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 Barcelona willing 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.

Working in Barcelona

Spain and Barcelona have been hard hit by the global economic crisis, and unemployment is high. However with its situation as a port city, good infrastructure, the great lifestyle to attract multinationals and foreign businesses and of course the city's huge tourism industry there are still plenty of opportunities for job searchers, especially for those who speak Spanish and/or Catalan along with English. Banking and logistics sectors are particularly big, and currently the city is trying to regenerate the district of Poblenou into an IT and technology hub (dubbed 22@) in the style of Silicon valley, as Barcelona sets itself for growth. For more casual, seasonal or short term work then you might be best contacting restaurants, hotels and bars with your CV, whilst plenty of opportunities also exist working as nannies or au pairs, or teaching English as a foreign language.

As usual the Internet is the best tool for beginning your search and a little Googling should reveal some handy resources. Loquo.com is a great place to start. If you're a self motivated sales person then read up on our current sales opportunities with Barcelona Life for a chance to join our team!

Lifestyle and Leisure

For many people the chance to live in Barcelona is motivation enough, above any financial rewards, and indeed many expats leave well-paid jobs in their home countries to take up less well-paid positions in Spain... but few complain about having a bit less cash to play with. When the sun shines (virtually) every day and you can spend your weekends lazing on Barcelona's beaches, sipping mojitos at chiringuitos, nibbling on Spanish and Catalan delicacies on open squares in Barri Gotic, El Born and El Raval, and maybe supplementing these epicurean pursuits with some high culture in the form of opera at the Liceu Theatre or a classical performance at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, then you can truly say life is good. What's more, as well as the infamous nightlife and parties in a seemingly infinite number of great bars and clubs, there's wide range of entertainment to enjoy in the form of festivals, live music and a constant procession of great events. Naturally sports fans can drool at the prospect of seeing the mighty Barca FC compete on a regular basis at Camp Nou, and there's a tonne of outdoor pursuits to take part in as well - from skiing in Andorra nearby during winter, to mountain biking and kitesurfing during summer. With the Pyrenees up the road, the Costa Brava coastline, and the beautiful countryside of Catalonia all nearby, life in Barcelona never need be dull! Weekend trips to Madrid and Valencia, and even San Sebastian are all possible as well.

Food & Drink

Spanish food is world famous, and after the weather many would put the local cuisine as one of the main reasons for relocating to Spain. Tapas is the most famous, but is in fact a style of cuisine rather than a specific type of dish - anything served in small portions designed to be shared can be called a tapa, and we recommend you read our article on tapas dishes and restaurants in Barcelona for the lowdown. Paella and sangria are typical holiday-maker fare, but in Catalonia a bit more rare (or at least not consumed by locals). Traditional Catalan food tends to be earthy rustic fare, but thanks to a culinary revolution in recent years, modern Catalan cuisine is considered some of the best in the world, with chefs like Ferran Adria blazing a trail. You'll find his Tickets Bar amongst our recommendations in our guide to eating out in Barcelona.

Drinks-wise you're in right in the heart of Spain/Catalonia's Cava country. The Penedes region is where you'll find a host of vineyards producing both fine table and sparkling wines. You'll find a scattering of authentic Cava bars for trying it yourself, or else sign up for a wine tour.

Whilst your sophisticated taste buds are sure to appreciate these sensory pleasures, there will naturally be some times when you simply want to get your hands on some of the familiar food and drink you know from back home. Major international supermarkets like Carrefour and Lidl should stock many of the global brands you know and love, whilst the odd jar of Jamie Oliver's chili pasta sauce has been spotted even in the Spanish supermercados.

Health Advice

Obviously one important aspect that the prudent will want to resolve as swiftly as possible is your health coverage. Whilst your European Health Insurance Card will cover you in the short term, it is intended to be used for emergencies by those travelling, and not for those who are relocating to Spain. To access the same health privileges as native Spanish / Catalan residents you need to register for your Tarjeta Sanitaria.

Head to our dedicated article for more advice on health and healthcare, plus we also list several health practitioners and medical centres in our Services section, from English-speaking midwives to HIV testing clinics.

