Living in Barcelona as an Expat: Challenges and Tips

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Living in Barcelona as an Expat: Challenges and Tips

Posted on 13 November 2019

Living in Barcelona as an Expat: Challenges and Tips

​Relocating to a new city, especially when the destination is Barcelona, is quite exciting. Be aware though, that you might experience some moments of cultural shock. In an international city like Barcelona, the adaptation process is more straightforward, however, be careful about learning what to expect and how to adapt better before you face the most common challenges. In this video, we asked our international team members what challenges they faced as expats living in Barcelona. 

Finding Friends When You Move to A New City

As Egle says in the video when you move to a new city you want to socialise. It is not always easy to find like-minded people and make new friends when you enter a new environment. It needs effort from your side and a bit of luck. If you know yourself well though, there’s a high chance you can find people you can enjoy spending time with by using social gathering networks that bring people together according to their interests. Just like Egle, participate in events for foreigners in Barcelona and solve this problem easily. You can use the MeetUp application or Facebook groups to find events you would enjoy attending and make new friends! 

Getting Adjusted to the Big City Life: Transportation

Marie W.’s biggest challenge was adapting to the big city life, especially the transportation system. If you are also from a small city or town and move to a metropolitan city like Barcelona, it might take a bit of time to understand how to go somewhere. Marie used to use her bike to go everywhere in her hometown since everyone lives close by, however, the Barcelona transportation system allows you to go everywhere you want quite easily when you know which line or bus to take! After spending a bit more time, you can also discover other transportation means such as Bicing or motorbike rental systems to move around the city as you want. All in all, metropolitan cities might be big to navigate in it but considering everything they offer, it’s worth taking the time to get used to it!

Getting the NIE in Spain

One of the difficulties every single expat faces in Barcelona is definitely the NIE process, that’s why Marie V. selected this as her challenge. If you are already here or planning to come in the near future you know what we are talking about. The NIE is the identification number given to foreigners in Spain. It is required for all kinds of paperwork, official proceedings or economic and professional interests if you do not have a Spanish Nationality. Everything you need to know about getting the NIE in Barcelona, you need to check our article on it here. Don’t worry, we all got our NIEs in the end! 

Finding an Accommodation in Barcelona

One cannot simply understate the hustle of finding accommodation in Barcelona. It’s getting pretty competitive here and you may have to spend some time to find the perfect accommodation for you. You may need to create an exhaustive list of “favourite flats” and then contact as many of them to find yourself accommodation where you end up having a happy home environment. As Anna mentioned, it is quite useful to get temporary accommodation to stay for a couple of weeks to discover which neighbourhoods appeal to you most and to meet your flatmates to understand if you’d get along with them. Check our blog post on “Mission Possible: Finding Accommodation in Barcelona” to see our selection of a list of different sources and favourite neighbourhoods to live in.

Living with Flatmates

Finding accommodation is one thing, living in it peacefully is another one. Olivia’s comment is on getting used to sharing a flat with others because many ex-pats, including us, prefer living in shared flats due to the high prices of rents in Barcelona. In case you would end up staying in a flat which you share with others, listen to Olivia and don’t make the mistakes she did, be organised in the common areas and respect the others! Learn 11 rules for a peaceful life in a shared flat and you will be just fine.

Changes in Routine in A New City

You have your favourite spots in your hometown, close friends and family you meet regularly and your own routine. These will change when you move to a new city and start working there. The shops open and close at different times, your working hours might be different and especially you will see that your eating hours will change in Barcelona (have you ever had your dinners at 10 pm?). Alessia also had some difficulties changing her routine but as she says, Barcelona is a big city and you can do everything! You can invent new routines and go to the beach after or before work. Discover your new life!

Getting Used to the New Set of Greetings

When foreigners gather and spend some time together the topic of “different greetings” often comes up. Many foreigners in Barcelona had similar experiences to Maili before getting used to the “kisses on the cheek”. Right now, with the “new normal” you wouldn’t experience such a shock but before this, it was difficult to understand why people who you are not close with gives you a kiss on the cheek short after when you just met. That’s a cultural difference that Spanish people could easily experience in Germany as well. Even though it might feel weird in the beginning, it’s quite fun to discover new information about a culture you try to adapt yourself to, you can always state your preferences anyway! 

“I can’t find my favourite beer here!”

A German stereotype is coming, Jonathan’s biggest challenge was “beer”! As he says, moving to a new city is a risk we take even though we might not find our favourite drinks or foods in the supermarket. Jonathan had a similar experience but also found himself a very creative solution: if you can’t find your favourite beer, drink good wine! Jokes aside, you can find several brands of beer and everything in Barcelona’s local and international markets. Have fun discovering all the good food and beverages and make them your new favourites! 

How Easy is To Take It Easy?

Are you ready to adapt yourself to the “siesta and fiesta” culture? Well, it’s a common stereotype that follows you while living in Barcelona, people will think that you come here to sleep and party only. That’s part of the truth but beyond that, you should know that there are times people living in Barcelona take things in a less uptight way than what you expect. You might get annoyed especially if you want to hurry up the processes or want to have everything very well organised but that never means that they are lazy, they are just easygoing. It is an international city where you meet different people. When you organise a party at 9 PM, be prepared to have guests on time and super late. You can’t simply put everyone in the same basket here that’s why as Valeria suggests, take it easy, breath in and you’ll get through this! 

Extra: How to Find A Job in Barcelona 

Each one of us had these challenges, solved them in our own unique ways and learned a lot thanks to the opportunity we got to come here with our jobs. Now, all we do is inspire others to have the same experience. If you are looking for motivation to come here check our multilingual job offers in Barcelona. You’ll not regret living in Barcelona! 

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