well – albeit reluctantly in some cases on account of their regional pride. For these reasons, if you’re planning on spending any time in Barcelona, then you should definitely do your best to pick up at least basic Spanish, and there’s certainly no shortage of language schools in Barcelonawilling to help you. For day-to-day purposes, you might be able to get by in English but for emergencies and for dealing with household situations, Spanish is essential – finding an English-speaking locksmith for example isn’t easy!
The Catalan culture on a superficial level is quite similar to Spanish culture (no doubt many tourists have left here quite oblivious to the notion of “Catalunya”!), however some of the famous associations you hold with Spain don’t wash here in Catalonia. Bull-fighting has been illegal here for some time(and indeed the Catalans reject the bull as their national animal, selecting the Catalan donkey instead), the sardana is preferred to flamenco, and people don’t usually sleep during siesta (they do shut their shops however, much to the irritation of expats/foreigners used to more regular hours). Catalans pride themselves on their mix of seny and rauxa, common sense and passion, and with their rich heritage of artists, such as Joan Miro, writers, like Joan Maragall, and – of course – architects, it would be churlish not to differentiate between the two cultures. A good way to ground yourself in your new locale would be to read some of the better books about Barcelona and Catalonia.