Other Practicalities

Naturally there are a thousand other considerations and practicalities to take into account if you're thinking of joining Barcelona's expat community in the sunny Med. We'll come back and update this page with some info on international schools, living costs, finding accommodation, including house-buying, and much more. In the meantime you might want to check out our the business directory in our Services section where we have some handy information on everything from English-speaking doctors to accountants.

add your comments

Hi,
Not specifically a relocating to Barcelona question but I'm hoping to tap into local knowledge. I would like to get in touch with local U11 football teams for May 2017, when my son's team from England go on tour. It will be great for the boys to train and play with local U11s in Barcelona. Any suggestions/ recommendations, please let me know.

reviewed by Jo from United Kingdom on Sep.20.2016

I am studying medical lab its my first year..I was thinking about moving to Barcalona after I finsh my major ..I know only english but I will learn spainsh ..but there vacancy for medical lab??

reviewed by aya from Lebanon on Sep.12.2016

Hello Gemma:

I lived in Barcelona for 3.5 years from 2006 and may well move back within a couple of years because of this silly Brexit situation. My wife is from Barcelona and two of my children were born there.

Which airport is your husband going to work at? El Prat? We lived in a barrio called 'Nou Barris'. It's not an 'upmarket' area and quite far from El Prat but Catalan is less prevalent due to the mix of cultures and it's cheap. My brother-in-law lives in a barrio called 'L'Hospitalet' which has a beautiful park (parks and large open spaces are not common in Barcelona) and not far from El Prat either. It's a place I would consider living when/if we move back. You would be surrounded by Spanish / Catalan speakers but that is a good thing. Finally, the main property website is https://www.idealista.com/.

You will love life in Barcelona. Personally I'm now feeling that we made a mistake ever moving back here but our options are still open. Let me know if you've got any more specific questions. I can always ask my wife!

Kevin

reviewed by Kevin from United Kingdom on Sep.02.2016

Hi
We are planning to move to Barcelona at Christmas time. My husband has just got a job working at the airport so me and my daughter are going with him. I'm just wondering what's the best areas to move to for expats with young children. We are English but just moving from Poland which is a fantastic place but hardly any expats. Also estate agents contact details needed too. Thank you.
Gemma

reviewed by Gemma from United Kingdom on Aug.26.2016

My wife and I are looking to move to Barcelona on a 'retirement visa' ... we previously lived in Europe for 4 years when I represented the US Department of Labor ...

anyone posting here have one?

how is it working out for you?

We love to cruise so we would be moving to Barcelona because it is the busiest cruising port in Spain ...

can anyone recommend an area near the cruise port that is a little more English friendly?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

reviewed by High Yield Consultant from United States on Aug.15.2016

Hi guys I'm plaing to move to Barcelona in the next 3 years. I'm puertorrican so I know Spanish and English. I'm a cosmetologist and I want to know how it's the cosmetologist career over there.l and the cost of living. Plz help me anyone contact me nsegarra7@gmail.com

reviewed by Nelson Segarra from United States on Aug.11.2016

Hi guys!

I've been wating to move to Barcelona for about 6 months, I'm an aerospace engineer graduated in may, I also speam spanish, I'd like to work in anything, even if it's not engineering related, I'm a good bar tender as well! So if you know of anyone willing to help me out by hiring me so I can move, please let me know!

reviewed by Mario from United States on Jul.25.2016

Hi guys!
I'm living in the centre of Barcelona but i'm going away for a month and a half (28. July till 17. Sept) If you're planning to move to Barcelona but still haven't found a place to live, i recommend you coming first to the city and then with time, looking for a place. It isn't always easy to find a cozy place in this city, you really need to go around. I live in a huge room with a high ceiling (old Barcelona style), wooden floor and 2 balconies to the street. It's in a former textile fabric in El Raval, near the famous Ramblas. If you want more info, feel free to write me and i'll let you know more details:

eheye.ix@gmail.com

I don't recommend it to families but to a single or a couple (there´s a double bed) between 20-35yrs old.

Be happy,

Eren

reviewed by Eren from Spain on Jul.22.2016

Hi guys

Me and my girlfriend are moving to Barcelona mid August for a year whilst I work on a IT project.

I am looking for a local estate agent who speaks English to help me find an appartment to live in

Could you contact me at delimegsoftware@gmail.com please

Regards

Paul

reviewed by Paul from United Kingdom on Jul.21.2016

Hello my family and I are looking to move to Barcelona within the year we have a young family and are considering moving to sitges... is this a family friendly area? And how is commuting? Also both our professions are personal training and child care, how are the job opportunities? If appreciate any insight thank you.

reviewed by elise from United Kingdom on Jan.05.2016

I moved to Barcelona 2 years ago and spend my time working remotely and raising my family.

It's an amazing city to live in and I haven't looked back (to London) since moving! I recorded my favourite things about living and working remotely, if want to check it out: https://carouselapps.com/2015/12/15/remote-working-barcelona/

reviewed by Amanda Kendzior from Spain on Dec.21.2015

Would you like live in Barcelona and work in UK?Helping Hands is recruiting Live in Carers caring and compassionate
salary 450-500 pounds per week
Training in Torrevieja or UK beforedstart to work .
Interested?
Please contact Rosa Maria Morató Roig and send CV
moratoroig@gmail.com
Age candidates: from 20 to 75 years old.

reviewed by Rosa Maria Morato Roig from Spain on Dec.12.2015

Hi everyone. I'M from Catalonia. Living in Barcelona. I'm proud to consider myself Catalan, not Spanish. For Those who can read spanish, here's a brief video of the Catalan hisrory.... WE DREAM IT... Because freedom was taken from us 3 centuries ago.. And WE DESERVE IT. tks for watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNaIdKk-9l4

reviewed by Fidel Martinez from Spain on Jul.23.2015

Experienced international relocation coach

I am Swedish but I have been traveling ever since I can remember due to my father’s job as he was relocated all over the world. We have lived in America, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and now at 43 years of age I have finally settled down in Spain and lived here for almost two decades.

I can tell by my own experience that moving to a new country can be very exciting but it also means solving problems and sometimes it can be kind of tough.
As the expression goes - “I have been there, I have done that”…

Great travel experiences aren't necessarily great fun all the time, but the great experiences we have in life can provide the best help for others so please get in touch with me and I will explain all the benefits you will get from having me as your personal coach and how it will improve all aspects of your stay from my own experience.

I am a certified international coach with wide experience of relocation, life and operational coaching.

All the best,
Patricia
www.mplcoaching.com

reviewed by Patricia Lee-Adolfsson from Spain on Jun.03.2015

Hy!I am planning to move to Barcelona this summer, I have a job offer with net salary of 1300 euro. I want to ask if the salary is ok for living in Barcelona, and where can I look for apartments to rent.I don't want something expensive or big. Thank you in advance for your answer!

reviewed by Bia from Germany on May.20.2015

Lately (2015) I moved to Barcelona and it's not easy to get a job here. Unemployment is still high and not many people speak english here. I managed to sort things out but if you want to move here you gotta consider many things. I am trying to describe my experience on a blog so it maybe usefull for someone -> http://immovingtobarcelona.com/ It's so beautiful city that once you have an opportunity you gotta try.

reviewed by lucas from Greece on May.14.2015

My husband and I considering the option of relocating to Barcelona in 4 years, when my daughter starts the university in the Netherlands.

Does anyone know of any sites that post telecommunication project management opportunities in Barcelona? thank you

reviewed by Karen Mackey from United States on May.04.2015

I am planning my move from London to Barcelona early 2016 as the intention brought me an option to work in the office location my company acquired recently. While I am starting to prep pretty early - good prep is half the work. What are the best websites for good permanent rentals in Barcelona? Thx for any response.

reviewed by Danny Martin from United Kingdom on Mar.02.2015

I decided to move to Barcelona with my family but I have more than 6 months trying to find a job online and I would say that no one hires/ at least interviews me because I'm not there (I would prefer moving only after getting a job). I speak Spanish and English fluently. Do you have any suggestion on where should I search (infojobs is my primary source).
Also it would be useful to know the minimum amount of money necessary monthly to live decently (would 1000 euro be enough for rent, utilities, transport and food?)

Thank you

reviewed by Careme from Poland on Feb.22.2015

Thanks for this article, really useful!

I am a single mother and have a 18 month old baby (who will be 2+ years when I move). I will do my best to move through current employer to make things a bit less 'adventurous' than the last time, when I moved to the UK :) Could anyone help point me to a good website where I could read up a bit about the education and the schools. And also where I could find details on what areas are good to live in and how much the rent + other bills would be for a 2 bed flat or house. Thanks so much in advance! Best of luck to fellow adventurers! :)

reviewed by Helena from United Kingdom on Jan.26.2015

I plan to live in Barcelona for 5 months Sept 2015 to Feb 2016. Any ideas of an economical place to stay for one person. Quiet, humble, clean, kitchen & internet. Thank you!

reviewed by Donna Clark from Canada on Dec.05.2014

Eva, catalunya has two official languages....Castilian and Catalan. Anyone who does not speak Catalan, through choice or whatever reason, has a constitutional right to speak in Castilian ....the problem arises when Catalans try to " teach" non-Catalans by responding only in Catalan ....something they would NEVER do to non-Catalan speaking spaniards. The question is not about Catalan being separate to the rest of Spain, it's about using whichever language to communicate as human beings, not exacerbating intolerance.

reviewed by Jessie from Spain on May.27.2014

Eva, catalunya has two official languages....Castilian and Catalan. Anyone who does not speak Catalan, through choice or whatever reason, has a constitutional right to speak in Castilian ....the problem arises when Catalans try to " teach" non-Catalans by responding only in Catalan ....something they would NEVER do to non-Catalan speaking spaniards. The question is not about Catalan being separate to the rest of Spain, it's about using whichever language to communicate as human beings, not exacerbating intolerance.

reviewed by Jessie from Spain on May.27.2014

Lol - I loved your comment about spelling Lars! By the way 'Here' is spelled 'Here' and not 'Hear' lol!

reviewed by Sean from Cheshire from United Kingdom on Mar.15.2014

Whoever wrote the last comment about catalans (someone from London who can't spell) totally misrepresents both Catalonia and the Catalans. One rather good source for factual and interesting information on both Catalonia and the amazing, strong, liberal, and inherently free thinking people originally from this region: the brilliant writer Robert Hughes's book Barcelona (which you can buy at the English bookstore in Gracia often. Before I came hear, I made it my business to learn a bit of the language (Catalan, not Spanish), and read that book. It made me proud of my decision. It's been years, and I never regret it. It takes commitment and interest in others to be here, yes. If you only relate with other exPats, that's your own fault. The rating is for the comment, not the article

reviewed by Lars from United States on Jun.22.2013

Great post, informative and to the point... Unlike the completely unwarranted waffle from Eva. If you feel that passionate then perhaps you should channel that energy into your own website, or at least learn how to constructively voice your opinion. Creída.

reviewed by Ricardo from Spain on Feb.08.2013

Hi Gail. I would look at Castelldefels. It's a very nice beach resort town just 15-20 mins I think by train (haven't done the journey for a while), and some of the Barca FC players even have their houses here. Anyhow it's the other side of the airport to Barcelona so if beach and airport proximity are key for you then it's by far the best place! You'll have to research apartment prices. Idealista.com and Loquo.com are great for rentals. I have never bought in Spain so I can't advice you on that. Despite being quite chi chi I think you'll get something at a good price given that it's not central Barcelona and that prices are dropping rapidly.

reviewed by Editor from Spain on Jan.03.2013

Hi I live currently in London and work for an airline, I'm thinking in May of moving to Barcelona somewhere just outside the city near transportation and not far from a beach! I will be commuting weekly to London so would also like to be less than an hour from the airport!
Could anyone give me advice on location!? A one or two bed apt mid range budget!
I am currently learning Spanish and have the qualification to teach English as a foreign language!
Any help would be much appreciated!
Gail

reviewed by Gail from United Kingdom on Dec.28.2012

Catalunya is not SPain. I agree with the points made by Eva and I also read the article as being a little patronising. I am not Catalan but I live here and I totally agree that although we are living officially in a region of Spain, this is not Spain! Saying that bull fighting is 'frowned on' comes across as rather patronising. I think it is also 'frowned on' in the UK and in AMerica and many other countries. Why should Catalunya be different? This is why people here want independence - they are constantly having to justify all things 'not spanish'. I liked the way you introduced the subject of Catalunya being different at the beginning of the articlea but I think it might be a good idea to take on Evas comments make the changes she suggested. You bring up lots of interesting issues but the tone is a little condescending. best wishes anyway Kate

reviewed by kate wilson from Spain on Oct.20.2012

Drag Queen Bingo @ The Beach House Restaurant Sitges every Friday night at 8pm is a great way to meet local expats.

reviewed by Beach House Sitges from Spain on Sep.19.2012

Great information!
BCN is really a great city to live and work. Check out our job offers in out facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/SELLBYTELworkinbarcelona
We look forward to hearing from you!

reviewed by SELLBYTEL Spain from Spain on Sep.01.2012

very interesting and helpful,but I got so upset when I didn't see the name of my country, IRAN, on the list and I had to write the country where I am living now.

reviewed by soraya from Sweden on Aug.22.2012

very helpful; miss eva - wind it in; the guy is trying to help

reviewed by Andy from Singapore on Aug.02.2012

“Catalonia, an autonomous region with dreams of complete independence”. –The word “dreams” has connotations that make it sound cynical and disrespectful, but anyway. Autonomous regions are mere administrative partitions that were established in 1978 after the death of Dictator Franco, similar to federal states. The history of Catalonia dates back to the 1st Century and until 1714, Catalonia had nothing to do with the Castilian kingdom (now Spain), that's 7 years after the Act of Union of the United Kingdom in 1707.

“Catalan is the official language of the city and region” – And not only that. Catalan is the language of ca. 10 million people in the world across 4 countries, including 4 autonomous regions in Spain (Catalonia, Valencia Region, Aragón and the Balearic Islands - yes, Majorca, Ibiza, etc!), the official language of Andorra (yes, a fully independent country) and also spoken in parts of southern France (formerly, Catalonia) and Italy. Catalan is a language derived from vulgar Latin just like Spanish, Italian, French or Portuguese, yes, at the same level. It is therefore not a dialect or a mix of Spanish and something else. There are records of written Catalan since the 9th Century.

“Castilian is taught as a foreign language!” – many would actually like this to be true, but it's not. Spanish is taught as the co-official language that it is. English is by default the first foreign language taught at school.

“all Catalans speak Spanish as well - albeit reluctantly in some cases on account of their regional pride.” – Yes, virtually all Catalans speak Spanish because both languages are official. Certain places are more exposed to the predominance of Catalan (mostly rural areas) and their spoken Spanish in these cases can be a little “funny” (say, strange accents, some language interference), but in a large international city like Barcelona, the use of Catalan say, in the street, is actually far behind Spanish. It’s difficult to get a taxi driver to understand Catalan, for example! As for “reluctantly”, maybe elder people in rural areas are (mostly because they find it difficult, but they try their best), but in general, no problem at all. We adapt to everyone and speak in Spanish, Catalan, English or German, like myself, just limited by our actual skills! Mixing languages in the same conversation or quickly reverting to Spanish/other when necessary is very common. It happens in other bilingual countries too, nothing unique.

“The Catalan culture on a basic level is quite similar to Spanish culture” – on the basic level, the English and the Scottish culture are the same, or Americans and Canadians are the same… no comment.

“Bull-fighting is frowned upon for example (indeed the Catalans reject the bull as their national animal, selecting the Catalan donkey instead)” – not only frowned upon, but against the law. For us, this foreign custom is as barbarian as it might be to any of you and thus, our Parliament (yes, not only do we have one, it’s also one of the oldest in the world, older than the English Parliament itself), passed a bill to ban it.

“the sardana is preferred to flamenco” – personally, I prefer Stereophonics, but since we’re talking about national symbols, it’s not so strange to “prefer” one’s own national symbols, don’t you think? Or do Americans prefer the maple leaf to the eagle? And who cares anyway? And in any case, flamenco is the folkloric dance/music of the romani (gypsy) ethnic groups settled in the south of Spain. To us here, it’s just as exotic as to any of you, whether we personally like it or not.

reviewed by Eva from Spain on Jun.07.2012

Great article! I'm sending this information through in case any US expats living here in my city would be interested.If you're a US expat living in Barcelona looking for a job. I'm looking for 3 candidates:
2 experienced publicists and a US lawyer. It's a great job opportunity.
Please contact me for further information or please send me your CV to gr@kmgi.com

reviewed by Grisel Rovira from Spain on Sep.19.2011

Thanks for the advice guys. It seems there is a lot of allure to living and working in Barcelona and in Spain in general - or should I say Catalonia!?! It seems the Catalans are almost as nationalistic as the Basque people, and the politics of Spain seem very interesting in this respect.

reviewed by Terence from United Kingdom on Feb.22.2011